The Penguins were an American doo-wop group of the 1950s and early 1960s, best remembered for their only Top 40 hit, "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)", which was one of the first rhythm and blues hits to cross over to the pop charts. The song peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but had a three-week run at #1 on the R&B chart.
The original members of The Penguins were:
Duncan and Williams were former classmates at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, California, and Williams had become a member of The Hollywood Flames. In late 1953, they decided to form a new vocal group, and added Tisby and Tate. Their midtempo performance style was a cross between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Williams brought with him a song, "Earth Angel," on which he had worked with Gaynel Hodge, another member of the Hollywood Flames.
The Penguins were one of a number of doo-wop groups of the period named after birds (such as The Orioles, The Flamingos, and The Crows). One of the members smoked Kool cigarettes, which, at the time, had "Willie the Penguin" as its cartoon advertising character. They considered themselves "cool," and accordingly decided to call themselves "The Penguins."
Dootone Records released The Penguins' single "Hey Senorita" in late 1954 as the intended A-side, but a radio DJ flipped the record over to the B-side: "Earth Angel" worked its way up to #1 on the Billboard charts (the only Penguins song ever to fly that high), and held that place for three weeks early in 1955.
Duncan sang lead on "Earth Angel." He reprised his performance a decade later on Frank Zappa's "Memories of El Monte," an elegiac 1963 song in which he suddenly breaks into "Earth Angel" as one of the various songs remembered. El Monte, a city near Los Angeles, had spawned such popular performers as Tony Allan, Marvin & Johnny, The Shields, as well as the Penguins. Those groups were also emulated as part of Zappa's tribute to early days of rock and roll.
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