Not to be confused with the latter-day soul group known for the hit "And the Beat Goes On," R&B vocal quintet the Whispers formed in Baltimore in 1954 by first tenor Terry Johnson, second tenor Eugene "Lump" Lewis, high tenor Bill Mills, baritone Billy Thompson, and bass Eddie Rogers. According to Marv Goldberg's profile on his R&B Notebooks website, the group derived its name from an early admirer who said they "could whisper and still sound great." In their matching powder-blue suits and red ties, the Whispers were soon a fixture of Baltimore's amateur circuit, regularly taking top honors. In the fall of 1954, the group expelled Rogers when he stole Johnson's girlfriend, and with new bass James Johnson, they signed to the Philadelphia-based Gotham Records by year's end, impressing label chief Ivin Ballen with their repertoire of original material. The Whispers' debut single, "Fool Heart," did not appear until the spring of 1955, followed in June by "Are You Sorry." Neither record generated much attention, their momentum no doubt hampered by Johnson and Thompson's commitment to graduating high school. When Mills split from the Whispers later that year, the group gradually dissolved, and in late 1956 Terry Johnson joined the Flamingos, replacing his childhood friend Zeke Carey in the lineup. He wrote and arranged much of the Flamingos' material in the years to follow, most notably helming their signature song, "I Only Have Eyes for You," before forming his own group, the Starglows, in 1963. A year later, Johnson joined the staff of Motown Records, frequently collaborating with Smokey Robinson in addition to writing and producing records for the Four Tops, the Temptations, and the Supremes. In 1969, Johnson issued the solo disc "My Springtime," the first of three solo singles on Motown's Gordy subsidiary. He left the company in 1974 and resumed touring with his own Flamingos lineup, a venture he helmed well into the next century.
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