The Dells

The Dells are an influential R&B musical group who was one of the few groups to span music genres resulting in successful recordings surpassing more than four decades. Formed in 1952 after attending high school together, the Dells' repertoire has included doo-wop, jazz, soul, disco and contemporary rhythm and blues. Unlike many of their contemporaries, the group's lineup hasn't changed much since 1960 and has consisted of falsetto leader Johnny Carter, baritone lead singer Marvin Junior and background singers Mickey McGill, Verne Allison and Chuck Barksdale.


Early career

The Dells grew up in Harvey, Illinois and began singing together while attending Thornton Township High School. Forming in 1952 under the name the El-Rays, the members of the group were Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Lucius McGill, Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale and Johnny Funches. Two years later, the pared down quintet - Lucius left in 1954 - signed under the Chess label and released the doo-wop single, "Darling I Know" that flopped.

In 1956, the group renamed themselves the Dells and signing with Vee-Jay Records, they recorded their first hit, "Oh What a Night", which peaked at the top five of the R&B singles chart. Follow-ups to the hit failed to make a similar impact. In 1958, a tragic car accident threatened to derail the group with McGill suffering a serious injury nearly losing his leg in the accident. The group agreed to split up to bide time as McGill recovered.

Barksdale would join a new version of the legendary doo-wop group The Moonglows with a young Marvin Gaye as a lead singer. McGill eventually successfully recovered from his injury with Barksdale returning to Illinois to rejoin the Dells in 1960 but not before Johnny Funches, frustrated with the group's slow progress, left permanently. He was replaced quickly by Johnny Carter, formerly of The Flamingos.

It would be the final lineup change for the group as they went on to sing background for the likes of Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, and Barbara Lewis ("Hello Stranger", 1963). The group was also being vocally fine-tuned by the likes of Quincy Jones and began to include jazz and Broadway-styled show tunes as part of their live and recording acts.

Successful years

In 1966, the Dells returned to Chess under the label's Cadet subsidiary working with Bobby Miller and future Earth, Wind & Fire arranger Charles Stepney. In 1967, the Dells issued the album, There Is, which included their first R&B chart-topper in years with the title track, which showcased the sharp baritone of Marvin Junior and the fine harmonies with the four other Dells.The song was also their first top 20 Pop smash.

Subsequent R&B hits included "Wear It On Our Face", "Always Together", "I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue" and their first number-one R&B hit and first top ten pop hit, 1968's "Stay in My Corner", which reached number ten on the pop chart. This showcased both Carter and Marvin in lead vocals. It wasn't until 1969, however, that the group suddenly became R&B superstars with their revival of their first hit, "Oh What a Night", re-produced under a classic soul format. The song was their second number-one hit on the R&B charts and their second top ten pop single, also becoming their signature song. Subsequent hits included "Open Up My Heart", "Oh What A Day" and "On The Dock Of The Bay".

In 1971, the Dells' "The Love We Had Stays on My Mind" became another top ten hit on the R&B charts, also reaching the pop Top 30. Charles Stepney had taken over production duties by then from Bobby Miller. By 1973's "Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation", their first certified gold record produced by Don Davis, the Dells were a top-selling recording and headlining act.

Later years

Leaving Cadet around the end of 1974 with the parent company in financial difficulties, the group would continue recording under the Mercury, ABC, 20th Century Fox and Virgin labels finding some hits including 1980's "I Touched a Dream", which returned the group to the top forty on the R&B charts. The Dells were confined mostly to the oldies market afterwards until they were asked to be creative consultants to Robert Townsend's acclaimed 1991 musical, The Five Heartbeats, which was loosely based on the lives of the Dells. The group recorded a George Duke composition titled "A Heart Is a House for Love". The success of the song, issued on the movie's soundtrack, as it reached number thirteen on the R&B singles chart gave the Dells a jolt and helped to make them just the second group to chart singles in four consecutive decades after The Isley Brothers. The success resulted in the group being signed to the Philadelphia International label where they recorded the album I Salute You. In recent years, the Dells have kept a constant touring schedule still occasionally releasing albums including their latest, 2003's HOTT. In 2004, the group was inducted to both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Original member Johnny Funches died of pneumonia in 1998. As of 2008, the Dells have continued to perform together.


Current members

  • Marvin Junior (1952-58; 1960- ): baritone, lead vocals (b. 31 Jan 1936, Arkansas)
  • Verne Allison (1952-58; 1960- ): second tenor, background vocals (b. 22 Jun 1936, Chicago)
  • Mickey McGill (1952-58; 1960- ): baritone, background vocals (b. 17 Feb 1937, Chicago)
  • Chuck Barksdale (1952-58; 1960- ): bass, background vocals (b. 11 Jun 1935, Chicago)
  • Johnny Carter (1960- ): first tenor/falsetto, lead vocals (b. 2 Jun 1934, Chicago)Former members
  • Johnny Funches (1952-60): first tenor, lead vocals (b. 18 July 1935, Chicago, d. 23 Jan 1998)
  • Lucius McGill (1952-54): second tenor, background vocals (b. 1935, Chicago)



Vee-Jay releases:

  • 1957: Oh What a Night
  • 1965: It's Not UnusualCadet (Chess) releases:
  • 1968: There Is (#29 Pop; #4 R&B)
  • 1969: Love Is Blue (#54 Pop; #3 R&B)
  • 1969: The Dells' Musical Menu/Always Together (#146 Pop; #9 R&B)
  • 1970: The Dells' Greatest Hits (#102 Pop; #9 R&B)
  • 1971: Like It Is, Like It Was (#126 Pop; #7 R&B)
  • 1971: Freedom Means (#81 Pop; #4 R&B)
  • 1972: Sweet As Funk Can Be (#33 R&B)
  • 1972: The Dells Sing Dionne (#162 Pop; #32 R&B)
  • 1973: Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation (#99 Pop; #10 R&B)
  • 1973: The Dells (#15 R&B)
  • 1974: The Mighty Mighty Dells (#114 Pop; #13 R&B)
  • 1975: The Dells vs. The Dramatics (#156 Pop; #15 R&B)
  • 1975: The Dells' Greatest Hits Volume 2 (#47 R&B)Mercury releases:
  • 1975: We Got To Get Our Thing Together (#31 R&B)
  • 1976: No Way Back
  • 1977: They Said It Couldn't Be Done But We Did It (#40 R&B)
  • 1977: Love Connection (#45 R&B)ABC releases:
  • 1978: New Beginnings (#169 Pop; #55 R&B)
  • 1979: Face to Face (#71 R&B)20th Century Fox releases:
  • 1980: I Touched a Dream (#137 Pop; #23 R&B)
  • 1981: Whatever Turns You OnOther releases:
  • 1984: One Step Closer
  • 1988: The Second Time (#92 R&B)
  • 1992: I Salute You
  • 2000: Reminiscing
  • 2002: Open Up My Heart: The 9/11 Album
  • 2003: Hott
  • 2008: Then and Now

Charted singles

  • 1956: "Oh, What a Nite" (US R&B #4)
  • 1962: "The (Bossa Nova) Bird" (US Pop #97)
  • 1965: "Stay in My Corner" (US R&B #23)
  • 1967: "Oo, I Love You" (US Pop #61, US R&B #22)
  • 1968: "There Is" (US Pop #20, US R&B #11)
  • 1968: "Wear It On Our Face" (US Pop #44, US R&B #27)
  • 1968: "Stay in My Corner" (US Pop #10, US R&B #1)
  • 1968: "Always Together" (US Pop #18, US R&B #3)
  • 1968: "Does Anybody Know I'm Here" (US Pop #38, US R&B #15)
  • 1969: "Hallways of My Mind" (US Pop #92)
  • 1969: "I Can't Do Enough" (US Pop #98, US R&B #20)
  • 1969: "I Can Sing a Rainbow/Love Is Blue" (US Pop #22, US R&B #5, UK #15)
  • 1969: "Oh, What a Night" (US Pop #10 Pop, US R&B #1)
  • 1969: "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (US Pop #42, US R&B #13)
  • 1970: "Oh What a Day" (US Pop #43, US R&B #10)
  • 1970: "Open Up My Heart" (US Pop #51, US R&B #5)
  • 1970: "Nadine" (US Pop #51, US R&B #5)
  • 1970: "Long Lonely Nights" (US Pop #74, US R&B #27)
  • 1971: "The Glory of Love" (US Pop #92, US R&B #30)
  • 1971: "The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)" (US Pop #30, US R&B #8)
  • 1972: "It's All Up to You" (US Pop #94, US R&B #23)
  • 1972: "Oh, My Dear" - (US R&B #36)
  • 1972: "Just As Long As We're in Love" (US R&B #35)
  • 1973: "Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation" (US Pop #34, US R&B #3)
  • 1973: "My Pretending Days Are Over" (US Pop #51, US R&B #10)
  • 1974: "I Miss You" (US Pop #60, US R&B #8)
  • 1974: "Learning to Love You Was Easy (It's So Hard Trying to Get Over You)" (US R&B #18)
  • 1974: "I Wish It Was Me You Loved" (US Pop #94, US R&B #11)
  • 1974: "Bring Back the Love of Yesterday" (US Pop #87)
  • 1975: "Love is Missing from Our Loves" (US R&B #46)
  • 1975: "We Got to Get Our Thing Together" (US R&B #17)
  • 1976: "Slow Motion" (US R&B #49 R&B)
  • 1976: "The Power of Love" (US R&B #58)
  • 1977: "Betcha Never Been Loved (Like This Before)" (US R&B #29)
  • 1977: "Our Love" (US R&B #20)
  • 1978: "Private Property" (US R&B #57)
  • 1978: "Super Woman" (US R&B #24)
  • 1979: "(You Bring Out) The Best in Me" (US R&B #34)
  • 1980: "I Touched a Dream" (US R&B #17)
  • 1980: "Passionate Breezes" (US R&B #76)
  • 1989: "Thought of You Just a Little Too Much" (US R&B #66)
  • 1991: "A Heart Is a House for Love" (US R&B #13)
  • 1992: "Come and Get It" (US R&B #62)
  • 1992: "Oh My Love" (US R&B #81)


External links

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