Flamingos, The

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Flamingos, The

Flamingos, The, seminal, and perhaps the best, vocal group of the doo-wop era. MEMBERSHIP: Zeke Carey (b. Bluefield, Va., Jan. 24, 1933); Jake Carey (b. Pulaski, Va., Sept. 9, 1926); Johnny Carter (b. Chicago, June 2, 1934); Sollie McElroy (b. Gulfport, Mass., July 16, 1933; d. Jan. 14, 1995); Paul Wilson (b. Chicago, Jan. 6, 1935; d. May 1988).

The Flamingos were unique among vocal harmony groups of the 1950s because of their emphasis on harmony. Jake and Zeke Carey, cousins from Va., moved to Chicago in 1950. They met Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter while singing in the church choir. The group honed their sound singing at rent parties, sometimes doing as many as four or five on a Saturday night. They had some minor local hits in the early 1950s with songs that have become treasures among vocal group aficionados: “If I Can’t Have You,” “That’s My Desire,” and “Golden Teardrops” showcased the group’s complex, sweet and sour harmonies. When lead singer McElroy left in the mid 1950s, replaced by Nate Nelson (b. Chicago, April 10, 1932; d. April 10, 1984), the group started enjoying some chart success, landing a #5 R&B hit early in 1956 with “I’ll Be Home.” Pat Boone recorded the song at nearly the same time. His version went gold and hit #4 on the pop charts.

After this small success, the group broke up temporarily when several members were drafted. They reformed a year later. In 1958, they recorded an updated version of a 1930s chestnut that had been a #2 hit in 1934. The song, “I Only Have Eyes for You” rose to #11 and has become one of the standards for oldies radio. The group didn’t see royalties for the record, however, until 1991. Over the next several years, the group was intensely prolific, cutting several albums and landing R&B hits with “I Was Such a Fool” and “Time Was.” In 1960, they took Sam Cooke’s “Nobody Loves Me Like You” to #30 on the pop charts. The group remained active, touring regularly. They tried to remain relevant and even landed several hits with the #22 R&B flavored “Boogaloo Party” in 1966 and the #28 “Buffalo Soldier” in 1970. By the mid-1970s, they were relegated to the oldies circuit. Into the late 1990s, Jake and Zeke Carey continued to tour with various Flamingos.


The F. Meet the Moonglows on the Dusty Road of Hits (1953); The F. (1959); Flamingo Serenade (1959); Flamingo Favorites (1960); Recjuestfully Yours (1960); The Sound of the R (1962); Collectors Showcase (1964); The R (1965); Today (1972); The Fabulous Flamingos (1992).

—Hank Bordowitz