1960 Fleetwoods – Runaround
Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis met while in high school in Olympia, Washington. Gretchen and Barbara began singing together, and Gary joined them, just playing the trumpet. Gary began writing his own songs, and those impressed the young women enough that he abandoned the trumpet and joined them on vocals.
The three performed songs they wrote themselves in their appearances. The song Come Softly to Me impressed Dolphin Records, and the company released it as a single. The record rose to the top of the Hot 100 and reached #5 on the R&B chart in 1959. The group didn’t make any changes after scoring their first hit record, but Dolphin changed their name to Dolton Records.
The trio also wrote their second single, but Graduation’s Here barely reached the top forty. DeWayne Blackwell wrote the group’s third single, and Mr. Blue took the group to the top of the charts for a second time in 1959.
Gary had joined the Naval Reserve in 1956, and near the end of 1959, they called him up to active duty. Vic Dana replaced Gary and took over singing chores for live appearances, but did not record any songs with the group.
Two more of the group’s songs reached the top forty in 1960. Outside My Window faded after peaking at #28. They had a slightly bigger hit with Runaround, which reached #23.
The Thomas Wayne single Tragedy peaked at #5 in 1959. The Fleetwoods had one last top ten single in 1961 when they released a cover of the song.
The group also released (He’s) The Great Imposter in 1961. Although the single only reached #30 on the Hot 100, it may turn out to be more familiar to many listeners than their other songs thanks to the use of their song in the film American Graffiti.
Singles by The Fleetwoods continued to come out through early 1965. After the start of the British Invasion, it became much more difficult to get airplay for their style of music, and the group disbanded.
Gary officially resigned from the group in 1983 and left Gretchen with ownership of the group name. She recruited new members for the Fleetwoods and has managed the group since then. Gary and Gretchen regrouped and toured briefly with Cheryl Huggins replacing Barbara in 1990 when Rhino Records released The Best Of The Fleetwoods. The group maintains a website at https://thefleetwoods.com/
DeWayne Blackwell continued writing songs for an assortment of artists. He most notably wrote the hit single Friends in Low Places, which was a hit for Garth Brooks in 1990.
Vic Dana pursued a solo career beginning in 1961 and had a top ten hit with the single Red Roses For A Blue Lady in 1965. While he only had one other top forty single on the Hot 100, he scored 15 top forty singles on the Adult Contemporary chart.
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