“Blue Moon” is another song that is an American classic. It was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It became a number one hit by the Glen Gray Orchestra in 1935 and a number two hit by Benny Goodman that same year. Then in 1949, it made a resurgence. Mel Torme and Billy Eckstine both recorded their versions of the song and they both charted. So, “Blue Moon” is a real American standard,
Then doo-wop came along and the group The Marcels recorded it in 1961. Music had changed a lot since 1949, and I suspect Mel Torme didn’t recognize the song when he first heard it in 1961.
The Marcels formed in 1959 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was comprised of five guys from that city. They were Cornelius Harp, who sang lead, Fred Johnson on bass and Gene Bricker, Ron Mundy and Richard Krauss as harmony. They named themselves after a hairstyle that was popular at the time, the marcel wave. It was Fred Johnson’s sister, Priscilla, who named the group.
They were one of the first mixed-race groups to hit the scene in the early Sixties. Segregation was alive and well in 1961 and a group made up of two white guys and three black guys were limited in where they could perform. The south was particularly a problem. It became so bad, that in August of 1961, just months after “Blue Moon” peaked on the charts, the two white members, Krauss and Bricker left the group and were replaced by two black guys, one of which was the brother of Fred Johnson.
The group changed personnel a lot over the years. The group that sang “Blue Moon” really never existed after that first hit. A second song charted at the end of 1961, another standard called “Heartaches,” but I suspect that group was slightly different from the one that recorded “Blue Moon.” Those were the only two hits the group had. By the Seventies, they had disbanded. They were, however, inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. “Blue Moon” is listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s List of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Over the years, “Blue Moon” has been covered by various artists including versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, the Mavericks, Dean Martin, The Supremes, and Rod Stewart.
The Marcels version of “Blue Moon” entered the pop chart on March 20, 1961 and stayed at number one for three weeks.
Original member Cornelius Harp died on June 4, 2013 and Ron Mundy died just this year on January 20, 2017.
This video looks like it was recorded recently, probably at one of the PBS specials where they get oldie groups together, but it sounds great. There are eight members of the Marcels in the video, so I’m assuming they got as many of the members who have ever sang with the group together for this performance. I loved it, I hope you do, too.