Formed in the early 1950s on the streets of Chicago’s south side, the influential vocal group the Flamingos became known for their graceful harmonies and sophisticated arrangements, their style owing as much to the sound of 1930s and 40s vocal groups like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots as to Doo-Wop.
The group was typical in having roots in the church – less typically, it was a Hebrew Israelite congregation that in 1952 brought together founding members Jacob and Ezekial Carey, Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter. Lead vocalist Earl Lewis joined soon after. Many subsequent lineup changes would follow, and the group would record for numerous labels. Over their long career the group placed several records on the Pop and R&B charts, but their biggest success came in 1959 with a cover of the 1930s standard “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Arranger Terry Johnson says the arrangement for “I Only Have Eyes For You” to him in a dream, and the resulting ethereal recording,” with its catchy, reverb-slathered “doo-bop shoo-bop” vocal chant, went on to reach No. 3 on the R&B chart and No. 11 on the Pop charts.
The Flamingoes appeared in movies and on television and continued to have R&B chart success into the 1970s. Though the personnel have changed many times over the decades, a version of the group still performs on the oldies circuit. In 2001, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which cited the Flamingos’ influence on Motown acts including the Temptations and the Jackson 5, and Philly Soul acts including the Spinners.