Our Top 10 Songs By The Flamingos article takes a look at the best Flamingos songs like “I Only Have Eyes for You” “I’ll Be Home” and more. The doo-wop group known as The Flamingos first came together as a quintet in Chicago, Illinois, in 1953. This is the same group whose cover version of “I Only Have Eyes for You” in 1959 placed them into the history books as one of the best doo wop groups in music history. The founders, Jacob Carey and Ezekiel Carey teamed up with their cousins, Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter, along with Earl Lewis to officially form themselves as a vocal quintet. Although Jake and Zeke have no actual blood relation between them, they became cousins to each other after Zeke was adopted by Jake’s aunt and uncle. After going through a series of name ideas, the men finally decided on the Flamingos. Along the way, Sollie McElroy replaced Lewis and it was this particular lineup that released their first single via Chance Records. “If I Can’t Have You” was a moderate success on the local music charts.
The first record label Flamingos signed up for was Chance Records in 1953. It would be through this label the first three singles released by the group were made. “If I Can’t Have You” was the first, followed by “That’s My Desire,” and finally “Golden Teardrops.” That same year saw the quintet leave that label to sign up with Parrot Records. After the first session, the Flamingos did at Parrot, Sollie McElroy left the group before the end of 1964 and was replaced by Nate Nelson. As the vocal tenor of the group, his lead for the single, “I’m Yours” was released in early 1955. Shortly after this, the group signed up with Chess Records to record music for its Checker Records subsidiary. While there, the group’s first national hit was “I’ll Be Home.”
Jake Carey, Nate Nelson, and Paul Wilson started a new lineup of Flamingos after the departure of Ezekiel Carey and Johnny Carter. Tommy Hunt joined in October 1956 and it was as a quartet the men recorded music at the recording studio belonging to Decca Records during the year of 1957. Before the end of 1958, Zeke Carey returned to the group, along with new member Terry Johnson. They were now a sextet. It would actually be during 1958 that the Flamingos began to record for End Records that would garner the group a series of nationwide hits.
Their first pop chart hit was “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” which saw Terry Johnson and Paul Wilson share the vocal lead. The Johnson and Wilson combination brought three songs that would be chosen as tracks for the group’s first studio album, Flamingo Serenade. “Love Walked In,” “But Not for Me,” and “Time Was” were the songs. Not only were the Flamingos noted for their harmonizing vocals but for their stage performances.
In 1959, the Flamingos realized their biggest hit after the release of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Nate Nelson was the lead vocalist of this 1934 original that was composed by Harry Warren for the movie, Dames. Since then, a series of singles continued to hit the music charts before the group began to splinter apart in 1960. Tommy Hunt embarked on a solo career in 1960 while Johnny Carter left the group to join the Dells. Nate Nelson and Terry Johnson formed Modern Flamingos in 1961.
The two later recorded music as the Starglows with the Atco Records label in 1963. Meanwhile, the Flamingos now had a lineup of Jake Carey as a bass vocalist, Zeke Carey as a tenor vocalist, Paul Wilson in baritone, as well as Billy Clarke and Eddie Williams as tenors. Guitarist Alan Fontaine and saxophonist Julien Vaught also became part of the new lineup. Clarke and Williams became the new lead vocalists of the group before a sixth vocalist, Doug McClure, joined in 1962. However, Clarke and Williams both left shortly after. Paul Wilson left in 1964 before Sidney Hall joined in 1966. Jake Carey’s son, J.C. joined in 1969. Along the way, the Flamingos continued to record and release music throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.
Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, the Flamingos continued to experience lineup changes. Along the way, they continued to have chart success with some of their singles but did not quite at the same level they experienced in the 1950s. By the time the 1990s hit, the Flamingos mainly consisted of the Carey cousins until Jake Carey died in 1997. In 1999, on Christmas Eve, Zeke Carey died. In 2005, the Flamingos lineup at that time broke up due to financial arguments they couldn’t resolve at that time. Nowadays, the Flamingos is under the ownership of Terry Johnson as a trademark that continues to perform as a group with a brand new lineup.
The Flamingos Legacy
When the Flamingos were in their prime, not only were they regarded for their harmony vocals as a group but for their choreography and stage presence. Groups like the Tavares and the Temptations regard the Flamingos as key influences that sparked their respective music careers. In 1996, the Flamingos received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award. In 2000, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, then into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Unfortunately, in 2008, the master recordings of the Flamingos were among the hundreds of artists who’d lost their material in the infamous 2008 Universal Studios fire.
Top 10 Flamingos Songs
#10 – Golden Teardrops
“Golden Teardrops” was a single that was released that featured a complex composition of vocal harmonies that certified the Flamingos as one of the top musical acts in the industry, at least on a local level in Chicago, Illinois. It was Johnny Carter’s falsetto performance that took center stage for this phenomenal tune that served as a key stepping stone that led this quintet to become a national and international favorite. It was one of three singles featured on the group’s album The Flamingos Meet the Moonglows (On the Dusty Road of Hits).
# 9 – Mio Amore
“Mia Amore” was a song that was written and led by Terry Johnson, which led the Flamingos to realize another hit on the official music charts. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number seventy-four while on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it became a number twenty-seven hit. It’s one of the tracks featured on Flamingo Favorites. This beautifully romantic ballad was a favorite love song shared between couples at the time of its 1960. It has much in common with their signature hit, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” easily making it a favorite among the fans who couldn’t get enough of this talented group of fine young men.
# 8 – Love Walked In
Originally composed in 1930 by George Gershwin, “Love Walked In” never had any lyrics written for it until 1937, which was done by Ira Gershwin. This song was used for the 1938 musical, The Goldwyn Follies and was performed by Kenny Baker. There were hit versions that were released afterward by noted artists such as Sammye Kaye, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington. The Flamingos had their version chart as high as number eighty-eight on the US Billboard Hot 100. It served as the follow-up song behind the group’s signature hit, “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
#7 – Your Other Love
While Connie Francis holds the mantle as the best performer of “Your Other Love,” the version performed by the Flamingos is no slouch as they turned into a number fifty-four hit in 1960 on the US Billboard Hot 100. As a doo-wop performance, their version of “Your Other Love” is definitely worth the listen. The competition against the love interest’s other man was beautifully challenged by the Flamingos as they warn no other would treat her as well as she deserved. Performing the song from a man’s perspective made this song an easy-listening twist from the woman’s point of view.
#6 – Nobody Loves Me Like You
This was a song written by Sam Cooke for the Flamingos, which became a number twenty-three hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and a number thirty hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It belongs to the album, Requestfully Yours. Fast-paced and fun, “Nobody Loves Me Like You” featured the lyrical combination of the Flamingos at their best as they address the love interest in the song with a level of devotion that certainly had the ladies swooning and dancing at the same time.
#5 – Lovers Never Say Goodbye
On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” peaked at number twenty-five after it was released as a single in 1959. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number fifty-two hit. As a ballad, this doo-wop number was a tearful plea for the love interest to please wait while time has cruelly caused them to part for a while due to circumstances beyond their control.
#4 – Kokomo
Originally titled “Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So),” it was a popular rock novelty song that was written, recorded, and released in 1954 by the duo of Forest Gene Wilson and Eunice Levy. It was one of the earliest rock and roll songs and rumored to be the most extensively recorded track of its kind at the time. Within a few short months after this single was officially released, several musicians covered their own versions of this song. This included the Flamingos with Nate Nelson and Johnny Carter singing together as lead vocalists. It wouldn’t be until it was released a second time in 1961 that it would become a modest number ninety-two hit for them on the US Billboard Hot 100. While it doesn’t match Perry Como’s most successful version of “Kokomo” it’s still a standout favorite.
#3 – A Kiss from Your Lips
“A Kiss from Your Lips” was a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart after it was released as a single in 1956. This doo-wop ballad was a romantic favorite when it first came out and it’s still a notable favorite today. According to the narration of this song, the blessing of a love interest name Jean served as a euphoric performance by an artist who felt his life finally came together after she gave him that fateful kiss.
#2 – I’ll Be Home
On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “I’ll Be Home” became the first nationwide hit for the Flamingos after it was released as a single in 1955, via Checker Records. This was a 1956 hit for the Flamingos, who were the first artists to record this song, first at Chess Studios, then again at Universal Recording Corporation. Leonard Chess, the owner of Chess Records, opted to release the first recording of “I’ll Be Home” through its subsidiary label, Checker Records. At the time of release, this song overshadowed the Pat Boone version that was released during the same month. Boone’s version was a pop favorite while the Flamingos version became the R&B-style cult classic.
#1 – I Only Have Eyes for You
“I Only Have Eyes for You” became that one song that would put the Flamingos on the map as musical icons. In 2003, it was inducted into the Grammy Award Hall of Fame. It’s also ranked as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. This romantic ballad was already popular, thanks to its influence on the 1934 movie, Dames. There were several recordings of this song since then but the all-time classic favorite belongs to the 1959 recording and release by the Flamingos. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number eleven.
On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “I Only Have Eyes for You” became a number three hit. If there was ever a song that defined the genre of R&B classics, “I Only Have Eyes for You” would be it. It also made a solid enough impression on the pop charts to do the same. The influence of this song has been so great that it inspired several artists to record versions of their own but not one quite compares to the quality level performed by the Flamingos.
Top 10 Songs By The Flamingos article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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