musical-notes

Sad news out of the R&B world. Chuck Barksdale, bass singer with the legendary R&B group The Dells, died after a long illness. He was 84. Formed in Harvey, IL in the 1950s, The Dells original lineup consisted of Marvin Junior, Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Funches, Verne Allison and Michael McGill. The group, then known known as The El-Rays, recorded the single “Darling I Know” for Chess Records, but it went nowhere. However, after renaming themselves The Dells and signing with Vee Jay Records, the group rose to prominence with the doo-wop single “Oh What A Night”, which was released in 1956. Unfortunately, they were unable to duplicate the success of “Oh What A Night”, and for a decade moved from doo-wop to jazz to soul in search of a signature sound. In 1961, Funches left the group and was replaced by singer Johnny Carter, who became their last personal change and the missing piece of the puzzle for The Dells. In 1965, the group landed the hit they’d been hoping for with “Stay In My Corner”, a soulful ballad that showcased what would become their signature sound; Junior’s gritty baritone lead alternating with Carter’s expressive falsetto. The quintet gained a national following over the next several years with a slew of hits, including re-recordings of “Oh What A Night” and “Stay In My Corner.” In 1972, the group entered the studio with producer Charles Stepney. The result was the album “Freedom Means.” The album featured the singles “My Pretending Days Are Over”, “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)” and “Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation.” The group continued touring and recording throughout the 1970s and 80s, and just when it appeared as though they’d be forever regulated to the oldies circut, actor/writer/director Robert Townsend tapped them to consult on his film “The Five Heartbeats”, which was based loosely on their personal experiences. “Stay In My Corner” appeared on the film’s soundtrack along with “Love Is A House For Love”, which brought The Dells back to the top ten 30 years after their debut. While they continued performing over the next decade, they released two mildly successful albums, including “Reminiscing” in 2000 via Volt Records. They release two additional albums during the 21st century, the last of which was 2003’s “Hott.” The Dells were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, a well deserved honor for one of the greatest R&B vocal groups of all time. The group performed sporadically as the decade wore on. Their historic on and off stage unity was shattered by death when Johnny Carter died in 2009 after a bout with cancer. He was followed in 2013 by Marvin Junior, one of the most distinctive soul singer’s of all time. Chuck Barkdale’s death is a reminder of the lasting legacy and staying power of The Dells. May he rest in peace.

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