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In 1962, Maurice White began playing the drums for a jazz group called The Pharaohs in Chicago, Illinois. Seven years later, he formed the Salty Peppers with keyboard player Don Whitehead and vocalist Wade Flemons. After releasing the singles "La La Time" and "Uh Huh Yeah," Maurice moved the band to Los Angeles and changed their name in honor of the elements in his astrological chart. Sherry Scott, Verdine White and other artists joined the group and they released their debut album, Earth, Wind & Fire, in 1971. Rolling Stone notes that "EW&F have always preached clean, uplifting messages," and fans include Usher, Quincy Jones, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Band members play a variety of instruments, including trumpets, guitars, saxophones, conga drums, and kalimbas, and cheap tickets for their shows sell out quickly.
Early Earth, Wind & Fire concerts included mystical elements such as pyramids and disappearing acts. Doug Henning, a magician, helped with magic tricks, and Yahoo! Music called their show "a lavish, effects-filled extravaganza." The musicians wore African robes on stage, and the vibrant colors enhanced the joyful ambiance of their concerts. In addition to special effects, Maurice White favored unique elements such as a percussion instrument called the kalimba or the African thumb piano, and a brass band called The Phenix Horns. Consisting of trombone, saxophone, trumpet and flugelhorn players, the horns included Don Myrick, Michael Harris, Louis Satterfield, and Rahmlee Davis.
The Phenix Horns left the group to work with Phil Collins in 1981, but Earth, Wind & Fire still has a talented horn section. Currently, the jazz music ensemble includes Bobby Gonzales, Ralph Johnson, Myron McKinley, and the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns. Popular Earth, Wind and Fire albums include Spirit, That's the Way of the World, and Gratitude. Fans love songs like "Mighty Mighty," "Reasons," and "Serpentine Fire," and Earth, Wind, & Fire lyrics celebrate African pride, spirituality, and positive feelings. The latest EWF project, Illumination, came out in 2005, and the artists plan to release a new album this year as well as tour with Chicago.