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One of the most successful R&B male vocal groups of all time, Boyz II Men, is set to perform in three Southern California venues this weekend including Anaheim, Los Angeles and Agoura Hills. The group is most remembered for five #1 R&B hits between 1992 and 1997 and has sold more than 60 million records.
Three of its #1 hits, “End of the Road”, “I’ll Make Love to You”, and “One Sweet Day” (with Mariah Carey), set and broke records for the longest period of time a single remained at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100; the last of them still holds the record. Although “On Bended Knee” did not break any records, it was still an immensely popular song that reached #1 and made Boyz II Men the third artists (behind Elvis and The Beatles) to replace themselves at the number one spot of the Billboard Hot 100.
Founded in 1988, Boyz II Men found fame as a quartet, with members Nathan Morris, Michael McCary, Shawn Stockman, and Wanya Morris, on Motown Records during the early 1990s. Nelson left the group before their first recording to pursue a solo career.
The members idolized New Edition, one of the most popular R&B groups of the 1980s. They found inspiration in New Edition’s harmonies and routines, and eventually named their group “Boyz II Men” after one of New Edition’s songs.
Sneaking backstage after a 1989 concert performed by Bell Biv DeVoe (a New Edition spin-off group), Boyz II Men performed an a cappella rendition of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain” for New Edition/BBD member Michael Bivins. Bivins was impressed by the group, and began plans to sign them to Motown Records through a production deal with his Biv Ten Records company. But before the group began recording, Marc Nelson left because of personality conflicts, reducing the quintet to a quartet.
From the beginning, Boyz II Men featured all four members trading leads, avoiding the usual R&B group arrangement of one or two lead singers and a team of background singers. The multiple-lead arrangements became a Boyz II Men trademark, and it became typical to hear Wanya Morris’ vibrato-heavy tenor, Shawn Stockman’s smoother tenor voice, Nathan Morris’ baritone, and Michael McCary’s deep bass (often used in spoken-word sections of many Boyz II Men hits) trading bars in each song.
The album’s liner notes identified nicknames for each member of the group. These nicknames were devised in collaboration with Bivins in an attempt at marketing. Wanya was “Squirt,” Shawn was “Slim,” Michael was simply “Bass,” and Nathan was named after a soap opera character who brandished a nerdy style, “Alex Vanderpool.”
While on tour in 1992, Boyz II Men briefly returned to the studio to record the single “End of the Road”, co-written and produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, for the soundtrack to Eddie Murphy’s film Boomerang. “End of the Road” became a record-breaking success, remaining at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for thirteen weeks, breaking the previous record of 11 weeks set by Elvis Presley with “Don’t Be Cruel”/”Hound Dog” in 1956.