The Last of the Manhattans: (Remembering Sonny Bivins and Winfred "Blue" Lovett) Print
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014 22:25

December 2014 was not a good month for friends, family and fans of The Manhattans.  In that one month we lost the last two remaining original and founding members of the world famous vocal group The Manhattans. Edward 'Sonny' Bivins died on December 3, 2014 at the age of 78 while Winfred "Blue" Lovett passed away on December 10, 2014 at the age of 74. In recent years, the two men had fronted two different versions of the group individually.

The story of The Manhattans started in the 1950’s when Winfred "Blue" Lovett and Richard Taylor started a doo-wop group while serving in the army in Germany called The Statesmen. Richard Taylor soon after that would form a group with Sonny Bivins called The Dulcets. Taylor would leave around 1961 and the final lineup would be Winfred Lovett, George Smith, Edward 'Sonny' Bivens, Ethel Sanders, and Buddy Bell. In 1962 they renamed themselves The Manhattans with the original lineup: George "Smitty" Smith, Winfred "Blue" Lovett, Richard Taylor, Kenneth Kelley and Edward "Sonny" Bivins. George "Smitty" Smith was the lead singer and they recorded a few sides on Avanti and Enjoy records with limited success. Their style remained in a doo-wop delivery and Winfred "Blue" Lovett was the baritone singer. From 1964 through 1968 they recorded for Carnival Records achieving charted hits from black radio stations. Two albums were released on Carnival which was Dedicated To You and Sing For You And Yours. From 1969 through 1972 / 1973 they released singles on the Deluxe record label. Two more LPs were released on Deluxe as With These Hands and A Million To One. The Manhattans were an elegant group who often wore tuxedos on stage. White gloves were also a part of their image at this time. They would appear at the Apollo Theater in 1970 wearing tuxedos with white gloves and would perform a number or two in the dark with the audience only seeing the white gloves moving back and forth. Their style had not changed much with George "Smitty" Smith the soulful lead singer accompanied by the rest of the group laying down a doo-wop layer of sound. The year 1970, also saw a big dramatic change for The Manhattans. Smith became ill and could no longer tour. Replacing him was a college student that they had met from Kittrell College, NC named Gerald Alston. Smith soon died and Alston became the new lead singer and front man.

Gerald Alston became the voice of The Manhattans beginning with A Million To One in 1971.  More mega hits followed with There's No Me Without You, Wish That You Were Mine, Don't Take Your Love,  I Kinda Miss You, Kiss And Say Goodbye (written by Winfred "Blue" Lovett), We Never Danced To A Love Song, It Feels So Good To Be Loved So Bad, Am I Losing You, Crazy, Shining Star and more. The group enjoyed their new success around the world and had achieved new fans not only in R&B, but also in the Pop arena.

Winfred "Blue" Lovett had been the group’s chief song writer and was responsible for the spoken word on many of their hits including Kiss And Say Goodbye which went up to #1 on the R&B and Pop charts in 1976. Gerald Alston joked about the practical jokes on the road by “Blue” Lovette. He once said that Lovette had pulled the fire alarm at a hotel where they were staying on the road in England. He was trying to play a joke on the group and the joke backfired on him when he became locked out of the hotel room.[i] Edward "Sonny" Bivins had aspirations of becoming a professional baseball player, if it had not been for the success of The Manhattans. He also was a successful song writer for the group, being responsible for hits like: Follow Your Heart, It's That Time Of The Year, There's No Me Without You, We Never Danced To A Love Song and more.

In 1988 Gerald Alston left the group to peruse a solo career and by 1990 Winfred "Blue" Lovett left the group. Bivins kept the group going under the original name The Manhattans with new and revolving membership. In 2000 a second group was formed called The Manhattans Featuring Gerald Alston & Blue Lovett. Two new members were brought on board who were Troy May & David Tyson. The passing of Bivins and Lovett has brought a chapter to an end. I am sure that the legacy will continue to go on. With that let’s end this by saying: “Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye”.

Howard Burchette

[i] Telephone radio Interview with Gerald Alston by Howard Burchette, for The Funk Show, June 2010, at 90.7 WNCU FM, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 08:45