The Five Echoes are notable for having been the group that both Earl Lewis (Channels, Flamingos) and Johnnie Taylor both passed through at one time or another. The original Chicago-based group -- Constant "Count" Sims (baritone), Herbert Lewis (baritone), Jimmy Marshall (bass), and Tommy Hunt (second tenor) -- originally called themselves the Flames because they hung out at the Morocco Hotel, home to a famous nightspot, the Flame.
The Flames didn't really get goin' until around 1952, when they incorporated an ex-Flamingos lead singer, Earl Lewis (first tenor), into the group. Another, less "official" member was Freddie Matthews, who occasionally sang with the group and served as their chauffeur. The group changed the name to the Five Echoes after they discovered Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy group who had the same name for a short time in the early '50s (and who later became the Five Discs). The group eventually met up with musician/manager/songwriter/hustler Walter Spriggs, who helped get them their first booking on the club circuit. During the first weekend, they traveled up to Kenosha, WI, and performed at a club called the Right Spot, where they did so well, in fact, that they were asked to stay, and did, for an entire year, performing covers by the Orioles, the Dominoes, and others.
Upon their return to the Chicago area, they eventually caught the ear of Edwart Abner Jr. of Chance Records, who signed the act. Shortly thereafter, Abner was out at Chance (leaving to help run Vee Jay and instead they ended up with Art Sheridan, who was running his Sabre label on Chicago's south side. Their first record, "Lonely Mood," scored airplay in several U.S. cities, but failed to chart nationally.
Hunt soon found that he had been drafted, leaving the Five Echoes short one member. The remaining singers recruited Johnnie Taylor, a Kansas City native who was bumming around Chicago at the time, singing in a local gospel group, the Highway QC's. (This was the same Taylor who became a hit-making phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s; at the time, Taylor was a very religious, gospel-based singer.)
By early 1954, with Taylor on board, the Five Echoes became regulars in the Chicago club circuit, eventually touring the Midwestern U.S. The Five Echoes recorded one more Sabre session. Hunt, while AWOL from the service, joined the group, but was soon lost to the group again after the FBI caught up with him and sent him to the stockade. Chance was apparently winding down at the time, because it closed its doors before the year 1954 was out. The group disbanded shortly thereafter. ~ Bryan Thomas