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R.I.P. Marvin Junior of the Dells

johnny-carter-obit-200-mwo082409Marvin Junior, the incredible lead singer of the Dells, passed away yesterday. 

Marvin Junior had one of the greatest soul voices ever, drenched with emotion. With Johnny Carter’s tenor, bass Chuck Barksdale and the beautiful harmonies of Verne Allison and Mickey McGill, Marvin Junior made them truly The Mighty, Mighty Dells! The men performed together as the El-Rays in 1952 but renamed themselves the Dells in 1955 after moving from Checker to Vee Jay Records.

Beginning with their first R&B chart-topping record in 1956—which hit Number Three and included the original version of “Oh What a Night”—they remained on the charts into the ʼ90s with “A Heart is a House for Love” from the movie The Five Heartbeats, which actor and director Robert Townsend based on the Dells (not on the Temptations, as is commonly believed).

The Isley Brothers and the Dells are the only two groups to have had chart hits in five different decades. The Dells were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and performed until 2012, 60 years after they started. The rich musical legacy of Marvin Junior and the Dells will endure.

-Dan Guilfoyle

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