Introduction to the Essex
The Essex were an American R&B group mostly remembered for their #1 hit in 1963, “Easier Said Than Done.” The group consisted of US Marine officers who formed a group together in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina in 1962. They were signed to Roulette Records in 1963, where they also recorded their first single “Easier Said Than Done.” It became a chart-topper on both the R&B and pop charts. Johnson then left the Essex, which reduced them to a quartet. Next they scored a sizable hit with “A Walkin’ Miracle” also in 1963, and seemed poised for a good future in the music business. But mainly due to some of the members’ Marine obligations, they could not sustain the success they were achieving – for instance, Johnson departed for his duties in Okinawa. They eventually disbanded when their following singles failed to chart. Humes (who died in 2010), attempted for a solo career.
The Essex’s early formation of their lineup
The Essex were an R&B vocal group. All members were US Marine officers: Walter Vickers and Rodney Taylor were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Upon transferring to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, next they recruited fellow Marines — Anita Humes (their lead vocalist), Billy Hill and Rudolph Johnson.
Success with “Easier Said Than Done”
The group recorded a demo tape which they submitted to Roulette Records, who eventually signed the quintet. One of their first singles they released was “Easier Said Than Done” which was penned by Larry Huff and William Linton. It was said that it took the band about just 20 minutes to record the single in just one take. The single entered the charts in 1963, finally ending up at the top of both Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard R&B singles charts that same year; it also peaked at #41 on the UK singles chart. “Easier Said Than Done” sold over a million copies in the process, earning a gold record. The song was particularly distinctive due to Humes’ sassy vocal delivery and style.
Later career and disbandment
Johnson had quit the band because he would be transferred to a military post in Okinawa. This reduced the Essex into a four-piece. Their follow-up single “A Walkin’ Miracle” reached #12 on the pop chart and #11 on the R&B singles chart. The song was written by Adam Levy, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, and George David Weiss.
The fact that the members were all Marines, this made it more difficult for them to keep themselves together as a band as well as to capitalize on their chart success. Johnson’s absence made things more complicated among the band members. This was evidenced by their last charting single “She’s Got Everything” which only reached #56 on the pop chart in late 1963. They disbanded in 1964.
Rodney Taylor met a tragic end in 1966 when he was killed in an attempted robbery in New York. All of his former bandmates attended his funeral.
In 1966 Humes later attempted for a solo career, recording for a time for Roulette, but with little success. She passed away in 2010, aged 69.