"For a while," Herb Fame recalls, "I tried to be a policeman and a singer, but the chief helped me to make up my mind. He told me to choose and I chose."
What Fame chose was to give up his silver D.C.P.D. badge in hopes of replacing it with a platinum record album.
And now his stage name is again beginning to have a ring of reality about it -- as half of a new edition of Peaches and Herb, the "Sweenthearts of Soul" of the late 1960s, when he scored in the top 20 on the charts with such singles as "Let's Fall in Love," "Close Your Eyes" and "When He Touches Me."
In 1969, Cash Box magazine ranked Peaches and Herb second nationally among soul duets -- and now, after eight years on the Washington police force, Fame is working for the City in a different way -- on stage, with a new Peaches, at the inaugural ball of D.C. Mayor-elect Marion Barry tomorrow night.
Herb Fame joined the police force, in a way, because of the marriage of Francine Hurd, who was Peaches I.
That didn't break up the team immediately, but she had less time for music, he says. They made an occasional tour together, but they weren't working enough for Fame to support his wife and four children. So he became a policeman.
But a few years ago, Fame began looking around for a new Peaches and now, with Peaches WII (Linda Green of Lanham), he is beginning to see his name on the charts again. The new duo's second album, "2 Hot," is currently on both the soul and pop charts, and one of its cuts, "Shake Your Groove Thing," is scoring heavily as a single. After eight years on the force, Fame is a full-time musician again and loving every minute of it.
"Six months ago," manager Paul Cohen recalls, "we were still getting $2,700 for doing six nights, when our payroll and expenses came to $3,200. Now, it's beginning to look like we'll make it. It's going to be nice to enjoy some success."
Peaches and Herb are flying down from New York, where they played the New Year's weekend at the Statler Hilton, to sing at Barry's inaugural. Recent Weeks have also seen a hectic round of videotaping for television appearances -- the first on "Midnight Special" Jan. 5; then "American Bandstand" Jan. 13 and Mery Griffin Feb. 2, Other appearances have been taped for the Dinah. Share show, "Soul Train" and a special, "Disco Fever," that Griffin is producing.
Fame has mixed memories of his years in uniform. He remembers his fellow officers fondly, gratefully, but he doesn't miss the work at all. In a way, he thinks, being a policeman is like being in show business, only less enjoyable: "People are always watching you -- you come out on the street with that uniform and that badge and you're being watched. It's like being on stage, only you don't hear much applause. It's a rewarding job when you see a smile or hear 'thanks' -- but that doesn't happen very often."
While he was on the force, Fame did almost every kind of patrol work in the police department: "in a patrol car, in a wagon, on a scooter and 'old clothes,' where you wear your own clothes and ride around in a plain car. The only thing I didn't do was homicide, and I was glad of that. But you run into dead bodies in any kind of police work -- even in the juvenile department I ran into dead bodies.
"The work changes you -- you become harder. I'm really happy not to be a policeman any more. My manager and I have been wanting this for to years."
"Two years?" Linda Green (alias Peaches) breaks in: "I've been wanting it all my life."
When she was growing up in Lanham, Green dreamed of being a classical pianist, partly because she was too shy to sing in public. She began young on the piano and worked at it hard. "Then when I was 16, Dick Clark was on the television and I saw Diana Ross and I decided that's what I want to be. It's very hard breaking in; a lot of embarrassment and a lot of 'You don't have any talent,' but had to keep trying. For a while, I tried to believe I was a very normal, average Washington young lady, who should be typing from 9 to 5, but I just couldn't. I worked as a waitress for a while and liked it better than an office job."
Fame tried singing with two or three other partners before Linda Green had her audition and interview three years ago, and even after that it took another year before they began working together regularly. "I felt for a time that I didn't want to sing with any more females," he recalls. "Women just seemed to be a lot of trouble; most of them don't really want to work. But Linda works hard until she gets lovesick and wants to go home."
That brought up the question of personal relations between these two people whose work almost amounts to being in love in public, and Fame (who has a 20-year old son, Herb Jr., in the Air Force) hastened to spell it out: "My wife Yvonne has been very helpful in getting me to where I am. For one thing, she had to tell Linda how to get along with me, because I'm so evil at times. Yvonne supplies the heart and the backbone for what I do.
"She knows that what we do on stage is business -- and, most important, she likes Linda."
"Yvonne and I get on very well," Green added, making the tribute a duet. 'She even gives me ideas on working with Herb -- tells me to get closer to him and suggests little romantic gestures that make it more real."
And Fame comes in with the second chorus: "When we're up there singing, we're really singing to each other. But when the show is over, it's over."
"Sometimes," Green adds, "I'm thinking about my boyfriend and I'm looking at Herb." Fame seems uncertain about how he likes the idea.
Both singers attribute a lot of their current success to Freddie Perren, a graduate of Howard and long-time friend of Fame's, who is now a record producer and a major force in the soul and disco fields. He chose Peaches and Herb for the first album on his new MVP label, and since then their path has been aiming up.
The Perren touch is evident throughout "2 Hot," for which be wrote all the songs as well as did production. Everything is superbly balanced and nicely mixed -- not only the sound but the content of the songs, which range from heavy-breathers like "Easy as Pie" to a crisis of conscience in "Four's a Traffic Jam," a mini-drama about a secret liaison that has the kind of folksy moral tone more commonly found in county music. The two voices, supported by deft arrangements, sound like they were born to sing together.
It wasn't as easy as it sounds, though."Making that album took us a month, working 13 hours a day, including Saturdays and Sundays." Fame Recalls. "Sometimes Freddie would make us do one word over and over again, 50 or 60 times, until we got the sound he wanted. He had us in tears, and a cat has to be real mean to make me cry."
"But it was worth it," Green says, listening to the record which is playing in the background, and her partner smiles in agreement. CAPTION: Picture, Linda Green and Herb Fams of Peaches and Herb