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The Marcels were an American doo-wop group known for turning popular music songs into rock and roll. The group formed in 1959 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and signed to Colpix Records, with lead Cornelius Harp, bass Fred Johnson, Gene Bricker, Ron Mundy, and Richard Knauss. The group was named after a popular hair style of the day, the marcel wave, by Fred Johnson's younger sister Priscilla.
In 1961 many were surprised to hear a new version of the ballad "Blue Moon", that began with the bass singer saying, "bomp-baba-bomp" and "dip-da-dip." The record sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The disc went to number one in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and UK Singles Chart. In the US, additional revivals in the same vein as "Blue Moon"--"Heartaches" and "Melancholy Baby"--were less successful, although "Heartaches" peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually sold over one million copies worldwide.
The introduction to "Blue Moon" was an excerpt of an original song that the group had in its act, a cover of "Zoom" by the Cadillacs. Colpix A&R director Stu Phillips transferred the introduction to "Blue Moon" in order to give the song additional flair. The Marcels recorded "Blue Moon" in two takes. A promotion man asked and got a copy of the finished tape, which found its way to legendary DJ 'Murray The K' (qv). He promoted it as an "exclusive" and reportedly played it 26 times on one show.
In August 1961, due to racial problems encountered in the Deep South while touring because of the group being multi-racial, Knauss and Bricker--the group's white members--left and were replaced by Allen Johnson (brother of Fred) and Walt Maddox. Mundy left soon after, leaving the group a quartet. In 1962 Harp and Allen Johnson left, and were replaced by Richard Harris and William Herndon. There was a brief reunion of the original members in 1973. The group made several recordings in 1975 with Harp back on lead. Original member Gene Bricker died in 1983. Allen Johnson died in 1995. By the early 1990s the group included Johnson, Maddox, Harris, Jules Hopson, and Richard Merritt. The group split around 1995. Fred Johnson formed his own group with new members, while the other four members recruited new bassist Ted Smith. Maddox won a lawsuit against Sunny James Svetnic, the manager of Johnson's group, for trademark infringement in 1996. Johnson reunited with Harp, Mundy and Knauss in 1999 for the PBS special Doo Wop 50.
Original lead singer Cornelius "Nini" Harp died on June 4, 2013. He was 73.
- 1961 "Blue Moon" / "Goodbye To Love"
- 1961 "Summertime" / "Teeter-Totter Love"
- 1961 "You Are My Sunshine" / "Find Another Fool"
- 1961 "Heartaches" / "My Love For You"
- 1961 "Merry Twist-mas" / "Don't Cry For Me This Christmas"
- 1962 "My Melancholy Baby" / "Really Need Your Love"
- 1962 "Footprints In The Sand" / "Twistin' Fever"
- 1962 "Flowerpot" / "Hold On"
- 1962 "Friendly Loans" / "Loved Her The Whole Week Through"
- 1962 "Alright, Okay, You Win" / "Lollipop Baby"
- 1963 "That Old Black Magic" / "Don't Turn Your Back On Me"
- 1963 "Give Me Back Your Love" / "I Wanna Be The Leader" (novelty song based on the 1963 Johnny Cymbal song, "Mr. Bass Man")
- 1963 "One Last Kiss" / "Teeter-Totter Love"
- 1963 "One Last Kiss" / "You've Got To Be Sincere"
- 1961: Blue Moon
- 1963: That Old Black Magic And 12 Other Great Songs
- "Just Because"
- "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do"
- "I'm Walking Through Heaven With You"
- "Trouble in Mind"
- "Ooh Look A There Ain't She Pretty"
- "That Old Black Magic"
- "Please Come Back"
- "You Always Hurt The One You Love"
- "Did You Ever"
- "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It"
- "The Wayward Wind Twist"
- No.30 U.K.
- No.7 Australia
- No.10 N.Z.
"Teeter-Totter Love" (1963 version)
- No.2 Australia (The song was well received in the city of Adelaide where it reached No.2 in August 1963)
- Twist Around the Clock (1961)
The Marcels' popularity in 1961 was so great that they were included in the Oscar Rudolph film Twist Around the Clock. Released on December 30, 1961, with the tagline "It's Twist-eriffic! The first full-length movie about the Twist!" the film also showcased fellow artists Chubby Checker, Dion DiMucci, Vicki Spencer and singer-songwriter and TV show host turned actor Clay Cole. Allen Johnson, Gene Bricker, Cornelius Harp, Fred Johnson, Richard Knauss and Ronald Mundy of The Marcels were all included--and had speaking parts in addition to performing musical numbers. They sing "Merry Twist-Mas", which was released over Christmas 1961, though no chart action ensued.
- Bikini Beach (1964)
This Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon movie, about a millionaire who sets out to prove his theory that his pet chimpanzee is as intelligent as the teenagers who hang out on the local beach where he is intending to build a retirement home but ends in hilarious results, also included two of The Marcels, Gene Bricker and Cornelius Harp. They provided backing vocals for two songs, Avalon's "Gimme Your Love Yeah Yeah Yeah" and Little Stevie Wonder's "(Happy Feelin') Dance And Shout".
- Morrow, Cousin Brucie; Maloof, Rich (2007). Doo wop : the music, the times, the era. New York: Sterling Pub. p. 152. ISBN 1402742762.
- Marv Goldberg (2009). "The Marcels". Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 137. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present (5 ed.). Billboard Books. p. 87. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.
- "ChartArchive - Marcels - Blue Moon". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15.
- "The Marcels - Inductees - The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation". Vocalgroup.org. Retrieved 2012-04-15.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2013 January to June". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
- "Search Results For: "The Marcels"". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
- 2UE Top 40 Official Music Charts for Sydney, Australia 1961, 1962 and 1963
- 7KW Official Big 60 for South Australia including Barossa Valleys and Adelaide City Centre for 1961 through 1966