Saturday, May 15, 2010

Five Americans Singer Norman Ezell Has Died

Norman Ezell, vocalist and guitarist with the Five Americans and lyricist of their biggest hit, "Western Union," died of cancer Saturday (May 8) near his home in Lodi, California. He was 68. Born in Chelsea, Alabama, Norman grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico before attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant on a football and basketball scholarship. There he helped form a band called the Mutineers (along with Michael Rabon, John Durrill, James Grant and James Wright), which moved to Dallas after graduation and became the Five Americans. Joining Jon Abdnor's Abnak Records, they switched from playing surf music to a more British sound, though contrasting that with the "Americans" name. Their first single, "I See The Light," was released in 1965 and graduated to national prominence when leased to HBR Records at the end of the year. It reached a respectable #26 early in 1966, as did "Evol-Not Love" (#52). 1967 saw Abnak distribute their own records and "Western Union" benefitted, reaching #5 and staying on the charts for 12 weeks. But similar sounding "Sound Of Love" and (especially) "Zip Code" only got to #36 and, after three more songs that never got out of the top 95, the group disbanded in 1969. Norman became a born-again Christian, teacher and minister in northern California. He also wrote two books.