Hank Medress, co-founder of the group The Tokens died of lung cancer June 18, 2007 at his Manhattan home. Brooklyn High School classmates Medress and Neil Sedaka formed a singing group in 1955 called the Linc-Tones. They went on to record “While I Dream” on Melba records as The Tokens with Sedaka on lead vocals. After little success, Sedaka left to pursue a solo career and Medress formed Darrell and the Oxfords with singer Jay Siegel. He reformed the Tokens, added brothers Phil and Mitch Margo and got a recording contract with Warwick records. Shortly thereafter, the group scored their first charted hit, “Tonight I Fell In Love”.
In 1961, they moved to RCA-Victor records and scored a number one song with their first release, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, a traditional Zulu melody that the Weavers had released as a folk song in the early 50’s entitled “Wimoweh”. They enjoyed enough chart success with RCA to start their own label, B.T. Puppy.
It was at this point that Medress stopped singing backup harmony with the group and concentrated on producing. Hank’s produced three top-10 hits for the 1960s girl group The Chiffons, “Sweet Talkin’ Guy,” “One Fine Day” and “He’s So Fine.”
In addition to the Tokens recording on B.T. Puppy, Medress also produced
the Happenings and had great success with “See You in September” and “I Got Rhythm.” Medress left the Tokens in 1970 and was the creative force behind the group Dawn, producing such hits as “Candida,” “Knock Three Times,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree”. Hank wanted to use Barry Manilow as the lead singer for the group, but Barry wanted a solo career, so he talked his good friend Tony Orlando out of retirement and the result was the pinnacle of Tony’s singing career. Other artists that Medress produced include Dan Hill, Melissa Manchester, Richard Simmons, Rick Springfield, and David Johansen (as his alter ego, Buster Poindexter).
From 1990 to 1992, Mr. Medress was president of EMI Music Publishing Canada and, after returning to New York, became a partner in Bottom Line Records, which released recordings of performances at the Bottom Line club in Greenwich Village as well as new work by emerging artists. Mr. Medress leaves four children and two grandchildren.
Listen for Darrel & the Oxfords and The Tokens on TUNEDEX MEMORIES at songsyoushouldhaveheard.com.