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The Whispers roar on despite losses
The Whispers' numbers are diminishing.
But the popular R&B vocal group is hardly a whisper of its former self.
The Los Angeles troupe -- best known for hits such as "Rock Steady," "And the Beat Goes On" and "Lady" -- became a quartet when founding member Marcus Hutson passed away in 2000, and it's been working as a trio as Nicholas Caldwell dropped out due to health issues, dying of congestive heart failure in January. The group's Walter Scott -- who formed the Whispers with twin brother Wallace "Scotty" Scott -- says those losses weigh on the remaining Whispers but also fortify their determination to carry on.
"We're slowly getting used to it," Scott, 72, says by phone from his home in California. "(Caldwell) was one of the founders; he and my brother created the group before I got back from Vietnam. It's really tough when you're with a guy for over 50 years. You wake up and are used to talk to him every day.
"But, y'know, we're slowly getting there. We're doing what I think he'd want us to, to just keep going."
What the Scotts have not done is replace either Caldwell or Hutson. Leaveil Degree, formerly of Friends of Distinction, has been with the Whispers since replacing Gordy Harmon in 1973, and Scott says the group is working well as a trio -- and spending this year paying tribute to Caldwell during its shows.
"It's all about the material and the singing," he explains. "God has blessed my brother and I. We still perform at a high level, and we still have our voices, pretty close to the way they sounded 50 years ago.
"And, of course, we're lucky enough to have the hits we strung together. In this business you're only as lucky as your hits are. If you have hits you can be here. If not, you won't."
The Whispers haven't given up on the idea of having more hits, either. The group has about eight songs it's working on, according to Scott, and hopes to add another four or five to the mix. The group is targeting the summer for a release and talking with record labels and distribution companies to put it out.
"We have enough sense to stay in our lane," Scott says of the new music. "When you hear it, you're gonna know it's the Whispers. We sing a certain style and we're not gonna change -- that's why we're hear 50 years and that's how we're going to keep going."
The Whispers and Family of Faith Choir
8 pm. Thursday, Feb. 11
SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $35-$45.
Call 313-309-477 or visit soundboarddetroit.com.
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