Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Keeping the faith

Walter Scott knows exactly why the Whispers, a group he formed with his twin brother, Wallace, and three other friends almost 40 years ago, has stood the test of time.

“We stuck to rhythm and blues and we have never strayed from that,” said Scott in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home.

The enduring r&b act, presented by Curtis Hopkins Productions, is scheduled to appear at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Peristyle of the Toledo Museum of Art. The local r&b group K.G.B. will serve as the opening act.

The Whispers' roots are in the Watts section of Los Angeles where, in the 1960s, the Scott twins, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hudson, and Gordy Harmon, first sang together.

“In the mid-1960s we lived in the projects, and in high school my brother and I listened to the radio and always dreamed of making it big. We sang together as a duet and it was at a singing competition where we met the other members who were singing as a trio,” said Scott.

“While we were waiting to go on stage to compete against one another, we all started to harmonize and after the show we decided to form a group,” he added.

The group's first single, recorded shortly after high school, was “It Only Hurts For a While” on the Dore label. In 1969, the Whispers recorded its debut album, “Planet of Life,” for Chess Janus Records.

Scott said the group got its name when an executive of Argyle Records said its sound was so smooth that it sounded just like a whisper.

In 1971, Leavill Degree replaced Gordy Harmon, and the Whispers switched to the Soul Train label, which would later become Solar Records.

“From the '60s to the '80s we toured and were struggling to pay our dues in the business. It wasn't until “And the Beat Goes On,” a true rhythm and blues song, that we got our real big break,” said Scott. That song became the group's first gold single, placed No. 1 on the Billboard r&b charts, and landed in the Top 20 in the pop category.

The 1980s brought three gold albums - “The Christmas Album,” “Love Is Where You Find It,” and “Love For Love” - and two platinum - “The Whispers” and “Imagination.” In 1987, the group's “Rock Steady” and double platinum “Just Gets Better With Time” confirmed the Whispers' staying power with a loyal fan base that crossed generations.

“Many may be surprised to know that when we first organized, we based our style on white groups like the Four Freshman, the Lettermen, and the Hi-Lo's,” Scott said. “We sang a similar type of brisk harmony from these acts and blended in our own r&b, which is still consistent today.”

The 1990s saw more gold and Top 10 singles and albums, including 1995's “A Toast to the Ladies.”

Hudson died in the late 1990s, but the Whispers continued singing. Its most-recent album, “The Whispers: Song Book Vol. I/The Songs of Babyface,” on Interscope Records - a collaborative effort with singer/ songwriter Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and then-partner L.A. Reid, will not be the last, said Scott.

“The Whispers would like to do one lasting CD. We want another opportunity to do this and put new music out there. That is our goal and we're putting something together for the early part of next year,” he said.

The Whispers are scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Peristyle. Tickets are $35 in advance from Henry Jewelers, Boogie Records, Sound Asylum, Ashley Stewart, and Powell's Beauty Supply. Limited $40 tickets will be available at the door. Information: 419-309-8943.

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