(the dells with johnny funches - pre 1960)
The Dells are one of the most enduring Soul Groups still performing today.
The Dells comprised of (at various times):
Johnny Carter (between 1960–2009) (first tenor/falsetto, lead vocals - b. John Edward Carter, 2nd June 1934, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 21st August 2009, Harvey, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Marvin Junior (between 1952–58; 1960 - the present) (baritone, lead vocals - b. 31st January 1936, Harrell, Calhoun County, Arkansas, U.S.A. d. 29th May 2013, Harvey, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Mickey McGill (between 1952–58; 1960 - the present) (baritone, background vocals - b. 17th February 1937, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Chuck Barksdale (between 1952–58; 1960 - the present) (bass, background vocals - b. 11th June 1935, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Verne Allison (between 1952–58; 1960 - the present) (second tenor, background vocals - b. 22nd June 1936, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)
Johnny Funches (between 1952–58) (first tenor, lead vocals - b. 18th July 1935, Harvey, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 23rd January 1998)
Lucius McGill (between 1952–54) (second tenor, background vocals - b. 1935, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)
After attending Thornton Township High School together, the Dells originally formed in 1952.
Their styles covered many genres within the Black Music genre, and the line-up stayed together between 1960 and 2009, only interrupted by the sad passing of the falsetto frontman, Johnny Carter.
The band members all grew up in the Chicago suburb, Harvey, Illinois, the Dells were originally known as the The El-Rays (who performed with Willie Dixon and his Orchestra).
The The El-Rays comprised of Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Lucius McGill, Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale and Johnny Funches.
They were signed to the Checker imprint, where they released the single 'Darling I Know' b/w 'Christine' in 1954.
Chuck Barksdale had been previously part of a group called The Cats and The Fiddle, whose line-up included Chuck Barksdale, Ernie Price, Austin Powell and Herbie Miles.
Lucius McGill departed the El-Rays in 1954 and recorded for the Chess brothers' Checker imprint.
In 1955, the group renamed themselves the Dells and signed with Vee-Jay Records.
That year, collaborating with Count Morris, they released the single 'Tell The World' (Count's track was on the flip side).
In 1956, they recorded their first hit, 'Oh What a Night' b/w 'Jo Jo' (the A-Side co-written by Johnny Funches, who also sang lead on the recording).
'Oh What a Night' peaked at the top five of the R&B singles chart that year, and sold over one million copies, leading to an award of a gold disc.
Several Vee-Jay singles followed, including 'Movin On', 'Why Do You Have To Go', A Distant Lover', 'Pain In My Heart' and 'The Springer'.
l to r: marvin junior, verne allison, chuck barksdale, michael mcgill and johnny funches - circa 1958
In 1958, on their way to a gig in Philadelphia, the body of the group's station wagon failed resulting in a car accident which threatened to halt the group's progress, with Mickey McGill nearly losing his leg in the accident and Marvin Junior suffering a laceration of the larynx.
The Dells agreed to hold the group for a while to allow him to recover, allowing some band members time-out with other groups.
Chuck Barksdale joined a later version of The Moonglows.
Mickey eventually successfully recovered from his injury, which led to Chuck Barksdale rejoining the Dells ranks in 1960.
By this time Johnny Funches had left the Dells permanently, stating he was tired of touring and decided to stay home with his family, and was replaced by Johnny Carter, formerly of The Flamingos.
oh, what a nite - 1959 / it's not unusual - 1965
This version of the group did not change over the years, and began working with Quincy Jones and singing background vocals for the likes of Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, and Barbara Lewis (on her son 'Hello Stranger' in 1963).
In 1966, the Dells signed with Chess Records subsidiary and began working with Bobby Miller and Charles Stepney (who later was to become part of the Earth, Wind and Fire ensemble).
That year, the Dells became Ray Charles' touring vocal backup band for a while.
In 1967, the Dells released the album, 'There Is', the title track becoming an R&B Hit, and their first top 20 pop hit.
there is - 1967 / the dells musical menu - 1968
Further releases included 'Wear It On Our Face', 'Always Together', 'I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue' and their first number-one R&B hit and first top ten pop hit, the 1968 ballad 'Stay in My Corner', which also reached number ten on the pop chart.
love is blue - 1969 / like it is - 1970
In 1969, the Dells re-worked their earlier song 'Oh What a Night' in a more contemporary style for that time.
The song was their second number-one hit on the R&B charts and their second top ten pop single.
'Oh What a Night' sold over one million copies, and was followed by further hit songs, including 'Open Up My Heart', 'Oh What A Day' and 'On The Dock Of The Bay'.
freedom means - 1971 / the dells sing dionne warwick's greatest hits - 1972
In 1971, the Dells' 'The Love We Had Stays on My Mind' became another top ten hit on the R&B charts, and reached the pop Top 30.
The same year, The Dells recorded 'Freedom Means' including 'It's All Up To You'. A popular track on the UK Soul Scene and an early songwriting contribution from Terry Callier.
sweet as funk can be - 1972 / the dells - 1973
1973's 'Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation' was their third gold record, and was produced by Charles Stepney and penned by L.V. Johnson.
In 1974 the group left the Cadet imprint, relocating to various labels during that decade, including Mercury, ABC, and 20th Century Fox.
the mighty, mighty dells - 1974 / the dells vs the dramatics - 1974
That year, the Dells collaborated with the Dramatics, releasing one album called 'The Dells vs The Dramatics' for the Cadet imprint, which included the song 'Love Is Missing From Our Lives'.
we got to get our thing together - 1975 / no way back - 1976 / they said it couldn't be done - 1977 / love connection - 1978
At Mercury, they recorded the albums 'They Said It Couldn't Be Done' in 1977 and 'Love Connection' in 1978.
new beginnings - 1978 / face to face - 1979 / i touched a dream - 1980 / whatever turns you on - 1981
The group relocated from Mercury Records to ABC in 1978, for the album 'Face To Face', followed by 'New Beginnings' the same year.
In 1980 they released 'I Touched a Dream' for 20th Century Records, which returned the group to the top forty on the R&B charts, an album which featured the popular dancer 'All About The Paper' (produced by Carl Davis and Eugene Record of the Chi-Lites).
1981's album 'Whatever Turns You On' featured a reworking of their evergreen 'Stay In My Corner'.
one step closer - 1984 / the second time - 1989 / i salute you - 1992 / reminiscing - 2000 / open up my heart: the 9/11 album - 2002 / hott - 2004
1991 saw the group at the Urgent imprint for 'The Second Time', whilst the same year the Dells became creative consultants for Robert Townsend's musical, 'The Five Heartbeats', which was believed to be based on the lives of the Dells themselves.
the five heartbeats movie poster
The group recorded a composition titled 'A Heart Is a House for Love' on the movie's soundtrack, which reached number thirteen on the R&B singles giving the Dells a new lease of life.
The Dells signed to the Philadelphia International label where they recorded the album 'I Salute You', which celebrated the group's 40th anniversary together, and featured some classic Philly style ballads, including 'Somebody's Gotta Move'.
Verne Allison had a triple by pass operation in 2000 and recovered, able to tour again.
The group have kept a consistent touring schedule still releasing albums including 2003's 'HOTT'.
In 2004, the group was inducted to both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Original member Johnny Funches died of pneumonia on the 23rd of January 1998, and his replacement Johnny Carter died of lung cancer on the 21st of August 2009.
Marvin Junior passed away in May 2013 from kidney failure.
Oh What A Nite (Vee-Jay Records 1959)
It's Not Unusual (Vee-Jay Records 1965)
There Is (Cadet Records 1967)
Stay In My Corner (Cadet Records 1968)
The Dells Musical / Menu Always Together (Cadet Records 1969)
Love Is Blue (Cadet Records 1969)
Like It Is, Like It Was (Cadet Records 1970)
Oh, What A Night (Cadet Records 1970)
Freedom Means (Cadet Records 1971)
Dells Sing Dionne Warwick's Greatest Hits (Cadet Records 1972)
Sweet As Funk Can Be (Cadet Records 1972)
Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation (Cadet Records 1973)
with the Dramatics: The Dells Vs The Dramatics (Cadet Records 1974)
The Mighty Mighty Dells (Cadet Records 1974)
We Got To Get Our Thing Together (Cadet Records 1975)
No Way Back (Mercury Records 1975)
They Said It Couldn't Be Done, But We Did It (Mercury Records 1977)
Love Connection (Mercury Records 1977)
New Beginnings (ABC Records 1978)
Face To Face (ABC Records 1979)
I Touched A Dream (20th Century Records 1980)
Whatever Turns You On (20th Century Records 1981)
One Step Closer (Private I Records 1984)
The Second Time (Veteran Records 1988)
Music From The Motion Picture: The Five Heartbeats (Virgin Records 1991)
I Salute You (Philadelphia International Records 1992)
Dreams of Contentment (Vee-Jay Records 1993)
Dells, Vol. 2 (Vee-Jay Records 1994)
Reminiscing (Volt Records 2000)
Open Up My Heart -The 9/11 Album (Devine Records 2002)
Hott (A & E Records 2004)