Singer - The Marcels (the original group)
Gene Bricker was a student at Oliver High school in 1959 who belonged to a Du Wop group. Du Wop singing was popular both on the radio and as a pastime for many young men who would form vocal groups and frequently “raid” other groups to get the best voices available for their own acts. Bricker’s Oliver High classmates Richard Knauss, Fred Johnson and Ron Mundy conducted just such a raid, taking Bricker from his initial group to be their first tenor, and eventually adding Cornelius Harp as their lead vocalist. This group was unusual at the time in that it was interracial, Bricker and Knauss being white and Johnson, Mundy and Harp being black. Legend has it that the group took their name from Harp’s hairstyle, a suggestion made by Fred Johnson’s little sister, Pricilla. Thus, The Marcels were born.
The Marcels caught the attention of a local manager who helped them sign a deal with Colpix. They became a pet project of Colpix A&R manager, Stu Phillips, who went against company policy to sneak the group into a studio when the act that had booked it left early. Using the eight leftover minutes at their disposal, The Marcels cut their first and biggest hit, “Blue Moon.”
Both the group and the label were caught unawares by the popularity of “Blue Moon.” Legendary Disc Jockey, Murray the K, played a demo of the song 26 times on his 4 hour show, creating a demand that forced Colpix to rush a pressing of records for immediate sale. The track had been recorded on February 15 of 1961 and by February 20,Billboard ran a hugely favorable write-up. Four weeks later, “Blue Moon” had taken the Number One Billboard slot from Elvis and was working its way into the Top Tens of countries across Europe and Africa.
A subsequent tour took The Marcels to major venues across the country. Several sources maintain that the interracial lineup of the group caused problems for The Marcels in the Deep South. In August of 1961, there appears to have been a disagreement with the group’s manager, Jules Kruspir and Bricker and Knauss left. They were replaced by founding member Fred Johnson’s brother, Allen Johnson, and Walt Maddox.
Although the original line up of the Marcels had broken up just months after their hit with “Blue Moon,” but various “revival” line ups recorded and toured during the 1970s and 1990s. It is not clear if Bricker participated in any of these efforts nor if he was present at a 1973 reunion of the original members at the Pittsburgh Oldies Club, The Villa Madrid. Bricker died at age 45 in 1983. The Marcels were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.