The Silhouettes Biography

Formed in 1956 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, the Silhouettes recorded one of the classics of the doo-wop era, ‘Get A Job’. The song was written by tenor Rick Lewis (Richard Lewis, 23 September 1933, USA, d. 19 April 2005, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) while he was in the US Army, stationed in Germany. Upon returning home, Lewis joined a singing group called the Parakeets. He left them to front a band called the Gospel Tornadoes, comprising lead singer Bill Horton (b. 25 December 1929, North Carolina, USA d. 23 December 1995, Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA), bass singer Raymond Edwards (b. 13 September 1924, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 4 March 1997) and baritone Earl Beal (b. 18 July 1924, Denora, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 22 March 2001). When the gospel group changed to secular music, it took on a new name, the Thunderbirds. A disc jockey, Kae Williams, signed the group to his own Junior Records in 1958 and ‘Get A Job’ was recorded as the b-side to the ballad ‘I Am Lonely’. The group’s name was changed to the Silhouettes (after a 1957 hit by the Rays) and the record was released on the larger Ember label. ‘Get A Job’ received more attention than the ballad side and ultimately found its way to number 1 in the USA, becoming, in time, one of the best-known up-tempo doo-wop records. The nonsense phrase ‘sha-na-na-na’, part of its lyric, was borrowed in the late 60s by the rock ‘n’ roll revival group Sha Na Na.

The Silhouettes recorded a number of follow-ups but never again returned to the charts. The group, led by Beal and Lewis and with new members John Wilson (tenor) and Cornelius Brown (bass), managed to stay afloat until 1968, latterly as the New Silhouettes. The four original members reunited in 1980 and carried on working the revival circuit until Horton’s death in 1995.

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

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