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Founding members Walter Vickers (guitar) and Rodney Taylor (drums) were U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After being transferred to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, they enlisted fellow Marines Billy Hill and Rudolph Johnson as group members. Next they added a female lead singer, Anita Humes, another Marine.
In 1963, a demo earned them a recording contract with Roulette Records. They recorded "Easier Said Than Done" in 20 minutes. The song was written by Larry Huff and William Linton, who said that the beat was inspired by the sound of multiple teletype machines, noisy mechanical beasts pounding out copy in the base's communications room. Released as their first single, the song reached the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. The track sold over one million records and received a gold disc award from the R.I.A.A. "Easier Said Than Done" reached #41 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1963.
Rudolph Johnson left the group, and the Essex became a quartet. Three months after "Easier Said Than Done" reached #1 in July 1963, the group had a #12 hit with the follow-up song, "A Walkin' Miracle" in September 1963. On the label of this single, the group name appeared as 'The Essex Featuring Anita Humes.' The next single, "She's Got Everything," written by Jimmy Radcliffe and Oramay Diamond was a #56 hit. Marine duties made it hard for the group to take advantage of their hits; for example, before long, Johnson was posted to Okinawa. Rodney Taylor was killed in 1966 in New York City during an attempted mugging. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana. All of his former band mates attended his funeral.