The Dells are one of the longest-lived rhythm & blues vocal groups. Their origins date back to 1952, and the group’s original lineup – lead tenor Johnny Funches, second tenor Verne Allison, lead baritone Marvin Junior, baritone Michael “Mickey” McGill and bass Chuck Barksdale – changed only when John E. Carter replaced Funches in 1959. Between 1956 and 1992, the Dells racked up an astonishing 46 R&B hits. Eight of those made the pop Top 40, including their signature songs, “Stay in My Corner” and “Oh, What a Nite.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
In this clip, curatorial director Howard Kramer shares the story behind the Dells and their onstage battle against 1996 Hall of Fame inductees Gladys Knights and the Pips at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The Dells are featured in a special exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
As many of you may know, I’ve always felt strongly about the Dells and their place in the history of rock and roll. This past Sunday, I attended a memorial service in honor of the passing of two-time Rock Hall Inductee John Edward Carter. It was a wonderful evening, but a very sad occasion. Best known as one of the greatest tenor voices in popular music, Carter was a founding member of the Flamingos and a member of the Dells – the longest running vocal group in history with virtually the same members throughout their career.
Carter’s memorial service was held at Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Harvey, Illinois. The crowd that came to pay respect to the late singer overflowed from the church and into a side room where the two-hour service was also simulcast. Numerous personal tributes and proclamations were read along with several moving musical performances. Among one of the most memorable was that of Gerald Alston of the Manhattans, who performed “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” a gospel hymn that brought the crowd to their feet singing in a joyous outpouring of emotion. An explosive eulogy was delivered by Elder John Holley.