Introduction to Little Joe and the Thrillers
Little Joe and the Thrillers (sometimes called Little Joe Cook and the Thrillers) were an R&B/doo-woop vocal group formed by Joe Cook, who previously sang for gospel groups the Joe Cook Quartet and the Evening Star Quartet. He assembled Little Joe and the Thrillers along with tenor Farris Hill, another tenor singer Richard Frazier, baritone Donald Burnett and bass vocalist Harry Pascale. They can well be called one-hit wonders through their 1957 single “Peanuts.” After the group broke up Little Joe continued singing and recording until the mid-60s. He also formed an all-girl group called the Sherrys, whose members included two of his daughters and his niece.
Short musical career of Little Joe & the Thrillers
Gaining popularity during the mid-50’s music era, Little Joe & the Thrillers was formed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1956. The R&B vocal group was led by rhythm and blues musician Joe Cook (born Joseph Cook, b. December 29, 1922 – d. April 15, 2014).
Cook was previously a member of the gospel group Evening Star Quartet and later decided to perform secular music in the early 1950’s. By that time, Cook was being offered to join The Soul Stirrers when Sam Cooke left the group. Apparently, he formed his own group Little Joe and the Thrillers, whose “the Thrillers” were Farrie Hill (second lead), Donald Burnett (baritone), Richard Frazier (tenor) and Henry Pascal (bass).
In 1956, the group signed a record contract to OKeh Records and released their debut single “Do the Slop” later that year. The song was not a nationwide hit, however it was a big hit in Philadelphia and New York where they had a chance to perform at the legendary Apollo Theater.
“Peanuts” — Little Joe and the Thrillers’ lone hit
In 1957, Little Joe and the Thrillers finally broke through with their sophomore single “Peanuts.” Written by Cook, it registered at #22 on the national charts but it did not enter the R&B chart. The single’s success led them to appear on American Bandstand. Frankie Valli later recorded “Peanuts” with The Four Seasons, and Lou Christie. In that song, Cook showcased his falsetto singing style which was reportedly influenced by Frankie Valli. The group continued to release several singles but saw no notable successes. They later moved to 20th Century Records and had few recordings there but shortly thereafter, they went on their separate ways.
After the group’s disbandment, Cook became a solo artist and embarked on a tour with B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Band. Cook also formed a group featuring his daughters Delthine and Dinell Cook called The Sherrys. In 1962, The Sherrys released the single “Pop Pop Pop-Pie” which made on the R&B chart at #25. He relocated to Boston where he continued performing. In 1980, he moved to his residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he spent his retirement in 2007. On April 15, 2014, the 91-year-old Cook died of natural causes.