As many of you may know, I’ve always felt strongly about the Dells and their place in the history of rock and roll. This past Sunday, I attended a memorial service in honor of the passing of two-time Rock Hall Inductee John Edward Carter. It was a wonderful evening, but a very sad occasion. Best known as one of the greatest tenor voices in popular music, Carter was a founding member of the Flamingos and a member of the Dells – the longest running vocal group in history with virtually the same members throughout their career.
Carter’s memorial service was held at Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Harvey, Illinois. The crowd that came to pay respect to the late singer overflowed from the church and into a side room where the two-hour service was also simulcast. Numerous personal tributes and proclamations were read along with several moving musical performances. Among one of the most memorable was that of Gerald Alston of the Manhattans, who performed “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” a gospel hymn that brought the crowd to their feet singing in a joyous outpouring of emotion. An explosive eulogy was delivered by Elder John Holley.
The founding members of the Flamingos - Jake Carey, Zeke Carey and Paul Wilson along with Johnnie Carter, began their musical career in Chicago in 1952 at the Jewish Church of God and Saints of Christ. Having mastered the minor-key melodies of Jewish hymns, the influence of the church remained when the group began recording.
As his memorial service came to a close, friends and family from across the country continued to celebrate the life and legacy of Johnnie Carter over a meal together. It was a fitting tribute, one that will be remembered always. Thankfully, his voice lives on in the great body of work by both the Dells and the Flamingos.