*CHICAGO, IL – Marvin Junior, the celebrated and beloved lead singer of The Dells was cremated Wednesday (06-05-13) after an untimely death at his home last week.
Junior, age 77, died on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, with family members by his side at his home in Harvey, Illinois, from complications associated with kidney failure.
The planet will indeed be a little quieter, as R&B music lovers everywhere celebrate a life well lived, of the man affectionately known as “The Iron Voice.” From blues to jazz, doo-wop to R&B, Marvin Junior possessed a vocal range that put fellow crooners on notice, women on red-hot alert, and earned him the moniker of the greatest lead singer in the world. He possessed a vocal range and ability that seldom appear in a cycle of lifetimes.
Born on January 31, 1936, in the little, out-of-the-way town of Harrell, Arkansas, Junior was the only child from the union of Richard Junior and Jessie Allison. Both parents preceded him in death. Junior was the oldest of four siblings: Nathaniel Dabon (deceased), Melvin Dabon (deceased) and, Jack Dabon. He moved to Harvey, Illinois, when he was only six months old, and was raised by his mother, maternal aunt and her husband, Frankie and Bill Boylen.
Junior’s musical development was rooted in the church, where he participated in the choir at a young age. He attributed his talent and love of music to his parents; his voice from his mother who sang in a spiritual group, and his father who played guitar. When asked who else inspired him, he said, “We listened to groups like the Moonglows, the Five Keys and we’ve always liked Ray Charles.” By the time he was 14, singing emerged as his passion and catapulted him into a musical realm few have traveled.
Junior went to McKinley Grammar School and Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois, and served in the U.S. Army Reserves, receiving an honorable discharge. Junior married his one true love, companion and friend, Ruby Caldwell in 1960. During their 53-year marriage, they had six children, and 12 grandchildren. When asked why some of his contemporaries, other male entertainers, struggled and did not have the support they needed during their elderly years, Junior once commented, “Marrying the right woman, a good woman, like Ruby, makes all the difference. I married the right one.”
As a teenager, he helped form the musical group which would become The Dells, who would go on to perform for over six decades, sold millions of records, and is considered the most enduring and endearing vocal group in music history. They began in Harvey, Illinois in 1953, as five Thornton Township High School classmates who shared a love for the sound of doowop. Rehearsing in front of a local ice cream parlor, they attracted the attention of the music industry’s leading groups, under whose guidance they began their recording career as the El Rays. Soon after, they re-christened themselves as the Dells.
After being coached by Harvey Fuqua of The Moonglows, on five-part vocal harmony and gaining experience as background touring and session singers, The Dells recorded the original “Oh What A Night” written by Marvin Junior and Johnny Funches in 1956, which became their first big seller.
The fabric of Junior’s private life, including his friendship with The Dells members, was unshakably tight and incorruptible. To describe them as close-knit would be an understatement. So much so, that it was their collective family story that inspired the movie, The Five Heartbeats, by Robert Townsend.
In 2004, The Mighty Dells were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the highest honor the music industry. The Dells documentary, which aired on NBC and won an Emmy Award. The Dells have also racked up an astonishing (46) rhythm and blues chart records, including (3) number one R&B hits; (7) gold singles, (3) gold albums, plus 25 charted top 40 hits. They are recipients of the “Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Hall of Fame Award”, “24th Annual NAACP’s Image Award”, “The Soul of American Music Award”, “Illinois NARAS Governors Award” the “Jackie Awards”, and many lifetime achievement awards from Governors and Mayors.
The Dells have toured around the world and performed for ordinary and extraordinary people, including Presidents, Kings and Queens. They have worked with some of the greatest writers, musicians and producers such as: Quincy Jones, Carl Davis, George Duke, Bobby Miller, and Gamble and Hu¬. They have shared a stage with hundreds of music greats and icons such as Etta James, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Four Freshmen, Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gladys Knight and the Pips, Barry White, The Four Tops, The O’Jays, The Whispers, and comedian Tom Dreesen, to name a few.
The Mighty Dells include: Verne Allison, Charles Barksdale, Johnnie Carter (deceased) and Michael McGill; with Band Members and professional team: Anthony Allison, Tim Allison, Tony Allison, Derris Bolton, Donald “Tutu” Brackens, Nigel Byrd, Maurice Calloway, Rick Hall, William “Bill” Harden, Danny Johnson, LC Johnson, Marvin Junior, Jr. (son), Lloyd “Buzzy” Pridgeon, Winston Sawyers, David Service, Wayne Stephens, Mark Williams, and Nina-Dawne Williams, Esq.
A Special Note:
Junior was paradoxically shy outside of his public life, yet was known for his unbridled candor, honesty, fairness, humor, and fun-loving nature, and being a down-to-earth, genuine gentleman. He was a man’s man. The Dells often teased Marvin about his reluctance to have the spotlight shine on him in contrast to his absolute dominance of the stage as soon as he began to sing.
To his millions of fans, Junior measured himself against the audience’s response. His family believes it was the driving force that inspired him to sing for six decades from his heart and the deepest depth of his soul. Giving each note, each song, each concert a thundering delivery. Every performance had to be memorable. It is for these reasons that he asked his family to forego a public funeral or memorial upon his passing. He wanted the memory of brilliance in motion to be his way of saying farewell without saying good-bye. He believed music is the food of love, and to the fans, he would say, “play on – it’s going to be alright… right on… right on.”
Marvin Junior’s voice continues to be the quintessential voice of Soul Music. There will never be his equal. He will be greatly missed.
Marvin Junior is survived by his devoted wife of 53 years, Ruby Junior; and brother Jack Dabon, Six Children: Faye Jones, Marvin Junior, Jr., LaTanya Junior, Shawn Junior, Toia Junior, Todd Junior, and 12 Grand-Children.
Fans may share memories or offer personal expressions on how the man with the “greatest voice in the world” touched and warmed your hearts and souls by logging into: www.themightydellsmarvinjunior.com
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