News

John E. Carter, famed R&B tenor, dies of cancer at 75

Kim Janssen
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

CHICAGO — Lead tenor John E. Carter had the good fortune to perform with two important R&B groups: the Flamingos and the Dells.

And because of that achievement, he, along with such luminaries as John Lennon, is one of the few artists who have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

Carter, 75 — best known for the Dells' hit "Oh, What A Night" — died of lung cancer Thursday, Aug. 20, at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, according to his family.

Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, Carter attended Wendell Phillips High School. He first found fame with the Flamingos, a doo-wop group he formed at age 18 in 1952 with three other members of the choir at the black-Jewish Church of God and Saints in Christ on East 41st Street in Bronzeville.

Though the group eventually had nine national chart hits with Chicago-based Chance, Parrot and Checker Records, many of the Flamingos' early recordings failed to chart.

But with their "elegant, intricate and flawless vocal arrangements," the Flamingos ultimately came to be "widely regarded as one of the best vocal groups in music," and a key influence on Motown groups including the Supremes and the Jackson Five, according to the group's entry in the Hall of Fame.

The group's first big R&B hit, 1956's "I'll Be Home," was a ballad in which a serviceman promises to return to his girl. It reached No. 5 on the R&B chart and No. 10 overall.

Soon after, Carter was drafted. But when he returned from serving as an Army cook in Germany, he had been replaced by the Flamingos.

Looking for a new gig, in 1960 he joined the Dells, a group formed several years earlier by friends from Thornton Township High School in Harvey.

The Dells' breakthrough came a year later, when the band was hired to perform as a backup band for Dinah Washington, who it toured with for two years.

The band's biggest hit, "Oh, What A Night," was inspired by a party thrown for the band and was originally recorded in 1956, before Carter joined. Re-released in 1969 with Carter singing back-up vocals, it reached the top of the R&B charts and the top 10 on the Billboard singles chart, selling more than 1 million copies.

Other Dells hits included "Stay in My Corner," which was one of the first R&B songs to run over six minutes, and "Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation," which reached number 3 on the R&B chart in 1973.

Unlike many R&B bands of the era, which changed their line-ups repeatedly, Carter and the original Dells continued recording through the 1980s and 1990s, and released "Reminiscing," in 2000, nearly 50 years after they formed.

They were the inspiration for the 1999 movie "The Five Heartbeats" and they continued to perform until last summer, when Carter's cancer was diagnosed, according to his daughter, Jewel Carter.

Carter was the only surviving founder member of the Flamingos when the group was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2001, and he became one of only five musicians to be inducted with two different groups when the Dells were inducted in 2004.

"He was singing the Sam & Dave song, 'Hold On, I'm Coming,' in hospital," Jewel Carter said.

A devoted fisherman and keen cook at his home in south Chicago suburban Park Forest, Ill., "he preferred singing to talking, and he loved making people laugh," she added.

Marvin Junior, a Dells bandmate, said: "He was a happy-go-lucky guy — he was a part of all of our lives for so long."

Carter is survived by five daughters and five grandchildren

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image