Although the Fleetwoods' sound was smooth, without many of the rougher edges of doo wop groups, they were one of the few white vocal groups of the late '50s and early '60s to enjoy success not only on the pop charts, but also the R&B charts. Their forte was ballads — beginning with the 1959 debut single "Come Softly to Me," they racked up a number of hits over the next three years, and nearly all of them were ballads. The Fleetwoods broke up in 1963, but their songs — particularly "Come Softly to Me" — became pop/rock classics of the pre-British Invasion era.
Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis, and Gary Troxell formed the Fleetwoods while attending high school in Olympia, WA. Originally, the group consisted only of Christopher and Ellis, but the duo soon asked Troxell to accompany them on trumpet. Shortly after his arrival in the group, Troxell abandoned the trumpet and concentrated on singing once the other two members heard a portion of a song he had written. With some notable contributions from Christopher and Ellis, the group wrote "Come Softly to Me" and began performing the song at various events around Olympia, eventually gaining the attention of Bob Reisdorff, who ran the Seattle-based label Dolphin Records.
Dolphin released "Come Softly to Me" early in 1959 and the song became an instant hit, climbing to number one on the pop charts and number five on the R&B charts; it also reached the Top Ten in U.K. The Fleetwoods weren't able to immediately produce a follow-up single as successful as their debut, but their third single, "Mr. Blue," was a number one pop and Top Five R&B hit in the U.S. in late 1959. By the time of its release, Dolphin had changed its name to Dolton. For the next three years, the Fleetwoods had a string of minor pop hits. The group wasn't able to consistently place singles in the upper regions of the charts partially because Troxell was drafted into the Navy at the height of the group's popularity at the end of 1959. Troxell was replaced by Vic Dana, who would later have a string of his own hit singles in the early '60s.
The Fleetwoods' last Top Ten single arrived in the spring of 1961, when "Tragedy" climbed the U.S. charts. The group disbanded two years later, after releasing its final single, a cover of Jesse Belvin's "Goodnight My Love." Over the next three decades, the Fleetwoods reunited occasionally to perform concerts and appear in oldies revues. In 1973, the group recorded an album with producer Jerry Dennon, but the resulting recordings were unsuccessful. In 1990, the Fleetwoods — featuring Christopher, Troxell, and instead of Ellis a singer named Cheryl Huggins — played a tour on the American oldies circuit after Rhino released the compact disc collection The Best of the Fleetwoods.
The Fleetwoods were a singing trio from Olympia, Washington, United States; formed in the late 1950s. They were responsible for the hit song "Come Softly to Me". The song was originally called "Come Softly", and thea group was originally named Two Girls and a Guy, but both were changed en route to the song's becoming a hit.
Gary Troxel (b. November 28, 1939, Centralia, Washington) and Gretchen Christopher (b. February 29, 1940, Olympia, Washington) were two high school students waiting for Christopher's mother to pick them up after school. They started singing and humming a song together, and liked it enough to ask Christopher's friend and singing partner, Barbara Ellis (b. February 20, 1940, Olympia, Washington), to join them as a trio to perform it.
They performed the song twice at school functions, and their classmates wanted recordings of it so they could learn the song. After six months, they got the track recorded. They sang it a cappella, then dubbed the instrumental accompaniment, consisting only of Latin-styled acoustic guitar and the rhythmic shaking of Troxel's car keys. It would top the pop charts and make it to the top five of the rhythm & blues charts. "Come Softly to Me" was also recorded by Frankie Vaughan and The Kaye Sisters, who had a chart hit in the United Kingdom with the song. The Fleetwoods' version of "Come Softly To Me" can be heard on a portable radio at one point in the 1986 movie, Stand By Me, which was set in Washington state.
Bob Reisdorf, the owner of Dolphin Records (later changed to Dolton Records), was responsible for the changes to the group name and song title. He thought that the title was too risque and not commercial-sounding enough, so he had it changed to "Come Softly to Me". He also thought that the group's original name wasn't commercial-sounding enough. The new name of the group, The Fleetwoods, was based on the telephone exchanges in the areas where the three members lived, Fleetwood2-xxxx and Fleetwood7-xxxx.
The Fleetwoods continued to record into the 1960s, with a number of other successes. Their second hit, "Mr. Blue," also topped the pop charts. They would hit the top ten one more time with "Tragedy" in 1961. The beginning of the end for the group came when Troxel was drafted into the U.S. Navy. Additionally, the British Invasion of the mid 1960s ended the public's taste for sweet, melodic music.
By the late 1970s, Troxel was working in a plywood plant, Ellis was managing a trailer park in Canada, and Christopher was a housewife and modern dance teacher. Ellis is now retired from performing. Troxel formed a new Fleetwoods group in the 1980s; Christopher also has resumed her music career, billing herself as "Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods." Both Troxel and Christopher continue to perform and occasionally release new recordings. The group was inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 2000, Troxel and his wife Jenifer lost Troxel v. Granville, a landmark grandparents' rights case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The court held that under the United States Constitution, non-parents seeking custody or visitation rights of a child against the wishes of the child's parents must prove that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child in refusing custody or visitation.
50s, 60s Hits
Come Softly To Me
"Come Softly to Me" is a popularsongwritten by Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis and Gary Troxel that was published in 1959 and was performed by The Fleetwoods, composed of Christopher, Troxel, and Ellis. It was the first release for the new Dolphin Records label.
Mm dooby do, dahm dahm, dahm do dahm ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm do dahm, ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm do dahm, ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm ooh dahm
Mm dooby do