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The Flamingos Biography

This R&B vocal group, formed in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1951, was renowned for producing the tightest and most gorgeous harmonies of the rock ‘n’ roll era. For much of their history they consisted of Zeke Carey (24 January 1933, Bluefield, Virginia, USA), Jake Carey (b. 9 September 1926, Pulaski, Virginia, USA), Paul Wilson (b. 6 January 1935, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. May 1988) and Johnny Carter (b. 2 June 1934, Chicago, Illinois, USA). The group’s first lead was Sollie McElroy (b. 16 July 1933, Gulfport, Mississippi, USA, d. 15 January 1995), who brought the group regional fame on ‘Golden Teardrops’ for the Chance label in 1954. He was replaced by Nate Nelson (b. 10 April 1932, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 10 April 1984) who brought the group into the rock ‘n’ roll era with the magnificent ballad ‘I’ll Be Home’, a number 5 R&B hit in 1956 on Chess Records. There then followed a period of disarray, in which Carter and Zeke Carey were lost to the draft. The Flamingos brought into the group Tommy Hunt (b. 18 June 1933, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA) and Terry Johnson (b. 12 November 1935, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) and moved to New York where they signed with End Records in 1958.

At this stage of their career the Flamingos had their biggest US hits, ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye’ (R&B number 25 in 1958), ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ (R&B number 3 and pop number 11 in 1959), ‘Nobody Loves Me Like You’ (R&B number 23 and pop Top 30 in 1960), the latter song written by Sam Cooke. One of the group’s last outstanding records was ‘I Know Better’ (1962), a Drifters’ sound-alike that captured top spots in many markets. During the early 60s the Flamingos lost the rest of their original members, except for Jake and Zeke Carey. The cousins managed to achieve some minor hits during the soul era, notably ‘Boogaloo Party’, which was the group’s only UK chart hit when it reached number 26 in 1969 (three years earlier it was a US R&B number 22 hit). The Flamingos’ last US chart record was ‘Buffalo Soldier’ 1970 (R&B Top 30). Nate Nelson died in 1984 and Paul Wilson in 1988. Sollie McElroy, after leaving the Flamingos in 1955, joined the Moroccos, with whom he recorded for three years, and Johnny Carter joined the Dells in 1960.

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

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