Firefighters battle a fire at 309 South Broad Street, home of Philadelphia International Records. (Steve Skipton /

The Philadelphia Inquirer …
*A strong fire swept through the Broad Street offices of Philadelphia International Records today, causing extensive damage to the celebrated music company where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist,” and where songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff developed their soulful Philadelphia sound.

Investigators, who arrived on the scene four minutes after the 7:28 a.m. alarm, were working yesterday to determine the cause of the blaze. They immediately escorted an unidentified man from the three-story building on the corner of Spruce Street, across from the Kimmel Center.

He was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with minor injuries, and was being questioned, said Battalion Chief Derrick Sawyer. He would only describe the man as “an adult male.”

The fire began on the third floor, in Philadelphia International’s main offices, where dozens of its gold albums adorn the walls. Sawyer said that firefighters made a special effort to save the memorabilia, even as they cut through the roof to attack the spreading flames.

“This is part of Philadelphia’s history,” he explained. “One of the few things we have are our memories.”

The fire was brought under control in 57 minutes.

Chuck Gamble, a Philadelphia International vice president, and the nephew of Kenny Gamble, said he was still trying to determine how much damage had been sustained by the offices and the ’70s-era recording studio.

That studio has hosted a parade of soul stars from Patti LaBelle to Lou Rawls, and still has its original orange-colored shag carpet on the walls. Some of the office’s interior design dates from the ’50s, when Cigna [Sigma] Sound Studio occupied the space.

Gamble said he was alerted to the fire at 8:30 a.m. when he received a call from the security company that operates the alarm system.

“When I arrived there was smoke coming out of the windows to the executive offices and the computer room,” Gamble said. “I saw they pulled a young man out.”

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