Soul Serenade: The Essex, “Easier Said Than Done”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

The Essex were more than just musical heroes

Soul Serenade - The Essex

I like to give advice. I feel perfectly comfortable telling people what they should do in any given situation, even though I would never take my own advice. Most of my friends just ignore me at this point, which is exactly what they should do. Every once in awhile I come up with a valid insight, but even I know that they’re few and far between.

You may be asking what any of this has to do with this week’s column. It’s the song title of course, “Easier Said Than Done.” It’s very easy to give advice to someone else, but it’s often a lot harder to actually put that advice into action yourself. This week’s group took action though, and as a result they scored themselves a big hit record.

There have been a number of groups that have gotten together while serving in the military, and the Essex are among them. Guitarist Walter Vickers and drummer Rodney Taylor met when they were serving in United States Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan. Eventually they were transferred back to the states, and it was at Camp Lejeuene in North Carolina that they enlisted fellow Marines Billy Hill and Rudolph Johnson into the group.

The Essex

The final piece of the Essex puzzle was lead singer Anita Humes, and guess what — she was also a Marine. The group of five active-duty Marines was ready to go. Together they recorded a demo and sent it off to Roulette Records. The people at Roulette liked what they heard and signed the Essex to a record deal. Their first single for the label was “Easier Said Than Done,” and it was a massive hit in 1963.

The song was written by Larry Huff and William Linton, another active-duty Marine. According the Linton, the song’s rhythm was inspired by the sound of the Teletype machine in the communications room of the Marine base. Roulette released the record in May, 1963. The Essex didn’t think much of “Easier Said Than Done” and it was released as the B-side, with a song called “Are You Going My Way” as the A-side. As so often happened in those days, DJs began to flip the record over and it became clear that “Easier Said Than Done” was the hit. By early July, it sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart as well as the R&B chart. The record was awarded a Gold Disc for selling more than one million copies.

It’s not easy being a Marine. You don’t have a lot of free time. So imagine trying to be a Marine with a hit record. Things got even more complicated when Johnson was shipped to Japan, leaving the Essex a quartet. The group carried on however, and three months later they scored a #12 hit with “A Walkin’ Miracle.” The record’s label read “The Essex Featuring Anita Humes.” Their third single, “She’s Got Everything” didn’t do as well, only reaching #56 on the pop chart. Eventually it became difficult for the group to promote their efforts because of their military commitments. They recorded a few more singles, but none of them gained any traction. Their chart run over, the Essex called it quits.

When Rodney Taylor was killed in a mugging in New York City in 1966, the entire group came to Gary, Indiana for his funeral. Anita Humes continued singing as a solo artist. She released several singles for Roulette, but didn’t find any success. Humes passed away in 2010. It would be unfair to call the Essex one-hit wonders, but that’s the way a lot of people think of them today. They will always be remembered for that one huge, indelible single, but it’s even more important that they be remembered for their service to this country.