Legend has it that George "Smitty" Smith, Edward "Sonny" Bivins, Kenneth Kelly, Richard Taylor and Winfred "Blue" Lovett came to call themselves the Manhattans because, as teenage singers in Jersey City, New Jersey, they'd dream about the big time while gazing across the Hudson River at the Manhattan skyline. It's a nice story, but unfortunately is is not true. In fact, the quintet took its name from a cocktail known as the Manhattan that's made from whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Still, the name suggested class, something the Manhattans have epitomized throughout their long career.
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Lovett, who characterizes the group's elegant style as "progressive doo wop," first got together with first tenor Bivins and baritone singer Taylor in a group called the Statesman while they were serving with the Air Force in Germany during the late 1950's. After being discharged, the three started the Dulcets, until Lovett, Bivens, Taylor, Smith and second tenor Kelly formed the Manhattans.
Although they began making records in 1963, the Manhattans didn't strike it big until the mid 1970's, when they successfully bucked the disco trend with a series of romantic ballads for Columbia Records. They had eight songs in the R&B Top 10 between 1973 and 1978, with the country-tinged Lovett composition "Kiss And Say Good Bye" going to Number One on both the R&B and pop charts in 1976 and placing in the top five in England and Australia. All featured the lilthing, Sam Cooke-inspired lead tenor of Gerald Alston - who joined the group in 1970 following the death from spinal meningitis of original lead singer Smith - wrapped in a full, warm harmony blanket anchored by Lovett's billowing bass.
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