Marvin Junior, the long time surviving lead singer extraordinaire of the mighty, mighty Dells passed today (05-29-13). Unfortunately we don’t have any specific details of his death, but according to a May 23, 2013 report in the Soulful Detroit blog, Mr. Junior was reported to be very ill “and was not expected to be around much longer. The report also mentioned that another member of The Dells, Mr. Chuck Barksdale, was also very ill.
We’ll have more details as they become available. Follow story on twitter:blues2jazzguy Lead singer of The Dells, Marvin Junior‘s warm, earnest baritone vocals helped define the Harvey, IL, R&B/soul music group during its ’60s/’70s heyday (along with Johnny Carter’s mesmerizing falsetto). One example of his vocal prowess is his ability at holding a note, as heard on the 1968 remake of their own “Stay in My Corner.”
It’s no secret that producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff wanted Marvin Junior on their Philadelphia International Records label. When the group signed to Chess, they went with the similar-sounding Teddy Pendergrass. Gamble & Huff finally got to work with the Dells in 1992 on the I Salute You album.
Junior, along with the rest of the Dells, was a key influence on Robert Townsend in the making of his movie The Five Heartbeats. In the early ’50s, the group initially formed as the El Rays when the members were students at Thornton Township High School. The lineup was Marvin Junior, Johnny Funches, Verne Allison,Chuck Barksdale, Mickey McGill, and his brother Lucius. After doing their share of street-corner harmonizing, the vocal group auditioned for Leonard Chess of Chess Records in nearby Chicago. Their first release on Chess’ Checker imprint was the a cappella song “Darling I Know” with “Christine” on the flip side. The 45 was a small regional hit. Not long afterwards, Lucius McGill quit the group. Now a quintet, the group was taken under the wing of Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows who schooled the group on five-part vocal harmony. Watch/listen to a classic 1972 live performance of “Oh What A Night,” “Always Together” and “Stay In My Corner” by the Dells on the PBS show “Soul”: