The Exciters was an American pop music group of the 1960s. They were originally a girl group, with one male member being added afterwards. At the height of their popularity the group consisted of lead singer Brenda Reid, her husband Herb Rooney, Carolyn Johnson and Lillian Walker.
Brenda Reid, Carolyn (Carol) Johnson, Lillian Walker, and Sylvia Wilbur formed the group while at high school together in Queens, New York City, in 1961. They were originally called the Masterettes, as a sister group to another group called the Masters, and released their first recording, “Follow the Leader”, in early 1962. Wilbur then left the group to be replaced by Penny Carter, and they auditioned for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, winning a recording contract. Penny Carter then left, and was replaced by Herb Rooney, a member of the Masters; Reid and Rooney later married.
The group’s name was changed to the Exciters, and their first hit record, arranged by George “Teacho” Wiltshire and produced by Leiber and Stoller for United Artists Records, was “Tell Him”, which reached no.4 on the U.S. pop chart in early 1963. The song had previously been recorded unsuccessfully, as “Tell Her”, by Gil Hamilton later known as Johnny Thunder. According to Jason Ankeny at AllMusic, the Exciters’ version of “Tell Him” “…boasted an intensity that signified a sea change in the presentation and perception of femininity in popular music, paving the way for such tough, sexy acts as the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes.”
Dusty Springfield was on a stop-over in New York City en route to Nashville to make a country music album with the Springfields in 1962, when she heard the Exciters’ “Tell Him” playing while taking a late-night walk by the Colony Record Store on Broadway. The song helped Springfield decide to embark on a solo career with a Pop/Soul direction. She’d recall: “The Exciters sort of got you by the throat…out of the blue comes blasting at you “I know something about love”, and that’s it. That’s what I wanna do.”
Other songs by the group included “He’s Got the Power” (written by Ellie Greenwich and Tony Powers), “Get Him”, and Northern Soul classic “Blowing Up My Mind”. The Exciters also recorded “Do-Wah-Diddy”, written by Greenwich and Jeff Barry, in 1963; with a revised title of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” it was covered shortly after by Manfred Mann, for whom it was an international hit.
In 1965, the Exciters left the Leiber-Stoller management team, and the United Artists label, for Roulette Records. There they issued a remake (with revised lyrics) of the Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers’ song “I Want You to Be My Boy.” They continued to record through the 1960s for Bert Berns’ labels Bang and Shout, and later for RCA, but with little success. Ronnie Pace and Skip McPhee replaced Johnson and Walker. The group broke up in 1974.
Watch “Exciters 1963” on YouTube