Here's an equation: take a funky bass line, add a scratchy guitar riff, and multiply some silky vocals, and it equals the late disco hit "Call Me" by Skyy. A product of the famed Salsoul label, the group became a sensation due to this thoroughly danceable and somewhat naughty track. Hearing the song brings back memories not only of the disco era, but of a label that played a large part during that time.
Based in Brooklyn, New York Skyy began with three sisters: Denise, Dolores and Bonne Dunning. In 1973 the singing trio met vocalist/rhythm guitarist Solomon Roberts, Jr.; they were eventually joined by Anibal Anthony Sierra (guitar), Larry Greenberg (keyboards), Gerald Lebon (bass), and Tommy McConnell (drums). Skyy soon found a home at Salsoul Records, the legendary company that pioneered Latino-flavored disco music. Established in 1974, the label ranks as the first to issue a commercially available 12-inch single, Double Exposure's "Ten Percent," in 1976. This proved to be a fortuitous event, as it coincided with the rapid rise of discotheques. Now DJs could lure dancers to floor with these extended-play singles, and consumers could purchase what they heard in the clubs. Salsoul eventually boasted a roster of dance artists such as Instant Funk, Loleatta Holloway, Carol Williams, Jocelyn Brown, Double Exposure, Joe Bataan, Inner Life, and even Charo.
Skyy joined the Salsoul lineup in 1979 and were quickly paired with producer/keyboardist Randy Muller. The Dunning sisters and the rest of Skyy must have been delighted with this development, as Muller stood as a proven hit maker. With his band Brass Construction, he recorded the 1976 R&B smash "Movin'"; he also arranged the B.T. Express' anthem "Express." Even better, Roberts and Muller knew each other from Brooklyn, so they formed the company Alligator Bit Him Productions and produced Skyy's hits (Muller would later work on many more Salsoul singles and albums). After recording four albums for Salsoul, they finally scored with their 1982 release Skyyline, with its single "Call Me" propelling the album to number one on the R&B charts and number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song alone topped the R&B charts of two weeks and cracked the Billboard top 30.
According to AllMusic, "Call Me" originated from a challenge. Salsoul cofounder Ken Cayre ordered Muller to write something controversial, presumably to spur bigger sales. While on a flight from California to New York, Muller scribbled the lyrics on a napkin. While not controversial per se, the words portray an unsympathetic character. In character, lead singer Denise describes seeing her best friend's boyfriend--she approaches him, gives him her number, and instructs him to "call me anytime." Normally a narrator encouraging adultery and double-crossing a friend would not make for enjoyable listening. However, Denise's sultry voice, along with her sisters' harmonies, somehow softens the blow. The aforementioned guitar riff and bass line pulsate throughout the track, with the woman suggesting to the man that her friend "wasn't good to ya / Was a prude to ya / She don't like to do the things you like to do." Of course she argues that "I've got what you want, got what you need." Her confident manner, along with the heavy beat, leaves little doubt that she can back up her sassy words.
Playing off the song's title and the lyric "Here's my number and a dime, call me anytime," a phone "conversation" occurs immediately after the instrumental break. Producing partners Muller and Roberts composed this section, with Roberts assuming the role of the friend's boyfriend. This part underscores the track's naughtiness, with the man making clear that he is open to the woman's proposal. He states that the girlfriend is gone and invites her friend to a "little place I like to go, it's kinda dark and quiet." Denise coos and sings "well" at various points, eventually returning to the line "Well, I've been watching you boy." While adding scenarios to a song is nothing new, the dialog emphasizes the track's racy nature.
Skyy never repeated the success of "Call Me," although they continued recording and touring until taking an extended break in 1991. Today the Dunning sisters tour as the "Ladies of Skyy," playing their hits with a new band. Indeed, Skyy represents the last days of disco as well as the heyday of Salsoul, and serves as a reminder of the days when dance music ruled the charts.