Deep River Boys
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The Deep River Boys
|Origin||Hampton, Virginia, United States|
|Past members||Harry Douglas|
Eddie Whaley Jnr.
The original group consisted of Harry Douglas (baritone), Vernon Gardner (first tenor), George Lawson (second tenor) and Edward Ware (bass). George Lawson was replaced by William James (Jimmy) Lundy in 1950. Other personnel changes took place during the group's long history.
From 1950 Jimmy Lundy (first tenor), Vernon Gardner (second tenor).
The group began at Hampton Institute, now known as Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. Initial success came about through their winning a talent competition on the radio which, in turn, led to further radio and stage appearances. During World War II, they toured extensively for the USO entertaining US troops abroad. In 1948,their song Recess in Heaven became their first hit. They also toured with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
In 1950, they left for Canada where they had a long engagement in Montreal. Upon return, they appeared on TV on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Milton Berle Show. They then left for another long engagement in Philadelphia. Early that year, they recorded "Solid as a Rock" with the Count Basie Orchestra. In July, they also recorded a version of "Tuxedo Junction" with the Erskine Hawkins, the composer of the tune. Then, they left for England where they embarked upon a 10-week engagement at the London Palladium. Whilst there they received a citation naming them as the "Most popular entertainers of American troops in England". Whilst there, they may have performed in a command performance before Queen Elizabeth 2nd.
Upon a triumphant return from England, they are reputed to have performed before US President, Dwight D Eisenhower. Despite their success in England and in Canada, their records were not selling well so left their former record company RCA and signed for the smaller company Beacon Records. But, even with the promotional efforts of Joe Davis, the owner of Beacon, their record sales are still disappointing so they re-signed with RCA. Surprisingly in 1954, they are back with Beacon. They also performed with Count Basie, Fats Waller, Charlie Christian and Thelma Carpenter.
In Europe they were especially popular in countries like Sweden and Norway from the 1950s and upwards, appearing on numerous TV shows, even releasing several hit-singles performing songs in Swedish and Norwegian. In winter 1956, they were photographed by The Newcastle Journal with Rev. Eric L. Robinson, then minister of Central Methodist Church, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. They returned at least once more in October 1958  and participated in a special noon-time church service, introducing Northumbrians to American gospel music. As late as the 1970s, they recorded a Norwegian-language version of the Norwegian hit song Ratiti. The group continued to tour into the early eighties.
The last surviving early member of the group, Jimmy Lundy, lived in Portsmouth, Virginia and died in October 2007 in Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Two later members of the group are still alive: Ronnie Bright was the bass of the Deep River Boys 1964-1968. After leaving the group he went to the Coasters, from which he has now retired. Eddie Whaley Jr was tenor of the Deeps 1969-1971. He was born in Brighton, England and lives in Florida.
Awards and honors
In 2019, their 1941 single "They Look Like Men of War" was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
- "Tyneside Forum," January, 1957, Newcastle-on-Tyne
- "Tyneside Forum," Autumn Edition, 1958
- Andrews, Travis M. (March 20, 2019). "Jay-Z, a speech by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and 'Schoolhouse Rock!' among recordings deemed classics by Library of Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2019.