Formed in 1962 in the Jordan Downs housing projects located at 103rd and Grape Street in the Watts section of Los Angeles, the group was originally called the Eden Trio. They developed into a quintet consisting of members Walter Scott (led and tenor), Wallace “Scotty” Scott (lead and tenor and Walter’s twin brother), Nicholas Caldwell (tenor), Gordy Harmon (tenor), and Marcus Hutson (baritone). The Jordan High School Students practiced day and night, often until 4 in the morning, working on songs by their influences THE FLAMINGOS, THE TEMPTATIONS, THE HI-LO’S, THE FOUR FRESHMAN, Johnny Mathis, and Nat King Cole. They sang everything they could learn, including Hertz car rental commercials.
In 1964 they came to the attention of Lou Bedell and his Vine Street-based Dore Records in Hollywood. He liked their soft sound and renamed then, appropriately, the Whispers. The teenagers recorded five Dore singles, including “It Only Hurts for a Little While,” “Never Again,” and As I Sit Here,” all worthwhile ballads and all recorded at the legendary Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.
Their first big gig was at the California Club with one of their idols, the Temptations.
In 1969 the group signed with the Fantasy distributed Soul Clock label and issued and soul harmony ballad called “Great Day.” But it was the summer release of their follow-up, “The Time Will Come,” with Wallace’s wailing lead and the group’s weaving, high harmonies, that first put them on national R&B radio. “The Time” charted on August 2, 1969, and rose to number 17.
Their fourth Soul Clock single proved they were on their way as “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” reached number six R&B and number 50 Pop. That success wasn’t yet reflected in their life on the road, however; the five-member group and its four-man band often shared one hotel room.
By 1970 The Whispers had signed with Janus Records. The single “There’s a Love for Everyone” charted the day after Christmas, eventually reaching number 31 R&B and number 116 Pop.
8 of 12 Janus singles charted, and though none made the group household names, they helped the group build a following with songs like “Your Love Is Doggone Good” (#93 Pop, #19R&B, 1971) and “I Only Meant to Wet My Feet” (#27 R&B, 1972).
Their only full-time personnel change came in 1971 when Leaveil Degree, who sang for a time with the Friends of Distinction, replaced Gordy Harmon.
By late 1975 the group had moved to the Soul Train label, which gained them some welcome top 10 exposure with “One for the Money (Part 1)” (#88 Pop, #10 R&B, 1976) and a rhythmic version of Bread’s 1970 hit “Make It with You” (#93 Pop, #10 R&B, 1977).
When Soul Train became Solar Records, the group hit its stride and racked up 22 soul charters from 1978 to 1988 out of only 27 releases. Some of their best included “(Let’s Go) All The Way” (#10 R&B, 1978), “And The Beat Goes On” (#19 Pop, #1 R&B, 1980), “Lady” (#28 Pop, #3 R&B, 1980), “It’s a Love Thing” (#28 Pop, #2 R&B, 1981), “Tonight” (#84 Pop, #4 R&B, 1983) and the top 10 Pop hit it took them 23 years of recording to get, “Rock Steady” (#7 Pop, #1 R&B).
“Rock Steady” also gave the fledgling writers/producers L.A. and Babyface their first major chart success, as did the group’s Just Gets Better with Time LP that went double platinum.
After 17 LPs, 38 chart singles, and over 27 years bouncing from the studio to the stage, the title of the 1987 LP pretty much said it all.
– Jay Warner