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Fond Farewell: Cardinals' lead singer Warren dies at 78

Junius ?Ernest? Warren, 78, whose clear and powerful tenor led the 1950s R&B vocal group the Cardinals to three Top 10 R&B chart hits, has died.

Junius ?Ernest? Warren, whose clear and powerful tenor led the 1950s R&B vocal group the Cardinals to three Top 10 R&B chart hits, has died.

Warren, 78, died June 30 in Baltimore. He had suffered a major stroke in fall 2005 and had been living at the home of his son, Darryl, since then. The singer never regained the power of speech after the stroke, and he had been hospitalized in recent weeks, family members said. Funeral services were held Aug. 2.

Warren was featured on the group?s national best-sellers including ?Shouldn?t I Know,? ?Wheel of Fortune,? ?Come Back My Love? and ?The Door Is Still Open.?

Born in Norfolk, Va., on March 16, 1929, Warren and his family moved to Baltimore in 1940. Growing up in the Somerset Housing Projects, he began singing with tenor Meredith ?Prince? Brothers, baritone Donald ?Jack? Johnson and bass Leon ?Treetop? Hardy in 1947.

?We were doing things like ?Without a Song? and ?September Song,? ?Bewildered? and ?It?s Too Soon To Know? by the Orioles,? Warren recalled. ?We had a hundred songs in our repertoire.?

Originally known as the Mellotones, the quartet added second tenor-guitarist James ?Sam? Aydelotte in 1950 after meeting him at a local amateur show. The group came to the attention of local music store owner Sam Azrael, who referred them to Atlantic Records founders Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson.

?We were doing songs by Ruth Brown,? Warren recalled of their audition for Atlantic. ?They wanted to know if we had anything original. That?s when we did ?Shouldn?t I Know,? and they loved that.?

Signed to Atlantic that night, the Cardinals were teamed with prolific arranger, composer and musician Jesse Stone (1901-1999), who produced the majority of the group?s dozen releases for the firm between 1951 and 1957.

?Shouldn?t I Know? hit #7 on Billboard?s R&B chart in fall 1951 and was followed into the top 10 by ?Wheel of Fortune? in spring 1952.

In March 1952, Warren was drafted. He eventually served in the U.S. Army in Korea through February 1954 before he was discharged and subsequently rejoined the Cardinals.

The group?s biggest success, ?The Door Is Still Open,? written by Chuck Willis, spent 13 weeks on the chart in the spring and summer of 1955, where it peaked at #4.

The group toured constantly during its heyday.

?Groups, musicians ? we never had a cross word or bad word with them,? Warren recounted. ?We?ve never been anyplace that we can?t go back.?

A cover of the Wrens? ?Come Back My Love,? the stellar ballad ?Here Goes My Heart to You? and Warren?s own personal favorite, ?The End of the Story? ? 16 year-old Neil Sedaka?s fine lost love composition ? broadened the group?s fan base and earned the Cardinals the respect of their peers.

But they didn?t command the sales figures the label had enjoyed with the Drifters, Coasters and Clovers.

The Cardinals simply never heard from Atlantic again after a December 1956 session.

?We were just plain ignorant and stupid about business,? Warren admitted. ?Contracts, money, and things of that nature never crossed our minds. When we were getting that $600 or $700 for the gig, we were satisfied at that particular time. We did OK (but) at our own expense. Down South, we ate a lot of bologna and cheese. At that particular time, (the people at Atlantic) were like daddies to us, we thought. But they were making a buck off us.?

The group continued to work periodically into 1960 before splitting up.

?During that time, there were almost 30 babies between us,? Warren explained. ?The girls got tired of us going away and coming back. It?s funny now. It wasn?t then. I had r