Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music



The Dells In The Beginning (The 50's & 60's) Part I

 Over the years, many R&B vocal groups have come and gone. Sometimes,  many separate even after their first string of hits. Or, could be personality differences, among themselves, or for just, silly egotistical reasons. There's is one group that stood the test of time, even though many hardships. They have managed to stay in each other's corner for practically 52 years ! Ladies and Gentlemen....put your hands together...for the Mighty Mighty Dells !!!!

Let's start from the beginning.....The group was formed in the south of Chicago, located in Harvey, ILL, in 1953. They were called the El-Rays. They consisted of Marvin Junior (lead baritone), Johnny Funches (lead tenor), Mickey McGill ( second baritone),  Verne Allison and Lucius McGill (tenors) and Chuck Barksdale (bass). The group signed with the Chess label and recorded their first release,  "Darling I Know".  It was an instant flop. Not long after that, Lucius McGill would soon drop out of the group. Now becoming a quintet, they now called themselves the Dells. Two years later in 1955, the group signed to Vee-Jay records, where they had a regional hit with,  " Dreams Of Continment".  In 1956, they would score big with, "Oh What A Night", with Johnny Funches leading. This classic song is about the Dells out at a party with their girlfriends and the guys come home and chat about that night. The song hit (No 4 on t he R&B Singles charts). In 1958, on their way to Philadelphia, in their station wagon,  an accident would occur, leaving Marvin Junior voice nearly impaired and Mickey McGill, a near lost of a leg. The Dells regrouped in 1960, without Johnny Funches, and continued to tour as vocal back-up for the ”Queen Of The Blues", Dinah Washington. Around this time a former falsetto singer from the Flamingos, Johnny Carter, replaced Johnny Funches and join the group on their tour with the swingin Ms. D !  A Vee-Jay Lp entitled, "Oh What A Night", was released around 1959. A vocal coach named Kirk Stewart, would help the Dells, incorporate jazz flavor into their vocal style of singing. The tour with Ms D would last for two years, and then sign with the jazz subsidiary label of Chess, Argo records. The group came out with 4 releases but only one would become a regional hit entitled, "The ( Bossa Nova) Bird", in 1962, which only hit No. 38 on Cash Box (another music trade paper like Billboard Magazine), to capitalize on the new dance craze, the Bossa Nova, at the time. They again returned back to the Vee-Jay and record more flops until they finally hit with, “Stay In My Corner", in 1965.  This first recording of the song would hit (No 23), during the summer of that year. I would also like to mention that the Dells would also be featured doing background work on such classic hits for Barbara Lewis: “Hello Stranger", “Think A Little Sugar", and   “Puppy Love".  Also you can hear them stomping their feet on a two by four on Betty Everett's hits such as, “You’re No Good", and
singing background to, “I Can't Hear You No More".  In 1966, the group would sign back with Chess records, after Vee-Jay records would declare bankruptcy, that same year.  They would record two cuts for the label.  "Thinking About You", and my favorite, "Run For Cover".  Both songs became local hits.  They would also during this time tour with "High Priestest Of Soul", Ray Charles, as back-up. The following year of 1967, would proved better for the Dells career, when they were assigned two new people, producer and songwriters, Bobby Miller and Charles Stephey, to work with the group. That summer, they would release the beautiful harmonic, “O-O I Love You".  It was a smash hit, hitting No 22 on the R&B Singles Chart.  Thus, this would lead into early 1968, where the flip side of O-O I Love You, "There Is",  would hit (No 11 on March 9).  The Dells would yet release another great dance cut entitled, “Wear It On My Face", (hitting No 27 on June 22).

During the heated summer of 68', their next release would make the Dells a household name. The re-recording of, “Stay In My Corner".  Charles Barksdale explained that they needed space on the album. They had the original charts for the song and had Charles Stepney rearrange everything, even the length of the song, 6 minutes and 18 seconds long!  The Dells wanted to record the song the way they performed it on stage with Marvin Junior holding the note near the end of the song. The audience would react with such excitement, so they knew that if they record it that way, it would be a hit instantaneously!!  They were right!  “Stay In My Corner", would hit No 1 (R&B Singles) for 3 weeks and No 10 (Pop Singles) for two weeks !  The musicians featured in this masterpiece recording are, Phil Upchurch on the guitar, Morris Jennings on drums, Louis Satterfield on bass and playing those gorgeous strings are, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The "There Is" LP released in the late spring of 68', would hit No 5 on the R&B LP Charts and remain there for an amazing 39 weeks!!!!  The flip side of "Stay In My Corner"  is another classic entitled, “Love Is So Simple".  They demonstrated their continuous great doo-wop street corner harmony that cannot be matched!  It's a beautiful haunting masterpiece!!!  

Speaking of masterpieces, another released in the fall of 68' called,  "Always Together", peeked at No 3 (R&B Singles).1969 also proved to be a great triumph for the Dells !  A follow up LP entitled, "Musical Menu", (retiled  "Always Together" by Billboard Magazine on March 8 1969), released that winter of 68', (hitting No 10  on April 5, 1969), and continue to stay on the LP charts for 20 weeks !!!  Besides, "Always Together",  2 other great releases from this classic LP,  "Does Anybody Know I'm Here" ( No 15 on Feb 5, 1969) and "I Can't Do Enough"  / Hallways Of My Mind" ( No 20 April 26, 1969), are both total eargasms !!!  Does Anybody Know I'm Here, tells a heart wrenching story of a soldier's return home from Vietnam and no one acknowledges him.  In May of 69', The Dells continued to release hit after hit with, “I Can Sing A Rainbow / Love Is Blue" (No 5 on June 5), and their second million seller, the remake of their hit of 1956, “Oh What A Night".  The song would become their second No. 1 hit on the R&B Singles for one week on Sept 20 and No 10 Pop. A 3rd LP entitled, "Love Is Blue", would hit No 3 (R&B LP charts) and stay for 34 weeks!!!! Just as, "Oh What A Night", zoomed up the charts, Leonard Chess (founder of Chess Records along with his brother Phil), died of heart attack.  After their next release from the album,
"Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" ( hitting No 13), and a greatest hits LP entitled
"The Dells Greatest Hits",  the group would continue ongoing success as the new  generation decade would emerge.....The 1970's !!!!!!!!


                                               Enjoy !!!!!
                                             Mike Boone
                                        (Chancellor of Soul)

Material should not be used without the expressed
permission of the writer, Mike Boone (Chancellor of Soul) 




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