(Read all about The Marcels after the video)
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 the song was an excerpt of an original song that the group had in its act--Phillips added it to "Blue Moon" to give it a flair that the group was lacking in their other songs. The Marcels recorded this 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 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.
The Marcels were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
Original lead singer Cornelius "Nini" Harp died on June 4, 2013. He was 73.
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