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Robert Fontenot

Lead singer of The Penguins, famous for "Earth Angel," dies while casting vote

By November 9, 2012

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Cleveland "Cleve" Duncan, lead vocalist for the highly influential doo wop group The Penguins, passed away Tuesday in Los Angeles while in the process of casting his vote in the US Presidential Election. He was 77.

Cleve sang lead on the group's one big hit, "Earth Angel," a groundbreaking doo-wop ballad that was actually released as a b-side in 1954; enterprising DJs flipped it and made "Angel" one of the first big rock and roll records. Their manager, Buck Ram, sold the group's contract to Mercury Records after "Angel" broke on the condition they also take another of his acts, The Platters; Ram gave the best material to the Platters instead, and the Penguins never recovered.

The group soldiered on until 1962, but Duncan reformed it many times with different members, becoming a fixture on the oldies circuit. The Penguins were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004. "It's a timeless song," Duncan once said of "Angel." "People will always want to hear it."


November 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm
(1) RJ says:

Will there be a posting of the funeral services and will it be open to the public? My mother was a close friend during the 50′s and had lost contact. She would want to attend the services and express her condolences.

November 14, 2012 at 7:34 am
(2) Rudy Wilson says:

im one of Cleve Duncans former Penguins back in 1965 along with Vera Walker.we spent some years on the road together,whitch will forever be rememberd.R.I.P.Cleve(Mr.EARTH ANGEL) if any one has any information on how to get in touch with Cleves family,please contact me,any time day or nite. 7617 Chelwynde ave Phila Pa.19153 feel free to call 215-492-1337 GOD BLESS every one who loved him.

November 14, 2012 at 10:54 am
(3) Rudy Wilson says:

i am a former member of the Cleve Duncan 1965 Penguins along with Vera Walker.we shared a lot of years on the road together.moments that stay with me for the rest of my life.R.I.P.Cleve(MR.EARTH ANGEL) if theres any info.of how to get in touch with the family,please let me know.215-492-1337 im in Philadelphia Pa

November 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm
(4) david gutkin says:

I am trying to find an old Lloyd price Album he recorded in the 50′s titled “Lloyd Price sings the Top Hits” He sang songs that were not his but he did a great job on them. I don’t see it anywhere. Is it lost forever?

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