Best known for their hit single "Earth Angel," the doo wop quartet the Penguins were never able to replicate the success of their only Top 40 hit, but the song nevertheless became a rock & roll classic.
(baritone vocal) -- were all attending Fremont High School in Los Angeles, CA.
Although he wasn't the lead singer, Williams
was the leader of the group. He learned "Earth Angel" from vocalist Jesse Belvin
-- some sources claim that Williams
wrote the song alone, others say he co-wrote the song with Belvin
, while others claim Gaynell Hodge
, a member of the doo wop group the Turks
, wrote the song with the duo (in fact, Hodge
won a lawsuit filed in 1956 that gave him a co-writing credit) -- and had the Penguins
sing the song.
Around 1954, the Penguins
signed with the local Los Angeles independent label Dootone Records. The group's first single was going to be the uptempo "Hey Sinorita," and the ballad "Earth Angel" was going to be the B-side. Upon the release of the single in the latter half of 1954, Los Angeles radio stations were receiving more requests for "Earth Angel" than "Hey Sinorita," and the song soon became the record's A-side. By the beginning of 1955, the single had scaled the national charts, spending three weeks at the top of the R&B charts and peaking at number eight on the pop charts.
For the next few years, the Penguins
continued to record singles for Dootone Records. Shortly after the success of "Earth Angel," Tate
left the group and Randolph Jones
became their baritone vocalist. Around 1956, the Penguins
left Dootone Records and signed with Mercury Records. After cutting some sides for Mercury, the group moved to Atlantic Records, where they had their second and final hit, "Pledge of Love," which climbed to number 15 on the R&B charts in the summer of 1957. That same year, the group released its only album, The Cool, Cool Penguins
By 1959, the Penguins
had returned to their hometown of Los Angeles; shortly after their relocation, they broke up. Over the next four decades, Cleveland Duncan
led various incarnations of the Penguins
through reunion tours and re-recordings of their hits. In 1963, Duncan
, and two new members recorded "Memories of El Monte," a song future Mothers of Invention
members Frank Zappa
and Ray Collins
wrote specifically for the group; the single failed to make any impact. Duncan
went back to leading new incarnations of the Penguins
, while Tisby
briefly joined the Coasters
subsequently retired from music and the other three members of the Penguins
have since died, Tate
in 1973, Williams
in 1979, and Duncan