O'Jays, Ronettes, Tokens Enter Vocal Hall Of Fame

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame inducted its seventh class today (July 6) in Wildwood, N.J., honoring 17 vocal trios, quartets, duos and other harmony, doo-wop and R&B groups.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame inducted its seventh class today (July 6) in Wildwood, N.J., honoring 17 vocal trios, quartets, duos and other harmony, doo-wop and R&B groups. The star-studded event featured several one-of-a-kind on-stage collaborations, as well as reunions from band members who hadn't worked together in more than 25 years.

The Jordanaires, honored for their many years as the background vocalists for Elvis Presley, Ernest Tubb and Jim Reeves, serenaded the crowd after their induction speech with "Can't Help Falling in Love." "We never thought of ourselves as being a stage quartet," group member Ray Walker said. "We were happy being in the background. The award is absolutely unbelievable."

For many artists, the induction gave them the chance to thank those performers whom they idolized. "When the Crests sang '16 Candles,'" said the Ronettes' Nedra Talley Ross, who overcame open-heart surgery to take the stage and represent the Ronettes on their induction, "I was 16 at that time, and I was sad, because the boy I loved wasn't there." With a backup group that included the Supremes' Mary Wilson, the 5th Dimension's Florence LaRue and several members of the Vandellas, Ross brought the crowd to their feet with a searing rendition of "Be My Baby."

Other groups who appeared at the Wildwood Convention Center to accept their "Harmony" awards included the O'Jays (including member Sammy Strain, a two-time inductee who received his award in 2002 as a member of Little Anthony and the Imperials), the Dells (who received applause and cheers throughout their acceptance speech, and who noted it took 53 years of performing together to receive this accolade), and the Stylistics (whose lead singer Russell Tompkins, Jr. won the crowd over with a performance of "Betcha, By Golly, Wow").

The final inductees of the afternoon were the Tokens. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Hank Medress rejoined his former band mates Jay Siegel, Phil Margo and Mitch Margo, and the quartet performed an extended version of their signature hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." "In the world we're living in, filled with mixed messages and divisiveness, I feel honored to be a part of this event which honors harmony," Medress said.

Other groups who took the stage to accept their awards included the Cadillacs ("Speedo"), the Diamonds ("Little Darlin'") and the Marvelettes ("Please Mr. Postman"). The Vocal Hall also inducted Alabama, the Doobie Brothers, the Beatles, the Everly Brothers and the Penguins, as well as pioneering recording groups the Four Tunes and the American Quartet.

The event was co-hosted by Wilson and the Lettermen's Tony Butala. Two post-induction concerts will be held at the Wildwood Convention Center tonight and tomorrow, featuring past and present Vocal Hall members.
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