- Matthew J. Smalarz
was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Ruby, who raised him as a single parent in South Philadelphia. Information about his father is unknown. Gamble, along with his neighborhood friends, often hung out at the Ideal Barber Shop, heeding the fatherly wisdom of its owner, Carlton Lewis, who served as a surrogate parent to many fatherless young men residing in the community. He attended West Philadelphia High School in the late 1950s where he developed a passion for music. Gamble applied Lewis’s observations about life and personal independence to his aspiring music career, starting a singing ensemble, the Romeos, in the late 1950s. While honing his musical talents, Gamble also acquired additional musical and professional skills by cutting records at penny arcades and developing personal relationships with local radio personalities Jimmy Bishop and Georgie Woods at the Philadelphia radio station, WDAS, where he worked as a message boy.
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.