Little Joe Cook

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Little Joe Cook
Birth nameJoseph Cook
Born(1922-12-29)December 29, 1922
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OriginSouth Philadelphia
DiedApril 15, 2014(2014-04-15) (aged 91)
Framingham, Massachusetts, U.S.
GenresRhythm and blues
Years active1934–2007
LabelsApex, OKeh, Loma, 20th Century
Associated actsLittle Joe & The Thrillers, The Sherrys

Joseph Cook (December 29, 1922 – April 15, 2014), known as Little Joe Cook, was an American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lead singer of Little Joe & The Thrillers, whose song "Peanuts" reached No. 22 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1957.[1]

Life and career[edit]

He was born in South Philadelphia, and started singing in church. His mother, Annie Hall, was a locally well-known blues singer and his grandmother was a Baptist preacher.[2][3] By the time he was 12, he and three cousins had formed a gospel vocal quartet, the Evening Stars, who had a one-hour weekly radio show in Philadelphia. Cook was noted for his falsetto singing as well as his personality, and first recorded in 1949. In 1951 the group recorded "Say A Prayer for the Boys In Korea" for Apex Records.[2] He also worked in shipbuilding for the US Navy, and as a delivery driver.[4]

In the early 1950s Cook decided to make the transition to secular rhythm and blues music,[3] later declining an offer to join The Soul Stirrers after Sam Cooke left.[2] He formed a new doo-wop vocal group, the Thrillers, with Farrie Hill (second lead), Richard Frazier (tenor), Donald Burnett (baritone), and Henry Pascal (bass). They won a contract with OKeh Records in 1956, and their first single, "Do the Slop", was a regional hit in Philadelphia and New York City. The song introduced a new dance craze, and the group performed at the Apollo Theater.[5]

The group's second single, "Peanuts", was written by Cook and again featured his falsetto as the lead. Released in 1957, it won the group an appearance on American Bandstand, and rose to No. 22 on the national pop chart,[6] though it failed to make the R&B chart. Cook's falsetto singing style was reportedly an influence on singers Frankie Valli, who recorded "Peanuts" with The Four Seasons, and Lou Christie.[2][3]

Later recordings by the group were less successful, though they continued to release singles on the OKeh label until 1961. After a brief stay with 20th Century Records, the group broke up.[5] Cook began performing solo, and toured with B. B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland.[2] He also formed a group, The Sherrys, with his daughters, Delthine and Dinell Cook and their friends Charlotte Butler and Delores "Honey" Wylie. Their record "Pop Pop Pop-Pie" reached No. 25 on the R&B chart in 1962.[7]

Cook moved to Boston in the late 1960s, and continued to perform in clubs. He had a residency at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1980 until he retired in 2007,[3][5] being voted the region's Best Local R&B Performer in 2002.[2] Cook became a local icon in Central Square (Cambridge) and he often he parked his yellow '70s Cadillac Seville on Mass Ave with an archetypal gold peanut hood ornament and the vanity plate "Nut Man". Little Joe Cook performed well into his 70s and devoted fans would frequent the Cantab on the weekends to dance to fan favorites including Lady from the Beauty Shop, Hold Up, and Down at the Cantab. 

Cook died of cancer on April 15, 2014, at the age of 91. He was survived by his wife Joanne and six children.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Little Joe Cook, at 91; his falsetto on 'Peanuts' a huge hit". The Boston Globe. 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Richie Sarno, Little Joe Cook: A Doo-Wop Legend Lives On, Atomic Magazine, 2002, reprinted at Retrieved 24 January 2013
  3. ^ a b c d James H. Burnett III, Little Joe Cook recalls high notes of doo-wop fame, Boston Globe, 20 October 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  4. ^ Camille Dodero, Down at the Cantab, Boston Phoenix, 27 March 2003 Archived 5 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  5. ^ a b c Biography by Bruce Eder at Retrieved 24 January 2013
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 416. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 397.

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