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Terry Huff, the honey-voiced singer-songwriter behind the D.C. soul hits “I Destroyed Your Love” and “The Lonely One,” died of colon cancer early Friday morning at a hospice in Clinton, Md., after three weeks of inpatient care at George Washington University Hospital.

Born Oct. 16, 1947, the ninth child of 18, Huff began his musical career harmonizing on the corner of 15th Street and Independence Avenue SE with his brothers. The boys’ leader in those days was Andrew Huff, three years older than Terry. Eventually performing as Andy and the Marglows, the family act achieved modest chart success before splitting over internal tensions. Terry went on to become a fast-rising star in the Metropolitan Police Department, nabbing heroin pushers and cuffing a notorious bank robber whom the local media had dubbed the “Gentleman Bandit.” By the age of 24, Huff was promoted to detective, one of the youngest in the history of the force.

A talented, blustery, oversize presence whether onstage or in the squad room, Huff clashed frequently with his sergeant and quit in 1973 to return to music, joining George Parker, Reginald Ross, and Chet Fortune to form Terry Huff and Special Delivery, whose lone LP, The Lonely One, remains a local classic. As WPFW-FM’s Captain Fly put it in 2010, the record established Terry as “a hometown hero with a national piece.”

Washington City Paper ran a profile of Huff on its cover in June of 2010. A glance at the comments section of that article gives a sense of the buzz Terry’s songwriting created in the pre-go-go D.C. soul scene.

Terry’s family is working to arrange a proper funeral for their uninsured and, for many years, homeless brother.

“It may take a while before we can bury him,” Andrew says.

Peter Bug, proprietor of the Peter Bug Leather & Shoe Training Academy at 13th and E streets SE, is planning a block party to raise money for the funeral, while John Sharpe is organizing a big-name concert, titled “Special Delivery for Terry Huff: His Life, His Love, His Legacy of Music.” The event will take place on Jan. 4 at the Hampton Conference Center in District Heights, Md. Confirmed acts include Al Johnson, Skip Mahoney, Sarah Dash, Diz Russell and the Orioles, The New Era, as well as surviving members of The Winstons and The Choice Four.

Huff was smiling and confident in his final weeks, family members say.

“I had a chance to visit him a couple times,” Andrew says. “He was upbeat. The night people came to take him to the nursing home, me and my wife were there, and then he left. That’s the last I heard from him. That was Wednesday night.”

Word of Huff’s death spread quickly among the old guard of D.C. R&B.

“I got a call on my way to the radio station at about six in the morning on Saturday,” says Captain Fly. “In the previous weeks, everybody was running around trying to find out what had happened—‘cause Terry was a pretty secretive guy.”

“Terry was big in D.C.,” Fly says. “And D.C., the size of it, is almost like Cheers: Everybody knows your name. So when someone from D.C. dies—Marvin Gaye, whoever—people come running. And Terry had that magnificent voice. To us, he was like your brother or sister. Someone who had made it. That voice was his gift.”

That voice—stratospheric, haunting, rich with regret—is Terry’s irreplaceable legacy. Sharpe, who had been planning the fundraiser before news of Terry’s death, says the singer was pleased with the idea.

“When he first went into the hospital, I said, ‘I’m gonna make sure you get your due. There’s gonna be an outpouring of love,’” Sharpe says. “We’re gonna make sure he gets his propers.

“When I talked with Terry last week, I told him what was going on. He said, ‘I’ll be there.’”

Huff is survived by his daughter, Tiffany, and one grandson. He was 65.

Terry Huff & Special Delivery, “I Destroyed Your Love”


Photo by Darrow Montgomery