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Passings: Marvin Junior of the Dells (1936 - 2013)

Marvin Junior, the lead baritone singer for the Dells from their formation in 1952 until last year, has died from complications of kidney failure at his home in Harvey, IL. He was 77.

News broke on the Soulful Detroit message boards with the following post:
Just got a phone call from a close friend,
That Marvin Jr. passed away today.
My prayers go out to the family.
May he rest in pease.
A great one.
The Original Tymes
The Dells were formed in 1952 at Thornton Township High School in Harvey by Junior, Verne Allison, Johnny Funches, Chuck Barksdale, Mickey and Lucius McGill. Originally called the El-Rays, they released their first single, Darling I Know, on Checker Records but it was not successful.

The group continued to hone its craft until 1955 when they signed under the name The Dells with Vee-Jay Records. The next year, the release Oh What a Night with lead vocals by Junior and Funches. The record went to number 4 on the R&B chart, bringing the group their first gold record. It would also be their last charting record for nine years.
In 1958, the group was in a serious car accident which would cause Mickey McGill to be laid up for an extended period. The group broke up, although temporarily, while McGill recovered and reformed in 1960. While a hit single was still elusive, they spent time doing studio work for artists like Dinah Washington and Ray Charles while, at the same time, working on their act with a young Quincy Jones.

The Dells scored a comeback hit in 1965 with Stay in My Corner (#23 R&B / #122 Pop) and, two years later, finally started to see consistent sales leading up to their first number 1 R&B hit, a re-recorded version of Corner which also made it to number 10 on the Pop charts.

From 1967 to 1991, the Dells would have thirty R&B top forty hits including Always Together (1968 / #3 R&B / #18 Pop), a new version of Oh What a Night (1969 / #1 R&B / #10 Pop), Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation (1973 / #3 R&B / #34 Pop) and I Miss You (1973 / #8 R&B / #60 Pop).

After a number of years of only minor hits during the 80's, the group was asked to consult on the Robert Townshend film The Five Heartbeats. Loosely based on The Dells story, they recorded the song A Heart is a House For Love which went to number 13 on the R&B chart, giving them one last major hit.

Since then, the group has continued to perform and, in 2004, were inducted into both the Vocal Group and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were one of the few vocal groups of the fifties to survive with the majority of the original members intact with Junior, Allison, Mickey McGill and Barksdale still active in 2012.

A previous post  made on the Soulful Detroit boards on May 23 stated that not only was Junior's health at a critical juncture, but that Chuck Barksdale was also ill and "not doing very well."


Anonymous said…
I listened to them in the 60s and saw them live in Miami in 1984. What a performance. When Marvin held that note stay, the crowd went wild. He will be missed.
Anonymous said…
My heart is broken. I have been and always will be the "Mighty Dells" number one fan. Rest in peace my friend and thank you for blessing my life and soothing my soul with some of the greatest singing I've ever heard.
Anonymous said…
One of the Greatest Voices of any genre of music, Thanks Marvin Junior, rest in peace.