1. For Your Love/ Capitol 3926/ April 1958/ #13 Best Seller
Although he was born in Fayetteville, Tennessee, his family soon moved to Memphis where his father was called to pastor an African Methodist Episcopal church.
The year Townsend graduated from high school, he was elected to the International American Methodist Episcopal Youth Council (IAMEYC). The honour let him travel worldwide before enrolling in college the next year at Arkansas State College.
After graduating, he taught for a year. Although he never formally practiced law, he frequently used his law training to assist other entertainers in negotiating their recording and performance contracts.
In 1951, Townsend joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Korea. After his discharge, he recorded a number of singles for various labels, none of which made the charts. Ironically, in 1958 he took his ballad, “For Your Love” to Capitol Records, hoping to interest Nat “King” Cole, but, impressed with his voice, Capitol signed him to record it himself.
Dick Clark had just started American Bandstand on television and invited Ed to sing the very first month the show aired. Immediately, he was an overnight success and the song shot up the charts, reaching #13 on the US pop chart.
Townsend had no further vocal hits of his own. However, in 1962 he wrote a tune for Ben E. King, “How Can I Forget?”. Then he wrote and produced Theola Kilgore’s “The Love Of My Man.” He also composed “Tears Of Joy,” “Hand It Over,” “I Might Like It,” “Since I Found You,” and “Foolish Fool.”
In the early 1970’s Ed Townsend teamed up with Marvin Gaye to produce one of the biggest hits of all times, “Let’s Get It On” from the album of the same title.
Townsend battled addiction to alcohol and other drugs for many years, but was finally able to overcome it. In the few years prior to his death, he wrote a full length musical titled, “Rehabilitation: Been There Done That!” which toured Southern California to bring a strong message of sobriety through his artistic genius. He valued it as his “most important work to date”. An original cast album was produced on his label, EBT New Life, and got extensive radio play national across the United States on many gospel and R&B radio stations.
In his lifetime he produced close to fifty artists.
One of his most memorable performances was on the “Doo Wop Gold” television series that featured many doo wop legends as they performed at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 16 and 17, 2000. DVDs of the event were sold as fund raisers for PBS stations nationwide.
Ed Townsend was married twice, had two sons and one daughter. He died on August 13, 2003 in San Bernardino, California at the age of 74. Honoured with a purple heart in the Korean War, he was given a full military gun salute at his memorial at Riverside National Cemetery.