Cleveland, 1952-59, 1970-3
The Moonglows were a legendary R&B vocal group, for their music, and for what group members, mainly Harvey Fuqua, accomplished outside of the group.
The Moonglows have roots in Louisville, Kentucky, where members Fuqua and Bobby Lester first met. Fuqua moved to Cleveland and started a group with Danny Coggins, Prentiss Barnes, and Billy Johnson on guitar. Bobby Lester made the move and the quartet started perfoming locally, using the name Crazy Sounds.
Most everyone reading this will probably know about Alan Freed, the WJW DJ who is credited with many landmarks including popularizing the term 'rock and roll' for the style of music he was playing. He became their manager and choose the moniker Moonglows, no doubt because it sounded like his nickname Moondog. Freed also started a record label, Champagne, to release one 45 by the group. The record is probably the first independent R&B -er - rock and roll - record made in Cleveland. The record was not a big success. Alexander "Pete" Graves replaced Coggins.
Freed decided not to make any more records, so since Cleveland had no other place for black R&B artists to make records, they had to go to the big city, which for their sound, was Chicago and Chance records. They made 5 45s for Chance, with many of them getting some airplay and sales in the areas where the records were distributed.
In 1954 Freed moved to New York City and although he could no longer manage the group, he did help them get a deal with THE label for R&B in the Great Lakes area, Chess records. Their fisrt 45 for Chess, "Sincerely", was a big hit and put the group on the map to stay.
Over the next five years they had more than a dozen 45s on Chess and in 1959, an LP.
IIn 1959 the group disbanded as Bobby Lester and Harvey Fuqua went in different directions. Both ended up forming their own version of Moonglows, though, as the name was too valuable not to use. Both singers stayed with Chess records. Harvey went to Washington DC where he joined up with a local group, the Marquees, to form the New Moonglows. The lead singer of the Marquees was Marvin Gaye, who ended up in Detroit, and from there, well, you know what happened. Fuqua also ended up in Detroit where he started the Harvey and Tri-Phi record labels. He went back to Cleveland to recruit local groups the Five Quails and the Challengers for his label roster.
In 1970 Lester, Fuqua, and Graves reunited to capitalize on the nascent 'rock and roll revival' which was rebooting many 1950s stars careers. They started performing at revival shows and recorded an update of "Sincerely" which ended up reaching the Billboard top 50. An LP was released called "Return of the Moonglows" but like the revival scene, the group only lasted a couple years. That was the last performance of the original Moonglows although there were a couple one off reunions.
All the 1950s Moonglows are deceased.