Black and white promo photo of The Moonglows
Courtesy of the Rock Hall Library and Archive

The Moonglows

2000
Category:
Performers
Members:
  • Harvey Fuqua
  • Bobby Lester
  • Prentiss Barnes
  • Peter Graves
  • Billy Johnson

The R&B group baptized by rock and roll god Alan Freed.

The Moonglows’ time was brief but influential. One of the premier R&B groups of the Fifties, their elegant blend had a rock and roll edge that earned them a spot in the dawning rock movement.

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As rhythm & blues innovators with an exquisite vocal blend, the Moonglows were among the finest black harmony groups of the Fifties.

They served to bridge the smoother approach of groups like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers with the earthier sounds of rock and roll.

The Moonglows, at least part of whose career found them in league with deejay Alan Freed, heralded the revolution that was to come on the strength of such doo-wop singles as “Sincerely" and “See Saw,” which were all sizable hits on both the pop and R&B charts in the mid-Fifties.

The Moonglows came together in Cleveland in the early Fifties from an alliance between Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester, who had previously sung together in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. They called their jazzy vocal group the Crazy Sounds, but Alan Freed renamed them the Moonglows. They recorded one single for Freed’s Champagne label and five for Chicago-based Chance Records before Phil Chess brought them over to his Chess label, where they remained from 1954 to 1961. The Moonglows’ productive stay on Chess ranged from the vocally innovative “Sincerely,” their biggest hit (Number One R&B, Number Twenty pop), to the Platters-influenced “Ten Commandments of Love” (Number Nine R&B, Number Twenty-Two pop). When the group re-shuffled its lineup in 1959, a young Marvin Gaye became one of the new members. Subsequently, Gaye became a star at Motown while Moonglows founder Harvey Fuqua, who had already been writing songs with Motown founder Berry Gordy, served as an in-house producer and songwriter.

Inductees: Prentiss Barnes (born April 12, 1925, died October 1, 2006), Harvey Fuqua (born July 27, 1929, died July 6, 2010), Peter Graves, Billy Johnson, Bobby Lester (born 1930, died October 15, 1980)

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