Lost but not least! The Dells – All About The Paper (20th Century Fox Records)
‘All About The Paper’ or The Dells‘ gem that should have seen the light on Philadelphia International Records at the end! A quick listen to it and the impression is instant. With thanks to its stellar arrangements by the likes of Tom Tom 84. And, in the meantime, its production work courtesy of Carl Davis and Eugene Records.
Written by Lowrell Simon – the one responsible for the classic ‘Mellow Mellow Right On‘ – ‘All About The Paper’ is without a single doubt a Philadelphia Sound masterpiece. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it more or less inspired Willie Lester and Rodney Brown when they produced ‘Very Last Drop’ for Bobby Thurston the year after. With The Dells‘ baritone singer Marvin Junior pretty much sounding like Teddy Pendergrass on top of that. Therefore, no real wonder as to why ‘All About The Paper’ became the subject of heavy battles in the mid 2000’s on eBay.
The Dells grew up in Harvey, IL. They first came to sing together as The El-Rays while attending Thornton Township High School. Forming back in 1952, the group initially consisted of Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Funches and Marvin Junior in addition to Mickey and Lucius McGill. Lucius soon left the group though and the remaining quintet signed with Checker Records. Releasing their debut-single – Darling I Know’ – which eventually flopped.
In 1955, the group renamed themselves The Dells and signed with Vee-Jay Records. Then the year after, they recorded their first hit – ‘Oh, What a Night’ – which sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. In November 1958, The Dells suffered a car accident that left McGill in a hospital in Ohio for six months. This bringin’ them to temporarily disband until 1961 and their audition for Dinah Washington. But after Washington agreed to hire them, Johnny Funches left the band to take care of his family. He was soon after replaced by falsetto singer Johnny Carter, himself a founding member of The Flamingos.
The Dells eventually sang background for Barbara Lewis, on her 1963 hit, ‘Hello Stranger’. Then they went to work with Quincy Jones for some time. This being quite of a help in the evolution of their style. Thus goin’ from Doo-Wop to Soul, then Funk and Disco.
They returned to Chess via Cadet in the second half ot the 60. Teamin’ up with Bobby Miller and future Earth, Wind & Fire arranger Charles Stepney. And in 1968, they delivered the ‘There Is’ album and, by that, their first R&B chart-topper in years under the form of its title cut.
Other hits followed from then. From ‘Wear It On Our Face’ to ‘Always Together’. But also the recording of a soulful version of their already classic ‘Oh What A Night’. This in addition to Oh What A Day’ and ‘On The Dock Of The Bay’. Not to mention ‘The Love We Had Stays On My Mind’ and ‘Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation’.
Later in 1980 they signed with 20th Century Fox Records. There, they dropped two extra albums. Beginning with ‘I Touched A Dream’ in 1980, out of which came the Philadelphia Sound fueled ‘All About The Paper’. A cut written by Lowrell Simon with production work courtesy of Eugene Record and Carl Davis. Then by 1992, they delivered an album – ‘I Salute You’ – on Gamble & Huff‘s Philadelphia International Records.
The Dells continued recording sporadically in the early years of the new millennium though. Thus droppin’ their last album – ‘Then And Now’ – back in 2008 on Dellsway Records, four years before ceasing performing.
Johnny Funches sadly died of pneumonia on Jan. 23, 1998, at the age of 62. Johnny Carter succumbed to cancer on Aug. 21, 2009 at the age of 75. And Marvin Junior died in his sleep, aged 77, at his home in Harvey, IL on May 29, 2013. This from complications of kidney failure and a weak heart at the age of 77.