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Profile: The Moonglows

By

The Moonglows

The Moonglows

Formed:

1951 (Cleveland, OH)

Genres:

Doo-Wop, R&B, Rock and Roll

Members:

Bobby Lester (b. Robert L. Dallas, January 13, 1930, Louisville, KY; d. October 15, 1980, Louisville, KY): lead vocal (tenor)
Harvey Fuqua (b. July 27, 1928, Chicago, IL): second lead vocal (baritone)
Alexander "Pete Graves" Walton (b. April 17, 1936, Bessemer, AL): vocals (tenor)
Prentiss Barnes (b. April 25, 1925, Magnolia, MS): vocals (bass)
Billy Johnson (b. William McDowell Johnson, August 20, 1928, Hartford, CT; d. April 28, 1987): guitar

Contributions to music:

  • Helped bridge pop vocal and rock and roll
  • Instrumental in helping Alan Freed gain success as a promoter and manager
  • One of the first R&B vocal groups to score big with white audiences
  • One of Chess Records' first major R&B acts
  • The "blow harmony" the group developed came to be standard practice in doo-wop
  • Main lead Bobby Lester was a major influence on doo-wop groups to come
  • Second lead and songwriter Harvey Fuqua became a mentor to Marvin Gaye and an important part of the Motown hitmaking machine

Early years:

As the nephew of Ink Spots member Charlie Fuqua, it was only natural that Harvey Fuqua would eventually form a vocal group -- and after moving to Ohio, he did just that, forming the Crazy Sounds, a trio which specialized in imitating jazz instruments vocally. (This was known as vocalese.) By 1952, the quartet had begun to incorporate the trendy sounds of R&B, taking their cues from established groups like the Orioles and the Ravens; they became quite popular in the nightclubs of Cleveland.

Success:

During a performance at The Loop club, they were spotted by singer Al "Fats" Thomas, who called local DJ Alan Freed so he could hear them over the phone. Freed immediately invited the group to the studios of WJW radio to wax their first single, "I Just Can't Tell No Lie." It was a regional hit, but Cleveland could only take them so far, and he sent the group to Chicago's Chess records, where, after two years of near misses, they eventually cut their main claim to fame, the ballad "Sincerely."

Later years:

Though the McGuire sisters' limp cover cut into its sales, the Moonglows continued to crank out the hits in various incarnations well into 1962. Fuqua and friend Marvin Gaye would go on to much greater success at Motown; the rest of the group enjoyed a comeback during the Fifties revival movement of the early Seventies, which led to a long stint on the oldies circuit, but aside from a few one-off reunions in the Eighties, the original group has retired. Their legacy continues regardless.

Other facts:

  • Other members of the group have included Danny Coggins, Doc Williams, Chuck Lewis, and John Brown
  • Named the Moonglows after Alan Freed's "Moondog" nickname; some releases under the joke name The Moonlighters
  • Marvin Gaye, a member during the group's later years, sings lead on "Mama Loocie"
  • Fuqua co-produced Marvin Gaye's hits "Aint No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," "If This World Were Mine," and "Sexual Healing," as well as David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)"

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (2002)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:


#1 hits:
R&B:
  • "Sincerely" (1955)
Top 10 hits:
R&B:
  • "Most Of All" (1955)
  • "We Go Together" (1956)
  • "When I'm With You" (1956)
  • "Please Send Me Someone To Love" (1957)
  • "Ten Commandments Of Love" (1958)
Other important recordings: "Secret Love," "Shoo Doo Be Doo (My Loving Baby)," "Let's Go," "In My Diary," "(I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over," "Blue Velvet," "Over and Over Again," "Sweeter Than Words," "Twelve Months of the Year"
Covered by: The McGuire Sisters, Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Neville Brothers, The Forrester Sisters, Paul Anka, Louis Armstrong, The Gatlin Brothers, The Platters, The Tokens, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Bobby Vee, The Four Seasons, The Persuasions, Little Anthony and the Imperials
Appears in the movies: "Rock, Rock, Rock" (1956)
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