Archive for July 9th, 2010

9th July
written by Matt The Cat

Harvey Fuqua

1929 – 2010

Even though we were all prepared for the worst, it was still heartbreaking to learn of the passing of one of music’s greatest vocal group singers: Harvey Fuqua.  He had been recovering in a Detroit hospital for some time before dying of cardiac arrest in the early evening of Tuesday, July 6, 2010.  Harvey spent his life immersed in the music business and his voice and production put a stamp on some of the greatest tunes of his era. 

Harvey was born in Chicago, but grew up in Louisville, KY.  There, he met fellow classmate Bobby Lester and the two began singing together.  After high school, Harvey moved to Cleveland, where he formed a group called The Crazy Sounds.  He soon asked Bobby Lester to join the group and they became The Moonglows after being championed by local DJ Alan Freed (who was known at that time as “The Moondog”).  Freed signed them to his own Champagne Label, but that endeavor soon fell apart.  Freed then got the group a recording deal with Chicago’s Chance Records.  While on Chance they scored with an R&B cover of the Doris Day pop hit, “Secret Love.” 

Soon, Phil Chess of Chess Records was applying some pressure to get the Moonglows to sign with Chess.  The label was already a market leader with straight blues and R&B, but they had yet to cash in on the growing vocal group market.  The Moonglows would certainly fill the bill. 

In 1954, The Moonglows signed with Chess and the hits started coming right out of the gate with the release of “Sincerely” at the tail end of 1954.  It became a monster hit in 1955 and spawned a white cover version by the McGuire Sisters.  Harvey Fuqua wrote the tune and he became the Moonglows chief songwriter.  Not too many groups at the time featured two incredible “lead” singers.  The Moonglows were so fortunate to have both Bobby Lester and Harvey Fuqua exchanging leads (The Flamingos would also make that short list of vocal groups). 

The hits kept on coming with “Most Of All,” “We Go Together,” “See Saw,” “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” but the inner tensions in the group were growing.  Harvey was a workaholic and Bobby Lester and the boys weren’t living up to Harvey’s expectations.  So, backstage at the Howard Theater in Washington, DC in 1958, Harvey dismissed the original Moonglows and replaced them with a local DC group called The Marquees.  These new Moonglows included a DC kid by the name of Marvin Gaye. 

Fuqua now called the group, Harvey & The Moonglows and they scored another giant hit later in 1958 with “The Ten Commandments of Love.”  Soon, Harvey had his new Moonglows singing backup on records by Chuck Berry, Etta James and Detroit’s own Jackie Wilson.  Harvey would even record a few successful duet with Etta James billed as Harvey and Etta.

During the early 1960s, Harvey moved on to greener pastures and started his own Tri-Phi and Harvey labels, singing groups like The Spinners, Shorty Long and Marvin Gaye.  He soon took a position at Motown and produced records by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  Harvey was also heavily involved in Marvin Gaye’s early ’80s comeback and served as Gaye’s surrogate father. 

Harvey Fuqua continued to perform live up until his recent illness.  He had such a unique voice that you could always tell that it was him and not Bobby Lester singing lead on those great Moonglows’ records.  He may not be a household name, but then again neither was his famous uncle Charlie Fuqua of the Ink Spots, yet both hold an important place in music history for those of us who know and remember.

-Matt The Cat