Harvey Fuqua, the ’50s vocal group star who went on to discover Marvin Gaye and become a key A&R exec for a succession of labels, died July 6 in Detroit following a heart attack. He was 80.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Fuqua (nephew of the Ink Spots’ Charlie Fuqua) founded a vocal group around 1950 with fellow vocalist Bobby Lester. The unit went pro in 1952 with a lineup that also included Prentiss Barnes, brother of the Spaniels’ lead singer Pookie Hudson.
In 1952, the group was signed to the influential Cleveland DJ Alan Freed’s Champagne label, where they were renamed the Moonglows (spinning off Freed’s air moniker “Moondog”).
The act subsequently moved to Chicago R&B power Chess Records, where it scored its major hits, beginning with “Sincerely,” a No. 1 R&B smash and top 20 pop entry in 1954. Other hits followed — “Most of All” (No. 5), “We Go Together” (No. 9), “See Saw” (No. 6) and “Please Send Me Someone to Love” (No. 5). Band’s last chart entry, 1958’s No. 9 single “Ten Commandments of Love,” was released under the handle Harvey and the Moonglows. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
A latter-day incarnation of the act included a teenage vocalist who approached Fuqua during a show at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., and asked him to listen to his group. Fuqua disbanded his act and took on the young performers as the new Moonglows. The brash young singer would be known professionally as Marvin Gaye.
While at Chess, Fuqua also cut some duets with Etta James, including the R&B hits “If I Can’t Have You” (No. 6) and “Spoonful” (No. 12).
After disbanding the Moonglows in 1960, Fuqua and Gaye moved to Detroit, where Fuqua married Gwen Gordy, sister of songwriter and neophyte label boss Berry Gordy Jr. (Gaye would later marry another of Gordy’s sisters, Anna.)
Fuqua started his own Detroit-based label, Tri-Phi, and signed the Spinners to the imprint; he would sing on all the group’s singles for the label. He also developed the future Motown acts Junior Walker and the All-Stars and Shorty Long.
After selling Tri-Phi to Gordy, he went to work at Motown as head of A&R. Most notably, he signed singer Tammi Terrell to the label and paired her with Gaye, and produced such hits for the duo as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love.”
After parting company with Motown in 1971, Fuqua launched a string of RCA hits by the Louisville vocal group New Birth and produced disco star Sylvester’s hits “Dance” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” He also discovered Two Tons O’ Fun, which later became the Weather Girls of “It’s Raining Men” fame.
He served as production adviser on Gaye’s immense 1982 comeback album “Midnight Love,” which contained the smash “Sexual Healing.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)