Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Charles Hatcher)

Impact 1007

.No. 12    June 25, 1966




One of the biggest mysteries in the history of One-Hitdom is the Shades Of Blue, a Caucasian Detroit group

of three male and a lone fe-type person. What little was known was offered by Edwin Starr (aka Charles

Hatcher), creator of their hit “Oh, How Happy.”


“I wrote ‘Oh How Happy’ while in the service in Germany  [1960-62],” said Starr, in an interview with Soul

Survivor’s Richard Pack.    “Golden World had one white act on its books at the time–THE REFLECTIONS.

I told Ed Wingate [the record label’s  owner] that we needed another white act on the label, and that I was

going to put one together … So found this group of Italian-Americans and took them to Golden World to

see Ed, who said, ‘Get that group out of here!    I don’t want no more white  groups!’   So instead,   I gave the

record to a good friend of mine, Harry Balk, and his Impact label.  It was a monster.”

Who exactly were these “Shades of Blue’?     Starr seemed unable to recall.


“A mystery, I’ve been told that,” said Shades Of Blue’s lead vocalist Nick Marinelli, in an exclusive

interview.   “I don’t get it, we’ve always been here..   I’ve never left the  business. For awhile, I produced the

‘Bozo The Clown Show.’    Now, Bob Harmon owns the name  and there’s 20 other Bozo’s around, but I did

the Detroit one.     It’s terrifyin’ though, the country’s full of Bozo’s…


Now for the “true” story:   “The Shades Of Blue got together when I was in eighth grade, ’bout ’61,”

explained Marinelli.     “We were the Domingo’s then.    I sang lead and was at Emerson Junior; Bob Kerr

(baritone) Ernie Dernai (1st tenor), and Dan Guise (baritone) were at Bentley High.    We were all from the

Lavina area, ’bout 30 miles northwest of Detroit.


“It was rural, the ‘burbs, but we were all impressed by the doo-wop groups, the Miracles, Temptations,

Marcels.    We’d hang out at hamburger joints just gassin’ around and harmonize; got good and started

doing assemblies and dances, Elks Club and Union Hall, Club 182.      That was freebees, but we did it for

the fun.

When I got to college, School Craft College, Dan decided to g1ve it up.     He disappeared and Bob and Ernie

went to Farris State College, miles away.    We’d only get together on weekends, but at this time we got to

know Tony MiCale, Ray Steinberg and the guys in THE REFLECTIONS.     They were all from Lavina and

graduated from Bentley High School and Ray’s sister, Linda, was in one of my classes.”


Sister Linda filled the slot vacated by Dan.     Her brothers’ group, the Reflections caught one of the Shades

appearances, approved and suggested that Nick and company come down to Ed Wingate’s Golden World

Studios to do some demo work.    “We got to be studio rats,” Nick continued.    “One time Edwin Starr

happened to be there; so was this independent producer John Ryse [produced Newbeats], who liked our

blue-eyed soul sound.    Edwin said he had a few songs that we could kick around.    He had the title, and we

bounced around some melodies and between the five of us, we wrote ‘Oh, How Happy.’    We never got the

[songwriter’s] credit, ’cause we were 19 years old and stupid naive kids.    That became a thorn, later.”


Ryse who renamed them–and claimed and continues to claim ownership of the Shades Of   Blue moniker–

had taken the master to Harry Balk’s Impact label; Balk had managed Johnny & the Hurricanes and Del

Shannon.    “It was semester break time, Christmas time ’65.    It was back to the books and all of a sudden

we were getting airplay.    By May when school ended, it was on the charts.    It just blew us away…     We

knew we had to get some management, get a band together, hit the road.    It was all too much, too fast.

Right out of the bag, we were on the road for a year.”


There was local stops, TV, the Dick Clark Caravan and charting follow-ups in “Lonely Summer” (#72) and

“Happiness” (#78); nonchartings in “Penny Arcade” and “How Do You Save A Dying Love.”    “It was reality

check time,” said Nick, “when we did the Caravan with the Rascals and Paul Revere & the Raiders.    They

talked of these fantastic royalty checks and we’re going like, ‘What royalty checks?    We soured.    ‘Wait a

second,’ we thought, ‘we’re making really good money on the road, but we’re getting ripped off here.’


“By late ’69, music had taking a big change with psychedelic stuff and acid rock and it wasn’t our bag.   We

tried to look more mod with bell-bottoms and Neru Jackets and we probably could have hung in there a

while, but by late ’69 we decide to let it fade away,” said Marinelli.”


In 1977, Nick gathered Bob, Ernie and Linda back into astudio.     Four cuts were laid down, “but,” said

Nick, “the heart wasn’t in it.”


Nick worked for years as an automobile designer and currently as Nick Allen performs what he calls

“positive country,” that’s country with a gospel message.    “Ernie’s had various jobs,” said Nick. “Bob was

the hippy of the group; into that wacky tobacky and other stuff and he’s still in the ozone.    Linda, left Bob,

and got married again and is living on the East Side of Detroit.”