A common thread among many performers has always been how they sharpened their musical skills while in the armed forces, and then made a career for themselves in the years following. But a R&B group known as The Essex did things a little differently. The members of the combo were all United States Marines, and their biggest hit – 1963’s “Easier Said Than Done” – was recorded while they were all still actively serving their country.
The Essex actually came to life as a musical group a couple of years before that, when Marines Rodney Taylor and Walter Vickers returned from duty in Japan. Now stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, the guys joined with fellow Marines Billie Hill, Rudolph Johnson, and lead vocalist Anita Humes to form a singing quintet.
Five Marines with a variety of duties to perform made scheduling difficult, and even after they recorded a demo that finally led to a contract with Roulette, the members of the group weren’t able to promote their new record as much as they’d like. In fact, Rudolph Johnson was eventually reassigned to Okinawa and had to drop out of the group, turning it into a quartet. But in spite of all that, “Easier Said Than Done” began climbing the charts and ended at the top.
Unfortunately, it would be all downhill from there. Although “A Walkin’ Miracle” also did pretty well by almost making it into the Top Ten, the group’s only other charting record was the less successful “She’s Got Everything.” They kept at it by issuing several more records, but even a revised name – Anita Humes and The Essex – didn’t seem to help and those pesky Marine duties kept interfering too, so the group soon dissolved. (Although Anita would later pursue a solo career.)
The Essex – “A Walkin’ Miracle” (Clip below)