Shortly after "I'm So Hurt," you recorded a couple of songs with legendary Philly producer Vince Montana, Jr. One was the Linda Creed-Thom Bell composition, "I Think I'll Tell Her." What are your memories of that project?
That came about as a result of Bob Pantano, a huge DJ on WOGL, who used to be on WCAU. He still has the "Saturday Night Dance Party" show that's very big. He would always close with the Ronnie Dyson version of "I Think I'll Tell Her." Someone got the idea of redoing it, as Ronnie had passed on. I'd worked with Vince on my Sigma Sound stuff, and my name came up. So, it was the three of us coming together. To this day, it's still being played on Bob's show every Saturday night. I did his 35th anniversary show in New Jersey last February, along with acts like Billy Paul and the Stylistics. There were about 7,000 people there. According to Bob, out of all the acts on the bill, mine got the most hits on YouTube. That was pretty amazing to me. His complements don't flow freely.
You have continued to record, but I get the sense that live performing is your most steady gig. Is that accurate?
In many cases, live performance is my bread and butter. I headline on cruise ships. They fly me around the world.
How did you get started with that?
It was a rocky road. When I was working in Atlantic City, there was a choreographer looking for performers for two ships she had contracted. I had a dancer friend, who told the lady on the spot, "Hire Cecil. You want him to be a singer in your shows." I had never done that kind of work before. I was used to always being up front. It was a rude awakening when I first went out to Los Angeles to rehearse. I was dealing with a lot of territorial attitudes. "Oh, you're from the East Coast?" It was very competitive, and I had no formal training. When the choreographer said, "1, 2, 3, turn...Cecil, you're supposed to be on the other side of the stage now," I had no concept of that. So, I made friends with the dancers. Every time we got a second, I'd ask, "What's that called? How do you do that?" The executive producer came to a rehearsal and had everybody do their show on the spot. Some of the other singers were still reading from the book. I just performed, and that got me through. All of the people reading got fired on the spot.