Man Charged in Gamble and Huff Studio Fire
The man who allegedly used a cigarette lighter to look inside Philadelphia International Records studios early Sunday morning, after a reported night on the town drinking, has been charged with arson.
Surveillance video showing an intoxicated Christopher Cimini of South Philadelphia, 27, kicking in the door of the Philly International — home to such artists as Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle, and the O’Jays — lead to his arrest.
“Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it,” said songwriting team and building co-owners Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in a joint statement. “But what’s most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us.”
Taking a tour of the damage done to the building at 309 S. Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia, Gamble and Huff estimated they had lost close to 40 percent of the total memorabilia which included gold and platinum records and the company’s personal inventory of music. “Some of the things we lost in the fire are irreplaceable,” said the pair. “We will know better in the days ahead what our total losses will be.”
Gamble, Huff, and producer and songwriter Thom Bell purchased the building in 1970. Prior to that, it served as the home of Cameo-Parkway records, where singer Chubby Checker recorded ‘The Twist.’ The third floor recording studio, where countless hit songs were partially created in conjunction with Sigma Sound Studios, appears to have suffered the least damage and may have been completely saved. Also safe are the master recordings from the label’s famed roster of stars – including Michael Jackson and the Jacksons for a short period in the late 1970s – which are housed in an underground vault outside of the city.
“It hurts,” Kenny Gamble told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There’s so much water damage and smoke and fire damage that the whole place will be have to gutted. But we’ll be back, stronger than ever.”