The original members of the legendary group The 5th Dimension, including LaMonte McLemore, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr. and Florence LaRue signed autographs at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, CA on 7-29-2005 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The 5th Dimension. This was the first public appearance with the original members in years. Other members of the current group were also present to help celebrate the event.
Click here to order photographs taken by LaMonte McLemore.
Lamonte McLemore was born in St. Louis, Missouri. As far back as he can remember, he loved his camera. As a kid, Lamonte used to have 2 gun holsters, one for his gun and the other for his camera. At a young age, his family bought him a developing kit and set up a dark room. He decided to develop his own film. He later came out with the first roll stuck together, in a mess, believing it to be the beginning and end of his photographic career.
He originally wanted to become a professional baseball player — which actually came true. He was pitching with the Dodger's AA farm system. During that time, he broke his arm, which ended his career in sports. Instead he concentrated on his photographic career, becoming highly successful, his pictures appearing in top magazines such as Life, Harper's Bazaar, Ebony, Teen, Cosmopolitan, and his own magazine Elegant, to name a few.
While photographing Stevie Wonder and The Supremes for Motown, he contributed to Harper's Bazaar. "I think I was one of the first black photographers on the West Coast to work for Harper's Bazaar. And I did the first black girls in Harper's" he recalls with pride. These and other efforts led McLemore to give birth to his own magazines.
Singing wasn't something Lamonte enjoyed early on. "I couldn't stand singing. I used to hide from the glee club and the church choir. I liked music, but I didn't like to sing". It was actually while in the Navy that McLemore discovered his vocal ability. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Drum and Bugle Corps, and performed in the U.S.O. shows. "That's kind of funny because that's the last thing I ever wanted to do. All I ever wanted to do was play baseball and take pictures. I accidentally stumbled into music."
While in the Navy, Lamonte became an aviator photographer, which later led him to owning his own photographic shop. He had major assignments which included top celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Count Basie, Nancy Wilson, and Johnny Mathis, to name a few.
Lamonte, now interested in a singing career, joined the Hi-Fi's. Other group members were Marilyn McCoo, Fritz Baskett, Rex Middleton, and Lawrence Summers. Floyd Butler , who teamed later to form The Friends Of Distinction with Harry Elston, was connected with The Hi-Fi's in the early 60's. In 1963, the Hi-Fi's toured local clubs, a year later joining Ray Charles on tour and recording Lonesome Mood/Look Out For Love on his label, Tangerine Records. With unrest in the group, McLemore went back to photography.
He is known as the biggest clown in The 5th Dimension, always saying something outrageously funny in his quiet, understated manner. Florence used to tease him about his many girlfriends and Lamonte protested that, "I'm a one woman man ...at a time."
Says Lamonte, "A person has an obligation to his public — because the public is really what makes the performer! And to leave them satisfied means more to a performer — at least, it does to me — than anything else."
Along with group members Joyce Wright, Florence LaRue, Michael Procter and Ron Townson, Lamonte starred in the Fats Waller musical Ain't Misbehavin' to wonderful reviews. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Thus, part of the response probably was triggered more by Lamonte McLemore's terrific interpretation than by the inside dope references. McLemore cuts a rather dashing presence, particularly when struttin' with his "fines" at the start of Act Two." Dayton Daily News: "McLemore's reefer dragging performance in "The Viper's Drag" is packed with humor and sung with soul." Flint Journal: "There's almost no better proof of that talent than Lamonte McLemore's "The Viper's Drag." McLemore, the group's founder, slithers across the stage enjoying his "reefer" between bits and snatches of jive talk." He and group members Phyllis Battle, Eugene Barry-Hill, Florence LaRue and Ron Townson would take the musical on tour once again several years later.
Not only does he have a great voice, he also writes songs. He has contributed two compositions on 5th Dimension albums. He co-wrote A Love Like Ours on the Portrait album. He also co-wrote The Singer which is on the Love's Lines, Angles & Rhymes LP. Gladys Knight and the Pips also recorded another version of The Singer.
Lamonte continues to photograph the Beauty of the Week in Jet magazine.
Lamonte can really get an audience going with his songs from, Ain't Misbehavin', as well as Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head which he performs on stage.
In 2005, he and his wife went to Egypt to celebrate their ten year anniversary! More recently in April 2008, they enjoyed learning the history, tasting different foods, and doing some fun shopping in Cambodia! He spends time playing softball three times a week with other celebrities including Friends of Distinction member Harry Elston. McLemore has an adult son and daughter. LaMonte decided to retire from the group in March 2006 during his 41st year with The 5th Dimension. His final performance with the group was on March 3, 2006 in Las Vegas at the Rampart Casino. We will miss his talent, his on-stage wit and presence in the group. It was LaMonte who formed the group in the middle 60's.
Click here to return to The Original 5th Dimension Tribute by Mike Tatsui.