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Jake and Zeke Carey formed the group in Chicago, after meeting Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter at a black Jewish church. Earl Lewis soon joined, and after a series of name changes (The Swallows, El Flamingos, The Five Flamingos) wound up being known as The Flamingos. Sollie McElroy soon replaced Lewis (who joined The Five Echoes).
Their first single, "If I Can't Have You", was a moderate success, and the follow-ups "That's My Desire" and "Golden Teardrops" cemented their reputation. "I Only Have Eyes for You" (1959, originally recorded by Dick Powell in 1934) became their biggest hit and was followed by a long series of hits. By 1964, however, the group's career was essentially over.
The Flamingos were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.