The Fleetwoods were made up of two girls and a guy. The girls were Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis who knew each other most of their lives. In fact they grew up in the same neighborhood and played together as youngsters. This was in the area of Olympia, Washington.
In high school they started singing together and were a duo called The Saturns for a while, but did not perform commercially, mostly just for fun and for their friends. In their senior year, they ended up in the same high school and decided they would sound better as a trio than as a duo. So, they started looking for a third to join their group.
A friend knew a young man named Gary Troxel who, and I quote, “had smouldering dark eyes.” The girls were taken by him right away. They were working on a song they called “Come Softly.” Gary heard the song and started singing along. They decided he would make a good addition to the group and now, they were a trio. They named themselves Two Girls and a Guy.
Gretchen was working nights at a local club and met a guy who knew a record promoter in Seattle. This guy was Bob Reisdorff who told Gretchen to cut a tape of their song and send it to him. They cut the tape but took the tape personally to Seattle. Reisdorff liked the song enough to create a special label for the song, Dolphin Records. He made a couple changes, however. He thought the title “Come Softly” was kind of suggestive and so added two words, “Come Softly To Me.” Those words, however, are never sung in the song. He also didn’t like their name, Two Girls and a Guy. It turned out that all three of the singers were on the same telephone exchange in Olympia, called FLeetwood. Back in those days, when you gave someone your phone number you would say, “Call me at FLeetwood 592” or whatever the number was. The capitalized FL was what the phone caller would dial in front of the number and sometimes the number was shortened to just FL-592.
Reisdorff liked the name Fleetwood and suggested they call themselves The Fleetwoods. And, so a rock and roll group was born. The record did well in the Pacific Northwest and soon spread over the rest of the country. They travelled to New York City to perform on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechwood Show and while there, they met Frankie Avalon. He came up to them and exclaimed “Congratulations, “Come Softly To me” just knocked “Venus” out of the number one spot. The Fleetwoods were on their way.
“Come Softly To Me” entered the pop chart on March 16, 1959, rose to number one and stayed there for four weeks. They would soon have another number one in 1959, “Mr Blue” which I will talk about soon.
Here is a badly edited video of The Fleetwoods singing on what looks like American bandstand. The audio is good, it just doesn’t fit the video very well. Enjoy anyway.