Original O'Jays member Bill Isles dies at age 78

(April 7, 2019) The Los Angeles Times has reported that William Carvan Isles II, an original member of the O’Jays, has died at his San Diego home. He was 78.

Bill Isles was born in North Carolina but moved to Canton, Ohio as a child. As a teenager, Isles co-founded a vocal group called the Triumphs with friends Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell and Bobby Massey. The group attained some local notoriety, but when legendary local deejay Eddie O’Jay offered to help the act in exchange for naming the act after him, the members quickly obliged.

(April 7, 2019) The Los Angeles Times has reported that William Carvan Isles II, an original member of the O’Jays, has died at his San Diego home. He was 78.

Bill Isles was born in North Carolina but moved to Canton, Ohio as a child. As a teenager, Isles co-founded a vocal group called the Triumphs with friends Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell and Bobby Massey. The group attained some local notoriety, but when legendary local deejay Eddie O’Jay offered to help the act in exchange for naming the act after him, the members quickly obliged.

A series of moderate hits followed, including national charters “Lonely Drifter” “Lipstick Traces.” Isles quit in 1965, but continued to help on tours for The O’Jays for nearly a decade, when the group consisted of Levert, Williams and Powell. Isles moved to California, where he opened a successful food supplement business, retiring earlier in this century. He remained active singing Gospel locally.

Of course, the O’Jays went on to become one of the most important vocal groups of the past half century, teaming with legendary producers Gamble and Huff, and helping to define the Philadelphia sound. The O’Jays are now readying a new studio album, The Last Word, even as they prepare to stop touring. (See our biography of The O'Jays).

While Bill Isles isn’t well known to music fans, he played a key role in the inception of one of the all-time great soul music groups, and he will retain an important part in music history. May he rest in peace.

 

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