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PASSINGS: Jimmy Ellis, Jay McMullen

Jimmy Ellis

Frontman for the R&B band Trammps

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Jimmy Ellis, 74, the frontman for the Trammps R&B group who belted out the refrain "Burn, baby, burn!" in a 1970s-era

disco

hit, died Thursday at a nursing home in Rock Hill, S.C., according to the Bass-Cauthen Funeral Home. His family said he had

Alzheimer's disease

.

The Trammps released

— the song with the popular refrain — in 1976. The song was featured the next year in the iconic movie "Saturday Night Fever," its soundtrack laden with Bee Gees songs winning the Grammy Award for album of the year in 1978. "Disco Inferno" soared up to No. 11 on Billboard's Hot 100 on May 27, 1978.

At the band's peak, Times music writer Dennis Hunt called "Disco Inferno" one of the best disco albums ever made, and the 11-minute title track one of the two or three best disco songs ever recorded.

Born in Rock Hill, James T. Ellis was the eldest of six children whose father died young. He began singing in a church choir and later moved to

Philadelphia

, where he sang with R&B groups in the 1960s before helping form the Trammps.

Jay McMullen

Investigative reporter for CBS

Jay McMullen, 90, an award-winning investigative reporter for CBS who was among the first to go undercover and use hidden cameras to produce

documentaries

on such topics as drug buying and gambling, died of natural causes Saturday at a hospice in

Greenwich

, Conn., said Anne McMullen, one of his two daughters.

McMullen spent all but two years of his 37-year career at CBS, where he worked with Edward R. Murrow,

Walter Cronkite

and others on radio and television documentaries, the network said in a statement.

At CBS, he was the writer, reporter, producer and sometimes director of "CBS Reports" hourlong broadcasts.

One of McMullen's noted documentaries was "Biography of a Bookie Joint," which he narrated for "CBS Reports" with Cronkite in 1961. To record footage, McMullen went undercover to place bets and used a camera inside a lunchbox. The report triggered the demotion of senior police officers and the resignation of the commissioner of New England's largest police force.

Jay Latimer McMullen was born in Minneapolis in 1921 and grew up in Cleveland. He attended

Dartmouth College

but left when

World War II

broke out. He eventually began broadcasting as an Army correspondent for

NBC

Radio's "Army Hour" and was awarded a Bronze Star for his European reports, according to CBS.

McMullen earned a bachelor's degree at

Columbia University

in 1948 and joined CBS the next year as a writer on the television public affairs show "Vanity Fair."

He often went undercover for stories and received an Emmy Award for work on a 1972 report called "The Mexican Connection" that put him in danger. Posing as a prospective drug buyer, he spent eight months in

Mexico

documenting how marijuana and opium were smuggled into the United States.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

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