TIR 76: Philly Figure Dexter Wansel Talks About His Musical Life on Earth


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 76 (2 Parts): A leading contributor to the Sound of Philadelphia who lent his considerable keyboard, composing, producing and arranging skills to dozens of top recording artists as well well as released several albums of his own — I am speaking of none other than Dexter Wansel. He got into show biz an early age, for several years working backstage as an errand boy at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater, where stars from James Brown to the Isley Brothers to comedians like Flip Wilson would do their thing. As a teen, he and his best friend Stanley Clarke formed their first bands together.

His early professional work included working with Bunny Sigler and Instant Funk before he went on to join Philadelphia International Records, where he worked with a slew of artists and hit records. They included Phyllis Hyman, MFSB, Teddy Pendergrass, The Jacksons, Patti LaBelle, The Jones Girls, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Lou Rawls, Grover Washington Jr., The Stylistics, The O’Jays, Billy Paul, Jerry Butler, Pieces of a Dream and many more. Wansel wrote The Jones Girls’ 1981 No. 1 R&B hit “Nights Over Egypt” and Patti LaBelle’s 1983 chart-topper “If Only You Knew.” Among the hits he oversaw while serving as A&R Director for Philadelphia International Records from 1978-1980 was McFadden & Whitehead’s smash hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”

Meanwhile, he put out four albums of his own in the 1970s — Life on Mars, What the World Is Coming to, Voyager and Time Is Slipping Away. This eclectic but captivating records thematically reflected Wansel’s fascination with the cosmos and were full of compelling R&B, jazz and funk — sometimes in the same track. Aside from some of the title tracks, other strong songs and performances on those LPs included “You Can Be What You Wanna Be,” “Disco Lights,” “First Light of the Morning,” “All Night Long,” “Time Is the Teacher,” “Funk Attack,” “One for the Road,” “It’s Been Cool” and the quiet storm classic “Sweetest Pain.” Life on Mars, While he only released two more albums in the 1980s he continued to contribute to others’ recordings. Embraced by the hip hop community, his records would go on to be sampled more than 1,000 times. In more recent times, Wansel and his wife, Judith, created the show Sounds of Philadelphia that includes stories and live performances.

In this in-depth interview, Wansel reminisces about working around the black music and comedic stars of the late 1950s and early 1960s, forging his musical skills as a cellist and in middle school with Stanley Clarke, becoming a Philly music studio fixture for many of the finest recording artists of the 1970s, recording his own ambitious albums, his affinity for space and the universe, indelible memories from the studio and stage, and full circle to where he finds himself today. Let’s check in with Philly’s spaceman, an undeniable talent whose star should twinkle as brightly as any amid the galaxy of super talent with which he was associated.



Scott Goldfine

As a fervid lifelong music & film enthusiast / student, I grew up in and around the Los Angeles entertainment industry. I have worked and held many positions in various media realms, since 1998 serving as Editor-in-Chief and now Associate Publisher for Security Sales & Integration, a trade publication serving the electronic security industry. I love several genres of music & film. The former includes funk (Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Ohio Players, etc.); blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, etc.); rock (Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, etc.); hard rock (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.); jazz (Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Crusaders, etc.); R&B (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, etc.); and more. I was a club disc jockey and ran a mobile DJ company (Musical Moods) for more than 15 years, which is where the name Dr. GX originates (Doctor Good Times). Fave film genres include horror (Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.); science fiction (Aliens, Terminator, 2001, etc.); action (Warriors, Road Warrior, Die Hard); westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, Showdown at OK Corral; Wild Bunch, etc.); suspense (Jaws, Inception, Silence of the Lambs, etc.); drama (Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, etc.); and comedies (Life of Brian, Superbad, Ruthless People, etc.). I have attended many hundreds of concerts and movies (in theaters or screenings). I may as well also throw in a few favorite TV shows to give an even broader taste of my sensibilities. A handful would be Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Justified, Fargo, Seinfeld, Sopranos, South Park, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Key & Peele, Monty Python, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Man on Earth, Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Office. Fave authors are Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Crichton. I am also a big sports fan and lifelong supporter of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB). Also enjoy my family of course, electronics/computers/AV gear, and animals, nature and outdoor activities. Graduate of Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge (Radio-TV-Film, Psychology minor). Also studied at UCLA for kinesiology/psychology and earned post-grad Certificate in Accounting from Santa Monica College. Present main occupation is as Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration (SSI), which I joined in 1998. I am responsible for overseeing all editorial content in print. online, electronic, in-person and any other media or products for the electronic security industry's leading business-to-business trade publication. SSI is part of Framingham, Mass.-based Emerald Expositions.