Saturday, 15 September 2012

Farewell to the Dells

Have just read in Record Collector magazine that the Dells, who haven't performed since the death of Johnny Carter just over three years ago, are now going to bow out. Marv Goldberg's Dells page refers to one final gig at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in June of this year, so presumably the decision was taken not to do this.

Not a surprise - "his leaving has left such a huge void," says Chuck Barksdale of Johnny Carter's 48 years in the group which he joined after the Flamingos - although the demand is still there and "their voices remain in great shape", according to Garth Cartwright, writer of the Record Collector article, which draws on his book More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music as well as a more recent interview in which Chuck Barksdale considers the group's achievement.

Leon Huff said to me "The Dells need to get on their horses and ride off into the sunset." That's a good thought. We've got so many awards. We've done so well. [...] Things happen for a reason and we're going to retire in the spotlight. We're not going out in the shadows. We're planning our exit with love and respect. We're going out with pride and dignity. What more could we ask for?
The Dells only played the UK once and Record Collector's editor says they were "shamefully under-marketed" here. As mentioned in an earlier post, I only came across them by accident, when I bought a double album of their Vee Jay material on spec. It's that incarnation I love, although the fact that the group survived without becoming an oldies act - were even able to revisit and recast their doo wop hits - makes them all the more remarkable. Here they are performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 with a fair amount of pride and dignity:

You can read the opening of the Record Collector magazine article here (though you will have to subscribe or buy a copy to read the whole thing).

I haven't read it but there are notes about Garth Cartwright's book More Miles Than Money and some reviews on his website here.

An accompanying CD has been issued by Ace Records - see their website here for notes and tracklistng. The Dells' version of Dock of the Bay is included. 

Garth Cartwright wrote the Guardian obituary for Johnny Carter here

Marv Goldberg's (as ever, highly recommended) R&B Notebooks page on the Dells here; the top image is taken from there.