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Passings: Lillian Leach of the Mellows (1936 - 2013)

Even though the Mellows never had any hit records, they are fondly remembered by fans of doo wop and, especially, the mark they made by being one of the first vocal groups to use a woman in the lead role.

That woman, Lillian Leach Boyd, passed away last Friday at Cavalry Hospital in the Bronx while being treated for lung cancer. She was 76.

Both Leach's mother and grandmother saw singing talent in Lillian and pushed her into singing in the local church and at talent shows. In 1954, at the age of 16, she met Harold Johnson, Johnny Wilson and Norman Brown and, together, they formed the Mellows, an apt name as much of their repertoire was ballads.

Leach, herself, said she was surprised when she was asked to join the group as they were almost always exclusively men. They signed with the local-Bronx label Jay Dee Records and recorded a series of songs that were only locally popular but have gone on to become doo wop classics, including Smoke From Your Cigarette and Yesterday's Memories.

When the group broke up in 1958, Leach retired from music, returning in 1983 after her husband had a chance meeting with two of her former groupmates at a party. They recorded a charity single and did a number of appearances around New York and finally put together a new album in 1992 (it wasn't released until 2002).