Cousins Jacob ‘Jake’ Carey and Ezekial ‘Zeke’ Carey formed this doo-wop group in Chicago, Illinois, after meeting Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter at a black Messianic Jewish synagogue.
Earl Lewis soon joined them, and after a series of name changes, (The Swallows, El Flamingos, The Five Flamingos), wound up being known as The Flamingos.
Sollie McElroy soon replaced Lewis (who joined The Five Echoes) and The Flamingos’ first single, If I Can’t Have You, was a moderate local success, as was the follow-up That’s My Desire.
But it was Johnny Carter’s composition of Golden Teardrops with its complex vocal harmonies and Carter’s soaring falsetto, that cemented their reputation as a top regional act of the day.
The Flamingos signed with DJ Al Benson’s Parrot Records and shortly thereafter McElroy was replaced by Nate Nelson, who sang lead on I’m Yours (January 1955). The Flamingos then signed with Chess, to record for their Checker Records subsidiary.
It was at Chess/Checker that The Flamingos achieved their first national chart hit with I’ll Be Home, which went to Number Five on the Billboard R&B chart.
The group had moderate success with A Kiss From Your Lips, The Vow and Would I Be Crying? The group also appeared in the Alan Freed movie, Rock, Rock Rock (1956).
Both Zeke Carey and Carter were drafted that year so Nelson, Wilson and Jake Carey continued the group with new member Tommy Hunt. Another new member, Terry ‘Buzzy’ Johnson, joined in late December of that year.
This line-up began recording for Decca Records in April 1957. Their most notable single was Johnson’s arrangement of The Ladder of Love, but legal entanglements between Checker and Nate Nelson ruined any chance of commercial success.
Zeke Carey returned to The Flamingos in 1958, making the group a sextet.
When Johnny Carter was discharged from the service, he joined The Dells (he stayed with them for almost 50 years up until his death in 2009).
Jacob ‘Jake’ Carey
Ezekial ‘Zeke’ Carey
Terry ‘Buzzy’ Johnson