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27th August
written by Matt The Cat
Johnny Carter
1935 – 2009

Tenor Johnny Carter was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame twice. He was a member of two of the most important rhythm & blues groups of all time; The Flamingos and The Dells and both groups rightfully grace the storied Hall.

John Edward Carter was raised on Chicago’s South Side and that’s where he met Jake and Zeke Carey and along with Paul Wilson and Earl Lewis formed The Flamingos back in 1952. The Careys had just relocated from Baltimore and the new group decided to call themselves The Swallows. They quickly changed their name when they learned of another group using the same name (King Recording artists). Looking to choose another bird name (bird names were all the rage with every young R&B; group wanting to sound like The Orioles or The Ravens), they settled on The Flamingos.

Lewis was soon replaced by the amazing Sollie McElroy and the group was off and running, recording for the Chance label. Our boy, Johnny Carter wrote the classic doo wop tune, “Golden Teardrops” and his tenor voice echoes in the background as Sollie McElroy handles the lead. “Golden Teardrops” is considered by many to be doo wop at its finest. It just might be “the perfect record”. It was the Flamingos third release for Chance Records. Johnny Carter sang lead on only a few tunes and for my money, you can’t beat his voice on “Listen To My Plea” from 1954.

Chance was not capable of giving the group the success that they so rightfully deserved and so they left the label in late 1954 and signed to Chicago disc jockey, Al Benson’s Parrot label. They also had a new member as Sollie McElroy departed and was replaced by Nate Nelson. Nelson and Carter sang together on their last release for Parrot, their version of the much covered “Ko Ko Mo”.

The Flamingos signed with Chess Records’ subsidiary, Checker and in February of 1956 scored the hit they’d been waiting for when “I’ll Be Home” shot to #5 on the Billboard R&B; Charts. In late 1956, Johnny Carter was called up for military duty and left the group. When he was released from service in 1958, he returned home only to find that he had been replaced in The Flamingos by Terry Johnson. In 1960, he joined another great Chicago group, The Dells. They had just lost Johnny Funches on lead tenor and the sweet voice of Johnny Carter fit right in.

Carter toured and recorded with The Dells for almost fifty years and enjoyed their great success in the late 1960s with chart-topping remakes of “Stay In My Corner” and “Oh, What A Night”. He only recently took a leave from the group when his cancer was diagnosed during the summer of 2008.

Johnny Carter, one of the greatest R&B; tenors of all-time passed away late Thursday, August 20th, 2009 of lung cancer. He was 74 and the last living member of the Flamingos’ original line-up.

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