Tommy Hunt

Pittsburgh-born vocalist Tommy Hunt's recording career began at age 20, when he cut singles with his first group, the Five Echoes, in 1953. It was five years later, however, that he made his greatest mark on popular music, rock & roll, and R&B, as a member of the Flamingos from 1958 through 1961. Those years coincided with the group's being signed to End Records, and the release of their biggest, most identifiable hit, "I Only Have Eyes for You" -- Hunt's dramatic background singing, coupled with the restrained piano backing, made it one of the transcendent documents of '50s R&B. He can also be seen singing lead in a killer jump-blues performance in the juke box movie classic Go, Johnny, Go, as the group (back to a five-piece) mimes to their End recording of "Jump Children." Hunt left the Flamingos in 1962 and signed as a solo artist with Florence Greenberg's Scepter Records in New York. Greenberg reportedly wasn't impressed with Hunt as a singer or an individual, but Luther Dixon, the company's chief of A&R and general music director, loved Hunt's voice, providing him with "Human," which became a number five R&B hit in late 1961. Hunt continued with the label for another three years, until 1964, cutting a complete album (I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself) in late 1962. His version of the title track was never a single, but it predated the more famous hit by Dusty Springfield by nearly two years. In late 1963, following the departure of Dixon from Scepter, Ed Townsend became the company's music director, and one of his very first productions was Tommy Hunt's recording of Townsend's "I Am a Witness," which featured Bernard Purdie on drums and Mickey Baker on guitar, with Hunt's vocals backed up by the Shirelles, Dee Dee Warwick, and the Sweet Inspirations. The single was Hunt's last chart entry for the label, reaching number 71. Hunt left Scepter in 1964, and later moved to the Dynamo label, for which he charted a single in 1967. He later moved to Europe, and continues to perform in Germany and other Central European countries in the '90s. Hunt's only album, for Scepter, has never been reissued, but tracks from it, as well as his hit singles from the label and several other sides, turned up on Capricorn's 1992 Scepter Records Story double-CD set. ~ Bruce Eder

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