Dells singer Marvin Junior died on Wednesday from kidney and heart problems at his home in Harvey, Illinois, the New York Times reports. He was 77. Junior, who was once called “Iron Throat” by the Temptations’ David Ruffin, helped form the doo-wop and R&B group as a high-schooler in Harvey in the early Fifties. His voice was massive and versatile, and held up strongly over his 57 years of performing.
Junior co-wrote the Dells’ first hit, “Oh, What a Nite,” with then-bandmate Johnny Funches. The 1956 track was reworked and released in 1969 as “Oh, What a Night,” landing the Number One spot on the Billboard R&B chart and in the Top Ten on the pop chart. The group scored plenty of hits after that, including “Stay in My Corner,” “I Touched a Dream,” “Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation” and “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind).”
Junior was born on January 31st, 1936, in Harold, Arkansas, though his family moved to Illinois when he was young. He is survived by his wife, Ruby; sons Marvin Jr., Shawn and Todd; daughters Faye Jones, Latanya and Toya Junior; brother Jack Dabon and 10 grandchildren.
The Dells reached a new generation in 1991 when they served as consultants and an inspiration behind Robert Townsend’s film The Five Heartbeats, which followed a fictitious singing group. The group was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, but haven’t performed since the 2009 death of bandmate Johnny Carter.