by Dianne Washington
The Whispers are an American vocal group from Los Angeles, California, who have scored hit records since the late 1960s. They are best known for their two number one R&B singles, “And the Beat Goes On” in 1979 and “Rock Steady” in 1987. The Whispers scored 15 top-ten R&B singles, and 8 top-ten R&B albums with two of them, The Whispers and Love Is Where You Find It, reaching the No. 1 spot. They have earned two platinum and five gold albums by the RIAA.
The Whispers formed in 1963 in Watts, California. The original members included identical twin brothers Wallace “Scotty” and Walter Scott, along with Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson, and Nicholas Caldwell. After being invited to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1966 by Sly Stone, the group relocated to that area where they began developing a reputation as a show-stopping live act. Walter Scott was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War during that period for eighteen months, returning to the group in 1969 after discharge. After Harmon injured his larynx in a driving accident in 1973, he was replaced by former Friends of Distinction member Leaveil Degree.
After a series of singles on Los Angeles label, Dore, the group signed to a small LA label, Soul Clock, run by producer Ron Carson, who was responsible for their breakthrough hit, “Seems Like I Got to Do Wrong” in 1970. Moving to the larger New York-based Janus label, they continued to be produced by Carson, before he sold all of his recordings to Janus with the group then recording mainly in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s.
In 1978, the group signed to Dick Griffey’s SOLAR Records. The group scored many hits on the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, and they hit number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1979/80 with “And the Beat Goes On” / “Can You Do the Boogie” / “Out the Box”. In the UK, “And the Beat Goes On” peaked at No. 2 and “It’s a Love Thing” became their second top 10 in 1981 peaking at No. 9. In 1987, they enjoyed a brief tenure in the US top 10 when “Rock Steady” became their first top 10 success on the Hot 100, reaching No. 7, while also capturing the No. 1 spot on the R&B chart.
The Whispers later established their own production company, Satin Tie Productions, through which they released their independent 2006 album For Your Ears Only.
The group opened Game 2 of the 1989 World Series at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum with their rendition of the National Anthem.
Marcus Hutson left the group in 1992 due to prostate cancer. According to the Whispers’ website, when Hutson died of it on May 23, 2000, they vowed to never replace him, and started performing as a quartet.
Jerry McNeil resigned from his position as the keyboardist in the latter part of 1993 in order to spend more time with his family.
In 2014, the Whispers were inducted into the Official R&B Music Hall of Fame.
The Philadelphia soul songwriter team Allan Felder, Norman Harris, Bunny Sigler, and Ronnie Baker provided several of the Whispers’ songs, including “A Mother for My Children” and “Bingo”.
Nicholas Caldwell died of congestive heart failure at his San Francisco home, on January 5, 2016, at the age of 71.
Founding member Gordy Harmon died at his home in Los Angeles on January 5, 2023, at the age of 79.