Walter "Bunny" Sigler, the singer, songwriter and producer responsible for such hits as "(You Are My) Sunshine," "You Got Your Hooks in Me" and "Let Me Make Love to You" by the O'Jays, as well as "Somebody Loves You, Baby" and "Love, Need and Want You" by Patti La Belle, is celebrating the holiday season with a superb new CD of his own titled "When You're in Love at Christmas Time."
Preceded by "The Lord's Prayer" in 2008 as well as "From Bunny with Love & A Little Soul" and "The 23rd Psalm" in 2011, "When You're in Love at Christmas Time," a 12-track creative collaboration with Bryant Pugh, Musical Director at Philadelphia's Sharon Baptist Church, was inadvertently inspired by Lloyd Zane Remick, who has served as Sigler's attorney for approximately 40 years.
"He wanted me to start with 'Auld Lang Syne,'" Sigler said during a recent visit to the Philadelphia Tribune offices. "I said, 'If I do 'Auld Lang Syne' that's only going to be for a week. I might as well do a Christmas album.' He was talking about next year, and he put the suggestion in my head. I've got my own studio, I've got my [band], and before he knew it, I had it half done, and then he started liking it. The title track, I wrote with Bryant Pugh. He works with Richard Smallwood, but he's been at Sharon for years. He did 'The Lord's Prayer, he did 'The 23rd Psalm,' so he's been my right hand man. I've got (guitarist) Randy Bowland - he's on everything. My engineer is Raymond Earl. Raymond used to be with Instant Funk."
The disc includes familiar sounds of the season including "Little Drummer Boy," "The Christmas Song," "O Holy Night" and "Ave' Maria," in addition to unique renditions of traditional sacred songs and carols arranged by Pugh and Richie Rome, mastermind behind disco divas, The Richie Family. Sigler contributed the original compositions "When You're in Love at Christmas Time," "Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday' and "A Christmas Dream."
This marks the first Christmas album for the personable, flamboyant and fashionable North Philly native, who was given his unusual nickname as an infant by his mother, who discovered that her baby had a fully developed tooth in his mouth, making him look like a little bunny rabbit.
Sigler's most memorable work has been under the banner of Philadelphia International Records, the celebrated label established in 1971 by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. When asked what he believes is his greatest contribution to "The Sound of Philadelphia," Sigler quickly responded, "The love songs, and it wasn't confined just to one artist. I wrote love songs for the O'Jays, love songs for Patti La Belle — all of them were Number Ones, and a Number One for Shirley Jones —'Do You Get Enough Love?' which was written for the O'Jays, but they were out of town, and Shirley got the song."
Sigler's work has also caught on with a new generation, and in 2002, "Love, Need and Want You" previously recorded by Patti La Belle, was sampled by Kelly Rowland and Nelly, and "Dilemma" reached Number One on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart.
While his catalog of songs is a great source of pride for Sigler, who scored a major hit of his own in 1967 with "Let the Good Times Roll," he adds that he also contributed vocally to the renowned and recognizable Philly Sound.
"I did a lot of stuff in the background," he said. "I'm singing background on 'If You Don't Know Me By Now' [Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes]. That's me, Kenny and Huff. Most of the Stylistics — me, Carl Helm and Kenny Gamble. Archie Bell, 'Gonna Be a Showdown,' — that's me Kenny and Huff." Sigler also contributed vocal arrangements for numerous recordings released by the company.
While he still enjoys performing, Sigler is now focused on developing the next generation of entertainers. "What I would like to accomplish is to get my company with my lawyer really going," he said. "It's really moving now, and he said we waited until we got in our 70s to want a company and do all this! I'm doing something with [my] band. I'm going to cut them. I'm even looking for a new artist to be in front — like a girl who can sing and rap.
"I was telling my lady, I said, 'I think I'm going to retire. I'm tired of doing this.' But as an entertainer, when you do that, you're getting ready to push the daisies! You can't retire! If you stop, your life is over!"
For more information, to listen to excerpts from Bunny Sigler's "When You're in Love at Christmas Time" or to purchase this uplifting Christmas collection, visit www.bunzmusicandrecords.com.