The Marquees formed in 1957, mainly comprised of students at DC's Cardozo High School. Chester Simmons developed the vocal group out of The Rainbows with members Reese Palmer, James Nolan, and Marvin Gay, who later changed his last name to Gaye. The Marquees performed in high school talent shows and at the Lincoln Theater on U St NW. In classic doo-wop fashion, they rehearsed and held impromptu sessions on street corners.
They were introduced to Bo Diddley, who worked with them and secured them a recording session with Okeh Records. Their 1957 recording session in New York City resulted in two songs that Bo Diddley's band provided background instrumentation on: "Wyatt Earp" and "Hey Little School Girl." (Reese Palmer sang lead on both songs.) The group also backed Billy Stewart on two songs during the same session. Unfortunately, Okeh Records did not promote The Marquees' records, which resulted in meager national sales.
Chester Simmons, who was Bo Diddley's driver and valet, had an opportunity to meet Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows. In 1959 while performing at the Howard Theater, Fuqua indicated that he needed a new set of Moonglows. Simmons convinced Fuqua to audition The Marquees. As a result, The Marquees became The New Moonglows. The group went on tour and recorded for Chess Records. Marvin Gaye recorded his first lead vocals in 1959 with the New Moonglows on "Mama Loocie." The former Marquees members, without Fuqua, also recorded backing vocals at Chess, notably for Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A." and Bo Diddley's "I'm Sorry."
By 1960, the original members of the Marquees went their separate ways. Harvey Fuqua and Marvin Gaye went to Detroit to work with a new record label, Motown, where Marvin achieved international fame as a solo artist during the 60's and 70's. In 1979, Reese Palmer along with Linda Sizer (Watts) reorganized The Marquees. Joining them in the new group were Warren “Scooter” Magruder, Jr.; James “Big Mike” Battle; Glennis Mitchiner, Jr.; and Ronald “Poozie” Miles, Sr., who had been with The Rainbows along with Linda Sizer's future husband, Donald Watts. This version of The Marquees performed from 1979-1981.
After the second Marquees broke up in 1981, Reese Palmer continued to perform with Diz Russell's Orioles. In 2001, Palmer reorganized The Marquees once again with local vocalists and musicians. Of the original Marquees group, Marvin Gaye tragically passed away in 1984 followed by Chester Simmons in 1988 and Reese Palmer in 2011.
Harvey Fuqua & the New Moonglows; The Marquees before they became the New Moonglows; The 1979 Marquees
“The King of the west, a better shot than all of the rest”
- Wyatt Earp