Friday, November 09, 2012

Cleveland Duncan - The Penguins Lead Singer Has Died

Cleveland "Cleve" Duncan, lead singer of the Penguins, died early Wednesday (November 7) in Los Angeles at the age of 77. Cleve started the group in Los Angeles with tenor Dexter Tisby, bass Curtis Williams and baritone Bruce Tate in 1954. They named themselves after the Kool cigarettes cartoon penguin, Willie. Signing with Dootone Records the following year, the made their mark with their first release, the legendary "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)" (#8 pop, #1 R&B), becoming only the second doo wop group (after the Chords) to make the pop top ten. The song was intended to be the B-side of the release, but DJs flipped the recording of "Hey Senorita" over. The Penguins signed with manager Buck Ram, who convinced Mercury Records to pick up the group's contract (after insisting they also sign another of his groups-- the Platters). Ironically, other than a re-issue of "Earth Angel" that "bubbled under" the charts at #101 in 1960, the Penguins never had another hit, while the Platters charted 45 times. Though they broke up in 1962, Cleve-- who owned the name-- re-formed the group for performances on the oldies circuit. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.