Before there was the hit-making group Jodeci and the R&B duo K-Ci and JoJo, there was Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers.
Brothers “Little” Cedric (K-Ci) and Joel (JoJo) Hailey were born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1969 and 1971, respectively, and grew up in nearby Monroe. Participation in music was a forgone conclusion for the siblings. Their parents, Anita and Cliff Hailey, were gospel singers, and their cousins were popular singers Fantasia Barrino and Dave Hollister. The brothers’ musical influences ran the gamut from traditional gospel, such as Shirley Caesar and Sam Cooke, to genre-extending gospel groups like the Winans and soul singers Bobby Womack and Donny Hathaway.
After the Haileys relocated to Baltimore, Cedric, Joel and Cliff formed the eight-member Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers. The group made its recording debut in 1983 with the album I’m Alright Now for Leonard Moyer’s GosPearl Records. With 14-year-old Cedric on lead vocals, the group coupled Bible-based lyrics with quartet-style arrangements, falsetto singing and heavy bass lines.
I’m Alright Now failed to chart, but the group’s next two releases, 1984’s Jesus Saves and 1985’s God’s Blessing, did. Jesus Saves rose as far as #4 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart, its title track a cover of James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir’s 1963 release. For a time, Little Cedric and the Hailey Singers were GosPearl’s top selling artist. They were likened to a gospel version of the Chi-Lites and Cedric to Michael Jackson. Exuding a confidence on stage and possessing a raspy vocal shout that belied his young age, Cedric evoked the pre-teen Robert “Sugar” Hightower who fronted his family’s group, the Hightower Brothers, in the late 1950s.
In 1985, Atlanta International Records acquired Moyer’s Pearl and GosPearl labels, which included the Hailey Family’s three-album catalog.
Through a mutual female acquaintance, the Haileys met another set of gospel-singing brothers, Don (DeVante Swing) and Dalvin DeGrate of the Don DeGrate Delegation. The Haileys and DeGrates decided to try their hand at R&B and formed Jodeci around 1989. Between 1991 and 1996, Jodeci released three multi-platinum selling albums. When the group went on hiatus, Cedric and Joel continued to perform and record as K-Ci and JoJo. Their sweet and soulful love songs All My Life and Tell Me It’s Real topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the late 1990s and earned them two Grammy nominations.
K-Ci and JoJo remain active in the music business. In 2010, their reality show on TVOne, K-Ci & JoJo…Come Clean, chronicled their attempt at a comeback as they struggled with alcohol abuse and relationship issues. Jodeci reunited in 2015 to record a new album, The Past, the Present, the Future, for Sphinx Music Entertainment.