MARVIN JUNIOR – baritone lead singer with the mighty, mighty DELLS has died. The veteran vocalist passed away on Wednesday 29 May at his home in the south Chicago suburb of Harvey. He was 77.
Reports from the States say that the cause of death was kidney failure while news reports from earlier in the year suggest that the singer had been having problems with a weak heart.
JUNIOR was born in Harvey on January 31, 1936 and was a founding member of THE DELLS who began their career as a classic doo-wop group, making their first recordings for Chess, where they were schooled in harmonies by HARVEY FUQUA. The fivesome then gained valuable professional experience the as the background touring and session singers for DINAH WASHINGTON.
Their first big hit was 1956’s ‘Oh, What A Nite’, recorded for Vee Jay and from then they were consistently successful with true soul connoisseurs considering their epic 1968 Chess re-recording of ‘Stay In My Corner’ one of soul music’s true masterpieces. Amongst their other biggest hits and best remembered songs are ‘There Is’, ‘Always Together’, ‘Glory of Love’, ‘Open Up My Heart’, ‘I Touched A Dream’, ‘It’s All Up to You’, ‘The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)’, ‘I Wish It Was Me You Loved’, ‘I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love is Blue’, ‘Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation’ and ‘Wear It On Our Face’ which has been a constant favourite on the UK Northern soul scene.
Remarkably the DELLS line-up had remained constant since 1960 but the group’s longevity was shattered in 2009 when lead tenor JOHNNY CARTER died and since then the remaining four worked only sporadically. It’s unlikely that the group can continue as a trio – especially since MARVIN JUNIOR possessed one of soul’s most distinctive voices – the template for countless soul pretenders – most notably TEDDY PENDERGRASS, while DAVID RUFFIN nicknamed him “Iron Throat”.
Ominously, Stateside reports about JUNIOR and THE DELLS suggest that group member CHUCK BARKSDALE is also seriously ill.