This vocal quintet was formed in 1958 in Pittsburgh, USA, by Timothy Johnson (lead), Richard Harris (baritone), William Herndon (first tenor), Nathaniel Benson (second tenor) and Ralph Terry (bass). After their early shows at local schools, Johnson was replaced as lead by Nathaniel’s cousin, George Benson. For their first recording they backed Annie Keith on ‘Lover’s Prayer’ and performed with her throughout the area. Several singles were released by the New York label Amy Records, including ‘If You Love Me’ and ‘Groovie Time’. By 1960, George Benson had left to join the Four Counts. The songwriter Otis Blackwell used the Altairs to demo songs for other artists, including the original version of ‘Return To Sender’ recorded by Elvis Presley. They later toured extensively with Dinah Washington, Chubby Checker, the Shirelles and many others. The Altairs then metamorphosed into Dinah’s Gentlemen - which featured Herndon, Benson and Harris from the Altairs, plus new members Johnny Carter, Cornell Gunter and Chuck Barksdale. When Washington died in December 1963, Dinah’s Gentlemen folded too.
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