Billy Preston

*In the midst of Unsung’s highest-rated season to date, TV One has announced plans to extend the run of the NAACP Image Award-winning series Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET throughout the summer, including three additional premiere episodes.

The popular series of one-hour biographies celebrates the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, have not received the level of recognition they deserve or whose stories have never been told.

New this summer will be episodes highlighting Billy Preston, The Sylvers and Mary Wells. The full schedule is listed below.

•             July 18 – Sylvester – Sylvester James was the undisputed King and Queen of disco.  He strived for fame, fortune and freedom during a time when it was highly unlikely for a large, openly gay, sometimes in drag, African American male to make it in the world of entertainment.  But with a powerhouse falsetto voice to back him up, that’s exactly what Sylvester did. Through interviews with music colleagues such as Narada Michael Walden, The Pointer Sisters, Martha Wash and Jeanie Tracey, along with close family members and friends, Unsung chronicles a music career which reached heights that few expected, but in retrospect was fully earned.

•             July 25 – Billy Preston (Premiere) – A child prodigy who performed with Nat King Cole and recorded with Mahalia Jackson at 10 and went on a European Tour with Little Richard at 15, he was the only artist to share a songwriting credit with The Beatles and regularly toured with The Rolling Stones. And his greatest fame came on his own, with a slew of popular hits including ‘Nothin’ From Nothin’,’ ‘Will it Go Round in Circles,’  and ‘You Are So Beautiful.’ But the joy Billy shared in his music was masking a deep sadness. Burying a dark childhood secret behind drugs and alcohol, Billy deteriorated throughout the ’80s and ’90s, ultimately ending up in prison. For the first time, Billy’s closest friends and family open up about the torment that drove a musical genius to ruins and a painful, early end.

•             August 1 – The Sylvers ( Premiere) –  In an age of popular family singing groups, from the Jacksons to the Osmonds, the Sylvers were the largest and the liveliest of them all. Nine members strong, they became best known for their disco friendly hits ‘Boogie Fever’ and ‘Hot Line’, which drew inevitable comparisons to the sound of the Jackson 5. But the Sylvers were performing together long before that. Even as young children, they made their mark on television as ‘The Little Angels’, and later scaled the charts with songs written by their oldest brother, Leon Sylvers III, from ‘Fool’s Paradise’ to ‘Misdemeanor’, that showed off their musical range and uncanny family harmonies. But internal conflicts and fights with their management broke up the group at the height of their career, and in its aftermath some of their members fell prey to drink and drugs, with dire consequences. Yet through it all the Sylvers remain united as a family, finding strength in their trials, as they reveal their full story in this poignant episode of ‘Unsung.

•             August 8 – DeBarge  – this sweet-voiced family group composed their own songs and were thought to be the answer to the Jackson 5, and were one of the few acts to bring success to the Motown label in the 1980s. In the mid-80s they had a string of pop and R&B hits, including including ‘All This Love,’ “I Like It,” ‘Love Me in a Special Way,’ and ‘Rhythm of the Night.’. Changing musical trends, family squabbles, and deadly addictions all played a part in the unraveling of one of the ‘80s’ hottest groups. Family members reveal in Unsung the stories behind their traumatic early family life, and how it may have helped leave them unprepared for the trappings of success, their tumultuous glory years, and their long struggle to put new lives together.

•             August 15 – Mary Wells (Premiere) – Before The Supremes, Marvin Gaye or The Temptations, Mary Wells was Motown’s reigning star.  Signed to the label at age 17, she had instant success with Smokey Robinson songs like “Two Lovers” and “My Guy”, making her the first artist to bring Motown a Grammy nomination, and garnering an invitation to tour with The Beatles, at the height of their own success.  Then in a stunning move, Mary walked away from the label in a dispute over money just as her career was peaking, the first major artist to leave Motown.  Never able to recapture the success she experienced there, her world came crashing down on and off stage, before she ultimately succumbed to throat cancer at the age of 49. Now, Mary’s close friends, music associates and children come together to provide an intimate look at her life and career, detailing the emotional toll of her fall from the top, and her controversial romances with two Womack brothers that drove both families apart. Twenty years after her passing, Unsung finally turns back the spotlight on Motown’s forgotten Queen.