The Flamingos Biography
American doo-wop group The Flamingos was founded in Chicago in 1953. The band rose to fame in the middle to late 1950s and is renowned for its 1959 rendition of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Since then, they have been praised as one of the best and most significant vocal ensembles in the annals of pop and doo wop music. The group was admitted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. On the list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine, the band’s cover of “I Only Have Eyes for You” came in at number 158.
After meeting cousins baritone Paul Wilson and first tenor Johnny Carter in a Hebrew Israelite congregation in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Jacob “Jake” Carey (bass) and Ezekiel “Zeke” Carey (second tenor) decided to form the ensemble. Earl Lewis (not the Channels lead) soon joined, and the group eventually became known as the Flamingos after going by various names (including “El Flamingos,” “The Five Flamingos,” and “The Swallows”). Lewis was shortly replaced by Sollie McElroy (who joined the Five Echoes). The Flamingos’ first single (for Chance Records), “If I Can’t Have You,” and the follow-up, “That’s My Desire,” were both moderately successful in their respective local markets, but it was Johnny Carter’s composition of “Golden Teardrops,” with its intricate vocal harmonies and Carter’s soaring falsetto, that solidified their reputation as a top local act of the time.
After their December 1953 recording session, The Flamingos parted ways with Chance Records and signed with DJ Al Benson’s Parrot Records. Sollie McElroy, who was on their first Parrot session, left the group in December 1954, and Nate Nelson, a tenor who was on their second Parrot session and who played the lead on “I’m Yours,” which was released in January 1955, took over.
The Flamingos joined Chess Records in early 1955 to record for their Checker Records subsidiary. “I’ll Be Home” by the Flamingos, which peaked at number 5 on the Billboard R&B chart, gave them their first national chart success at Chess/Checker.
With wrong lyrics (“My mind’s made up” instead of “My time’s about up”), Pat Boone’s cover of the song was a pop chart success. Other classics by the trio, including “A Kiss from Your Lips,” “The Vow,” and “Would I Be Crying,” all moderately successful for the label. The 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock starring Alan Freed also included the Flamingos. Carter and Zeke Carey were also selected that year (Carter was drafted in September).
Terry Johnson, Jake Carey, Zeke Carey, Tommy Hunt, and Johnny Carter played at the 1996 Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award ceremony for The Flamingos, who were also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame. Terry Johnson played lead in the band that performed during the Rock Hall ceremony, which also featured Tommy Hunt and Johnny Carter. Walle (Walter) Dillard co-wrote the song “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which was recorded by the Flamingos and entered the Grammy Award Hall of Fame in 2003.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What Was The Flamingos’S First Album?
The Flamingos’ first album was “Flamingo Serenade,” released in 1953. It featured the group’s early hit single, “I’ll Be Home.” The album was reissued in 1955 with different artwork and a new title, “The Boogie Woogie Boys.
What Was The Flamingos’S Biggest Hit?
The Flamingos’s biggest hit was “I Only Have Eyes for You.” The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959.
What Song Is The Flamingos Famous For?
The Flamingos are most famous for their song “I Only Have Eyes for You.” The song was originally released in 1934, but The Flamingos’ version, which was released in 1959, is the one that is most well-known.
Who Originally Wrote The Flamingos?
The Flamingos were originally written by George Gershwin. However, the song was later adapted by various artists, including Ray Charles and Nat King Cole.