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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


(originally posted 10/07)

I featured a dozen or so Dells singles during my first year of this; my love for this group runs very, very deep.

This group, the epitome of the male Chicago group sound, were formed while the group was still in high school (1952) during the early doo-wop years. Their first single was released as The El-Rays in 1954 (featuring the lineup of Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Lucius McGill, Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, and Johnny Funches), and by 1955 they had renamed themselves the Dells and became a quintet after the departure of Lucius McGill. The group cut the exquisite "Oh What A Night" for Vee Jay Records in 1956 which became a million seller, and one of the most loved doo-wop songs in the history of the genre.

Follow up singles didn't hit, and the group was derailed temporarily after a serious 1958 car accident which involved Mickey McGill. The group put their career on hold until 1960, when Mickey recovered, but Johnny Funches had left (to be replaced with Johnny Carter). This lineup remained stable for FIFTY years until Johnny Carter passed away in 2009.

The Dells spent the early part of the '60's as studio singers (most notably singing the backups on Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger"; a performance which I rank as one of the all time greats, both from Barbara Lewis and The Dells). The group cut several unsuccessful (but usually quite good) singles for Vee Jay during these years, but their career renaissance began when they were signed to Chess records and began working under the production and writing talent of Bobby Miller. The singles released by the group between '66-'68 are some of the greatest ever, and the LP There Is, which collects some of these 45's and adds in a few more stellar tracks, is simply one of the greatest soul LP's ever released.

"Wear It On Our Face" is one of my favorites from the mighty Dells; with its freaky but great steel drum/ piano intro forward into the extraordinary lead vocal from Marvin Junior, the group harmonies and the power of the musicians take us to a place where time stops and the transcendence of music is all that matters.

from 1968...



brianbrora said...

Great post, Dekek. And every word you say about this great group is true. Every soul fan needs at least one Dells collection in their Library.

Stuart said...

Just amazing record...love the false ending too...