The Falcons Biography

This R&B vocal group from Detroit, Michigan, USA, helped define soul music in the early 60s. The great legacy of music left by the Falcons has unfortunately been obscured by the group’s reputation as the genesis of so many great talents. The group has at one time claimed as members Eddie Floyd (25 June 1935, Montgomery, Alabama, USA), Wilson Pickett (b. 18 March 1941, Prattville, Alabama, USA, d. 19 January 2006, Reston, Virginia, USA), Joe Stubbs (b. Joseph Stubbles, 1942, USA, d. 19 January 1998, USA), brother of the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs and later a member of the Contours and then the Originals, Bonny ‘Mack’ Rice, the original singer of ‘Mustang Sally’, and guitarists Lance Finnie and Robert Ward successively, whose bluesy guitar work helped immeasurably to raise the reputation of the group. The Falcons’ chart success was surprisingly slim, with only five releases making the chart, the best-known being ‘You’re So Fine’, a proto-soul number led by Stubbs that went to number 2 R&B (number 17 pop) in 1959, and ‘I Found A Love’, the incredibly torrid secular gospel number led by Wilson Pickett that went to number 6 R&B (number 75 pop) in 1962.

The original Falcons was formed in 1955 and comprised lead Eddie Floyd, Bob Manardo (b. Robert Manardo, 1937, d. 6 March 2004, Warren, USA), Arnett Robinson, Tom Shetler, and Willie Schofield. Manardo and Shetler were only present on ‘Baby That’s It’/‘This Day’ before being drafted and volunteering for the army respectively. In 1956, the group met Detroit producer Robert West and for the next three years issued releases by the Falcons on several labels, including his own Flick label, but without achieving any national success. The group now featured Joe Stubbs, Bonny ‘Mack’ Rice and guitarist Lance Finnie, and this classic line-up blended gospel fervour to rhythm and blues harmony, as reflected in their ‘You’re So Fine’ hit of 1959. They managed two more hits with Stubbs as lead with ‘Just For Your Love’ (number 26 R&B 1959) and ‘The Teacher’ (number 18 R&B 1960), before Wilson Pickett replaced Stubbs in 1960.

The memorable ‘I Found A Love’, and several other Falcons records, featured backing from the Dayton group the Ohio Untouchables, centred on the great guitar of Robert Ward. In the 70s the Ohio Untouchables emerged as the premier funk group the Ohio Players (Ward himself re-emerged from 25 years’ retirement in 1991 to release a well-received blues album). The Falcons disbanded in 1963, but the name continued with another Detroit ensemble, consisting of Carlis ‘Sonny’ Monroe, James Gibson, Johnny Alvin and Alton Hollowell. This group made the R&B chart in 1966 with ‘Standing On Guard’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.