Arson Charge In Philly Music Fire

Police arrested and charged a man with arson for the fire that damaged the city’s “Sound Of Philadelphia” offices belonging to famed songwriters/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

Photo: AP Photo
A record of Philadelphia native Teddy Pendergrass is recovered from Philadelphia International Records in the aftermath of the fire.

The early Sunday morning fire spared the recording studios, but destroyed about 40 percent of the priceless memorabilia stored in the offices, including gold and platinum records for best-selling recordings by The O’Jays, Billy Paul and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

Police have arrested 27-year-old Christopher Cimini, who was rescued from the blaze. According to police, Cimini might have been intoxicated when he was allegedly seen trying to use a set of keys to open a door into the building before kicking it in. Police also suspect Cimini may have thought he was somewhere other than the famed music offices.

Citing surveillance video, police said Cimini used a lighter to help guide him through the building, eventually ending up in a closet used for storing music memorabilia when the blaze started.

“He actually was calling for help out of there, and that’s when they rescued him,” Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said.

Gamble and Huff held a news conference on Tuesday to discuss the fire at the three-story brick building, saying in a joint statement, “Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it.”

But while Cimini may not have intentionally set the blaze, he has been charged with arson, risking or causing a catastrophe. Cimini, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in and remains in custody.

Photo: AP Photo
Leon Huff, second left, inspects Philadelphia International Records in the aftermath of the fire.

Gamble and Huff bought the building – the former home of Cameo Parkway Records where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist” – in 1970. Today the building mostly serves as the headquarters for the licensing arm of Philadelphia International Records.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Huff told reporters, “We’ll bounce back. We wrote the song – ‘Only The Strong Survive.’”