The Marcels were a doo-wop group known for turning beloved American classical pop songs into rock and roll. The group formed in 1959 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with lead Cornelius Harp, bass Fred Johnson, Gene Bricker, Ron Mundy, and Richard Knauss. In 1961 many were shocked to hear a new version of the ballad, "Blue Moon" that began with the bass singer say, "bomp-baba-bomp" and "dip-da-dip." Still, the record sold a million and is featured in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The disc climbed all the way to number one in the UK singles chart. However all follow-ups sank without trace, and the group became known there as a one-hit wonder. Even in their U.S. homeland, later revivals in the same vein as "Blue Moon" - "Heartaches" and "Melancholy Baby" - were much less successful.
In August of 1961, Knauss and Bricker left and were replaced by Alan Johnson (brother of Fred) and Walt Maddox. Mundy left soon after, leaving the group a quartet.
In 1962, Harp and Alan Johnson left, and were replaced by Richard Harris and William Herndon. There was a brief reunion of the original members in 1973. The group made several recordings in 1975 with Harp back on lead.
By the early 1990s the group was Johnson, Maddox, Harris, Jules Hopson and Richard Merritt.
The group split around 1995. Fred Johnson formed his own group with new members, while the other four members recruited new bass Ted Smith. Maddox won a lawsuit against Sunny James Svetnic, the manager of Johnson's group, for trademark infringement in 1996. Svetnic died in 2002.
Johnson reunited with Harp, Mundy, and Knauss in 1999 for the PBS special Doo Wop 50 with a fifth member.