The Fleetwoods

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The Fleetwoods
OriginOlympia, Washington, United States
GenresPop, Doo Wop
Years active1958 (1958)–1983
LabelsDolton Records
Past membersGary Troxel
Gretchen Christopher
Barbara Ellis
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The Fleetwoods
OriginOlympia, Washington, United States
GenresPop, Doo Wop
Years active1958 (1958)–1983
LabelsDolton Records
Past membersGary Troxel
Gretchen Christopher
Barbara Ellis

The Fleetwoods were a singing group from Olympia, Washington, whose members were Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis.


Troxel and Christopher sang her melody and lyrics in counterpoint to his jazz riff.

"Come Softly To Me" was also covered by others. The UK's Frankie Vaughan and The Kaye Sisters had a Top 10 chart hit in the United Kingdom with the song, though The Fleetwoods exceeded them, simultaneously charting in the UK's Top 5.[1][2]

Their second hit, "Graduation's Here" was co-written by Ellis and Christopher, with Troxel later adding a scat line in counterpoint. That one was followed by "Mr. Blue," which, like "Come Softly To Me", also topped the pop charts. This made the Fleetwoods the first group in the world to have multiple No. 1 Hits top The Billboard Hot 100 in a single year, and the first mixed-gender trio ever with more than one No. 1 hit. (Note that this first occurred in 1959, and that the Hot 100 began in mid-1958.) Also, on the Cash Box Top 50 for the full year of 1959, the Fleetwoods have two entries: "Come Softly To Me" and "Mr. Blue". There is no other group in that year's Top 50 with more than one record.

The Fleetwoods continued recording into the 1960s, with a number of other successes. They hit the Top 10 again with "Tragedy" in 1961. Though they went on to have a total of eleven hits on the Hot 100, the beginning of the end for the group came when Troxel had to fulfill his obligation to go onto active duty in the Navy. He joined the U.S. Navy Naval Reserve in 1956. Additionally, the British Invasion of the mid 1960s changed the public's taste. The trio's hits ended in 1963 with Barbara Ellis singing melody on "Goodnight My Love". Vic Dana, who was to go on to a successful solo career, replaced Troxel in the group when he was in the service, solely for live performances.[3]

By the late 1970s, Troxel was working in a plywood plant in Washington; Ellis was managing a trailer park in California and Christopher was a housewife and modern jazz dance teacher in Washington at St. Martin's College and at The Evergreen State College. Ellis is now retired from performing. In 1983, Troxel gave his written resignation from The Fleetwoods leaving Christopher as manager with the sole authority to contract for both the original and replacement Fleetwoods. Troxel formed a new Fleetwoods group in the 1980s. His group has been performing regularly since the mid 80's doing several "oldies" concerts each year with two performances on the PBS Doo Wop series. See

While Christopher trained replacement Fleetwoods she also resumed her solo music career, billing herself as "Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods." Both Troxel and Christopher each continue to perform and occasionally release new recordings. A new Fleetwoods version of "Graduation's Here" appeared on Christopher's autobiographical solo album, Gretchen's Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16) which is one of the 2007 Billboard critics' picks for 10 Best Albums of the Year. It included both the hit arrangement of "Come Softly To Me" and the a cappella "Come Softly", with Christopher singing all the parts.

Since their 1988 induction into the Northwest Area Music Association Hall of Fame, and their 2005 induction into the Olympia High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame, The Fleetwoods have been inducted into both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame of America in 2006.

The November 2007 release of Gretchen's Sweet Sixteen (Suite 16) was launched in Las Vegas with the second Annual Cool Bobby B Doo Wop Convention and Grand Finale Concert, headlined by 'The Fleetwoods starring Gretchen Christopher.' A year later, though all three originals were inducted and invited to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Christopher was the only original member of the Fleetwoods who accepted, attended and performed, dedicating songs to each of her absent partners. Troxel had every intention of attending but decided it was more important to be with his wife, because of her breast cancer treatment.

In 2000, Troxel and his wife Jenifer lost Troxel v. Granville, a landmark grandparents' rights case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The court held that under the United States Constitution, non-parents seeking custody or visitation rights of a child against the wishes of the child's parents must prove that the parents are not acting in the best interest of the child in refusing custody or visitation.[4]

In 2008 and 2009, Christopher testified before the Washington State Senate in support of the Truth in Music Advertising Bill. In 2009, it passed both the House and Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire. The law provides that a performing group shall not be advertised by the name of a recording group, unless the performing group includes from the hit-making recording group at least one original member who is authorized to use the name. That authorization resides solely with Christopher, according to the performance contract and resignation signed by Troxel.



A-SideB-SideRelease dateLabel + Cat. No.Chart positions
US Hot 100CanadaUK
Come Softly to MeI Care So MuchFebruary 1959Dolphin 1
Liberty 55188
Graduation's HereOh Lord Let It BeApril 1959Dolton 33938
Mr. BlueJuly 1959Dolton 511
You Mean Everything to Me84
Outside My WindowMagic StarJanuary 1960Dolton 1528
RunaroundTruly DoApril 1960Dolton 222325
The Last One to KnowDormilonaAugust 1960Dolton 2796
ConfidentialI Love You SoNovember 1960Dolton 30
Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')Little White Cloud That CriedMarch 1961Dolton 37 (cancelled)
TragedyLittle Miss Sad OneMarch 1961Dolton 40107
(He's) The Great ImposterPoor Little GirlJuly 1961Dolton 45307
Billy Old BuddyTroubleJanuary 1962Dolton 49
Jimmy BewareBazoom (I Need Your Lovin')March 1962Dolton 54 (cancelled)
Lovers by Night, Strangers by DayThey Tell Me It's SummerJuly 1962Dolton 6236
Sure Is Lonesome DowntownYou Should Have Been ThereMarch 1963Dolton 74
Goodnight My LoveJimmy BewareApril 1963Dolton 7532
What'll I DoBaby Bye-OOctober 1963Dolton 86
Ruby Red Baby BlueLonesome TownMarch 1964Dolton 93
Ska Light, Ska Bright (Jamaica Ska)Ten Times BlueJune 1964Dolton 97
Mr. SandmanThis Is My Prayer (Non L'Ete Per Armati)July 1964Dolton 98
Before And After (Losing You)Lonely Is As Lonely DoesDecember 1964Dolton 302
Come Softly To Me (1965 Version)I'm Not JimmyMay 1965Dolton 307
RainbowJust As I Need YouAugust 1965Dolton 310
For Lovin' MeThis Is Where I See HerJanuary 1966Dolton 315


Original albums[edit]



  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 583. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 205. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000) (follow links at top of page for opinion)

External links[edit]