The Fleetwoods

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The Fleetwoods
OriginOlympia, Washington, U.S.
GenresPop, doo-wop
Years active1958 (1958)–1983
LabelsDolton Records, Liberty Records
Past membersGary Troxel
Gretchen Christopher
Barbara Ellis

The Fleetwoods were an American vocal group from Olympia, Washington whose members were Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis.[1]

Early history[edit]

The band members met as high school students in Olympia, Washington. Originally the band consisted of only Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis, but Gary Troxel was asked to accompany them with jazz trumpet, later switching to vocals.[2] They then started performing in 1958 as "Two Girls and a Guy" but later changed the name to the Fleetwoods after the Fleetwood telephone exchange.[3]

In 1959, they were noticed by producer and Dolton Records founder Bob Reisdorff and together they recorded their self-written first hit "Come Softly to Me", which was also covered by others.[4] The UK's Frankie Vaughan and The Kaye Sisters had a Top 10 chart hit in the United Kingdom with the song, though The Fleetwoods exceeded them, simultaneously charting in the UK's Top 5.[5] Their second hit, "Graduation's Here" was co-written by Ellis and Christopher, with Troxel later adding a scat line in counterpoint. That one was followed by "Mr. Blue," which, like "Come Softly To Me", also topped the US pop chart.[1]

The Fleetwoods continued recording into the 1960s. They hit the Top 10 again with a remake of Thomas Wayne's "Tragedy" in 1961.[1] Though they went on to have a total of eleven hits on the Hot 100, the beginning of the end for the group came when Troxel had to fulfill his obligation to go onto active duty in the United States Navy. He joined the Naval Reserve in 1956. Additionally, the British Invasion of the mid 1960s changed the public's taste. The trio's hits ended in 1963 with Barbara Ellis singing melody on "Goodnight My Love". Vic Dana, who was to go on to a successful solo career,[1] replaced Troxel in the group when he was in the service, solely for live performances.[6]

Later years[edit]

In the late 1970s, Troxel was working in a plywood plant in Washington, Ellis was managing a trailer park in California and Christopher was a housewife and modern jazz dance teacher in Washington at St. Martin's College and at Evergreen State College.[7] Ellis is now retired from performing. In 1983, Troxel gave his written resignation from The Fleetwoods, leaving Christopher as manager with the sole authority to contract for both the original and replacement Fleetwoods. Troxel formed a new Fleetwoods group in the 1980s. His group has been performing regularly since the mid 1980s doing several "oldies" concerts each year with two performances on the PBS Doo Wop series.[8]

While Christopher trained replacement Fleetwoods, she also resumed her solo music career, billing herself as "Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods." Both Troxel and Christopher each continue to perform and occasionally release new recordings. A new Fleetwoods version of "Graduation's Here" appeared on Christopher's autobiographical solo album, Gretchen's Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16), which is one of the 2007 Billboard critics' picks for 10 Best Albums of the Year. It included both the hit arrangement of "Come Softly To Me" and an a cappella version, with Christopher singing all the parts.

Since their 1988 induction into the Northwest Area Music Association Hall of Fame, and their 2005 induction into the Olympia High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame, The Fleetwoods have been inducted into both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame of America in 2006.[9][2]

The November 2007 release of Gretchen's Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16) was launched in Las Vegas with the second Annual Cool Bobby B Doo Wop Convention and Grand Finale Concert, headlined by 'The Fleetwoods starring Gretchen Christopher.'[10] A year later, though all three originals were inducted and invited to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Christopher was the only original member of the Fleetwoods who accepted, attended and performed, dedicating songs to each of her absent partners. Troxel had every intention of attending but decided it was more important to be with his wife, because of her breast cancer treatment.

In 2000, Troxel and his wife Jenifer lost Troxel v. Granville, a landmark grandparents' rights case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The court held that under the United States Constitution, non-parents seeking custody or visitation rights of a child against the wishes of the child's parents must prove that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child in refusing custody or visitation.[11][12]

In 2008 and 2009, Christopher testified before the Washington State Senate in support of the Truth in Music Advertising Bill. In 2009, it passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire.[13] The law provides that a performing group shall not be advertised by the name of a recording group, unless the performing group includes from the hit-making recording group at least one original member who is authorized to use the name. The authorization resides solely with Christopher, according to the performance contract and resignation signed by Troxel.



A-Side B-Side
From same album as A-side except where indicated
Release date Label + Cat. No. Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 Canada UK
"Come Softly to Me" "I Care So Much" February 1959 Dolphin 1
Liberty 55188
1 1 6 Mr. Blue
"Graduation's Here" "Oh Lord Let It Be" (from Mr. Blue) April 1959 Dolton 3 39 38 The Fleetwoods Greatest Hits
"Mr. Blue" July 1959 Dolton 5 1 1 Mr. Blue
"You Mean Everything to Me" 84
"Outside My Window" "Magic Star" (from Goodnight My Love) January 1960 Dolton 15 28 The Fleetwoods: Gretchen, Gary and Barbara
"Runaround" "Truly Do" April 1960 Dolton 22 23 25
"The Last One to Know" "Dormilona" August 1960 Dolton 27 96 Softly
"Confidential" "I Love You So" (from Softly) November 1960 Dolton 30 Mr. Blue
"Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')" "Little White Cloud That Cried" (from Softly) March 1961 Dolton 37 (cancelled) The Fleetwoods Sing The Best Goodies of The Oldies
"Tragedy" "Little Miss Sad One" March 1961 Dolton 40 10 7 Softly
"(He's) The Great Imposter" "Poor Little Girl" July 1961 Dolton 45 30 7 Deep In A Dream
"Billy Old Buddy" "Trouble" January 1962 Dolton 49 Non-LP tracks
"Jimmy Beware" "Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')" (from The Fleetwoods Sing The Best Goodies of The Oldies) March 1962 Dolton 54 (cancelled) Goodnight My Love
"Lovers by Night, Strangers by Day" "They Tell Me It's Summer" (Non-LP track) July 1962 Dolton 62 36 The Fleetwoods Sing for Lovers By Night
"Sure Is Lonesome Downtown" "You Should Have Been There" (Non-LP track) March 1963 Dolton 74 Goodnight My Love
"Goodnight My Love" "Jimmy Beware" April 1963 Dolton 75 32
"What'll I Do" "Baby Bye-O" October 1963 Dolton 86 Non-LP tracks
"Ruby Red Baby Blue" "Lonesome Town" March 1964 Dolton 93
"Ska Light, Ska Bright" (Jamaica Ska) "Ten Times Blue" June 1964 Dolton 97
"Mr. Sandman" "This Is My Prayer (Non Ho l'Età Per Amarti)" July 1964 Dolton 98 113 Before And After
"Before And After (Losing You)" "Lonely Is As Lonely Does" December 1964 Dolton 302
"Come Softly To Me" (1965 Version) "I'm Not Jimmy" May 1965 Dolton 307 Non-LP tracks
"Rainbow" "Just As I Need You" August 1965 Dolton 310
"For Lovin' Me" "This Is Where I See Her" January 1966 Dolton 315 Folk Rock


Original albums[edit]

  • Mr. Blue (1959)
  • The Fleetwoods (1960)
  • Softly (1961)
  • Deep In A Dream (1961)
  • The Best Goodies Of The Oldies (1961)
  • For Lovers By Night (1963)
  • Goodnight My Love (1963)
  • Before And After (1965)
  • Folk Rock (1965)


  • The Fleetwoods' Greatest Hits (1962)
  • In A Mellow Mood (1966)
  • The Very Best Of The Fleetwoods (1974)
  • Buried Treasure (1983)
  • Come Softly To Me: The Very Best Of The Fleetwoods (1993)


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 143. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ a b "The Fleetwoods - Music Inductees". The Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  3. ^ "The Fleetwoods' Gretchen Christopher Reflects on Topping the Hot 100 60 Years Ago Today". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  4. ^ DeWitt, Howard A. "Teen Angst and Soft Rock 'n Roll". Retrieved December 13, 2020.
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 583. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. ^ "The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Retrieved 2015-05-29.
  7. ^ Archive-Frank-Tortorici. "The Fleetwoods' Gretchen Christopher". MTV News. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  8. ^ "The Fleetwoods - The Fleetwoods". Retrieved 2015-05-29.
  9. ^ Foster, James. The Fabulous Fifties. Page Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1634172078.
  10. ^ August 23, Ron CarsonPublished; 2019. "An Iconic Musical Legend Checks In On The Sat AM Chat". WSBS 860AM, 94.1FM. Retrieved 2021-03-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Troxel V. Granville". Retrieved 2015-05-29.
  12. ^ "Challenging Legal Notion Of 'Family'". Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  13. ^ "SB 6577". Retrieved 2021-03-15.

External links[edit]