The Manhattans is an American R&B vocal group, with a string of hit records spanning four decades, they are best known for the songs “Kiss and Say Goodbye” and “Shining Star” in 1980.
The Manhattans, originally from Jersey City, New Jersey, formed in 1962 with members George “Smitty” Smith, Edward “Sonny” Bivins, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Kenny “Wally” Kelley, and Richard “Ricky” Taylor.
The group’s first single was “For the Very First Time,” released in 1964 by Carnival Records. They continued recording successfully with songs written by various members of the group. In 1968, the group received the “Most Promising Group” award by NATRA. In 1969, the group moved to the De Luxe record label, a subsidiary of King Records, subsequently embarking on a college tour. While playing at Kittrell College in North Carolina, the group met another group, the New Imperials, featuring Gerald Alston, nephew of The Shirelles’ lead singer, Shirley Alston-Reeves. They were so impressed with Alston that they asked him to join the group, but he declined.
Misfortune hit the group late in 1970 when George Smith fell down a flight of stairs and later took ill. Unable to perform, the group began to search for a new lead. First they attempted to woo The Cymbals’ lead, Lee Williams, but he was unwilling to leave them. The group then renewed their request to Gerald Alston, who accepted and took over the lead spot. Original lead singer George Smith died of a brain tumor on December 16, 1970.
The Manhattans continued recording throughout the 1970s with Alston singing lead vocals. They struck chart gold in 1973 with the Bivins-written song [There’s No me Without You]. Then their biggest song to date was “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” written by Blue Lovett and arranged/co-produced with the group by the Philadelphia-based record producer Bobby Martin, a former member of the MFSB band of session musicians. The song quickly became a #1 chart topper on both the US Billboard Pop and R&B charts. It also became only the second single to go platinum, after the RIAA introduced the award in 1976. Taylor left in 1976 to concentrate on his conversion to Islam. He died in 1987 after a long illness. The group continued as a quartet, and found further success in March 1980 with the release of “Shining Star,” which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B Chart. Produced and co-written by the Chicago-based record producer, Leo Graham, it received a Grammy Award the following spring.
The song “Just The Lonely Talking again”, originally recorded by The Manhattans on their 1983 album Forever By Your Side, was later recorded by Whitney Houston on her second studio album Whitney (1987).
The group celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1985 with the release of Too Hot To Stop It. It included the Evans/Smith-penned “When We’re Made As One,” originally recorded in 1966 but covered in an a cappella, doo wop style to emphasize the group’s doo wop roots. The album was also dedicated to George Smith.
The group continued until 1988. That year, Alston left to record as a solo artist, scoring with several major R&B hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s for Motown. Roger Harris was recruited as the new lead singer for the group, which moved to the new label, Valley Vue, when their Columbia recording contract expired.
The group’s largest shake-up was in December 1990, when Winfred “Blue” Lovett left the group for health reasons. Kenny Kelley also left at the same time to return to college to pursue his PhD. Bivins continued along with lead singer Roger Harris who had replaced Gerald Alston in 1988-89 along with new members. He recruited new members Charles Hardy & Harsey Hemphill, who in October 1990 had auditioned for Bivins but didn’t come aboard until after Lovett & Kelly left at the end of 1990. In early 1991 Bivins added Alvin Pazant, bringing the group back to a quintet. Harris proved to be only a short-term lead, and in April 1991 he was replaced by Wade Taylor. Taylor was replaced in July 1991 when Bivins recruited Lee Williams, the person whom they had originally wanted to replace George Smith.
The current line-up of the group, since 1991, remains as Bivins, Hardy, Hemphill, Pazant & Williams. The original Manhattans led by Bivins released the CD Manhattans Now in 1994. In 1996 the group formed their own full service music corporation company called Manhattan Entertainment Inc. In 2003 and 2007 they were featured artists in two theater plays, Girl He Aint Worth It and The Chicken Shack. In June 2013 the group released a Single called ” Just For Tonite” written by Bivins & Pazant. They are currently in the studio with producer Leroy Burgess recording a new CD. It is to be released in the Spring of 2014.
For what would be their 30th reunion, former member Blue Lovett decided to return to the music scene with his own Manhattans in 1995, bringing back Gerald Alston as lead vocalist in his group. They are currently a quartet with Troy May and David Tyson, brother of The Temptations’ Ron Tyson. In the past, the group also featured Eban Brown, now the lead vocalist for The Stylistics. This group has also released some CDs, including Even Now. This group was featured in two PBS specials.
Alston appeared on Wu-Tang Clan’s album, 8 Diagrams, on the song “Stick Me for My Riches” in 2007.
Listen to some of their songs below