Founding members Walter Vickers (guitar) and Rodney Taylor (drums) were members of the United States Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After being transferred to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, they enlisted fellow Marines Billy Hill (aka Billy Proctor) and Rudolph Johnson as group members. Next they added a female lead singer, Anita Humes, another Marine.
The band was signed to a recording contract in 1963 after submitting a demo to Roulette Records. "Easier Said Than Done" was written by Larry Huff and William Linton. Released as the B side of their first single, the song reached the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. The track sold over one million records and received a gold disc award from the R.I.A.A. "Easier Said Than Done" charted at #41 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1963.
Rudolph Johnson left the group, and the Essex became a quartet. Three months after "Easier Said Than Done" reached #1 in July 1963, the group had a #12 hit with the follow-up song, "A Walkin' Miracle" in September 1963. On the label of this single, the group name appeared as 'The Essex Featuring Anita Humes.' "She's Got Everything", their next single, written by Jimmy Radcliffe and Oramay Diamond, was a #56 hit. Being Marines made it hard for the group to take advantage of their hits; for example, before long, Johnson was posted to Okinawa. Rodney Taylor was killed in 1966 in New York City during an attempted mugging. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana. All of his former bandmates attended his funeral.
Humes released several solo singles for Roulette, but had no chart success. She died on May 30, 2010, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, aged 69. In the 1970s, Hill headed up a group called The Courtship.
- "Easier Said Than Done" (b/w "Are You Going My Way?"): The Essex - Roulette 4494 (1963)
- "A Walkin' Miracle" (b/w "What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me"): The Essex featuring Anita Humes - Roulette 4515 (1963)
- "She's Got Everything" (b/w "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind"): The Essex - Roulette 4530 (1963)
- "What Did I Do" (b/w "Curfew Lover"): Anita Humes And The Essex - Roulette 4542 (1964)
- 1963 Easier Said Than Done - Roulette SR25234 (stereo) - U.S. albums chart #119
- 1963 A Walkin' Miracle - Roulette SR25235 (stereo)
- 1964 Young & Lively - Featuring Anita Humes with The Essex - Roulette SR25246
Band member origins
- Walter Vickers - New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Rodney Taylor - Gary, Indiana
- Rudolph Johnson - New York
- Billy Hill - Princeton, New Jersey
- Anita Humes - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- List of artists who reached number one in the United States
- List of artists who reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart
- List of R&B musicians
- "Biography by Jason Ankeny". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 158/9. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "The Dead Rock Stars Club January to June 2010". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-08-18.