SONG: The Wind
ARTIST: Nolan Strong & The Diablos
Listen to it here:
“The Wind” was originally recorded on a 45rpm record with “Baby Be Mine” by Nolan Strong & The Diablos. The lyrics are about a man who feels the summer wind blowing as he thinks about a lover who left him. It’s considered to be one of the great songs to come out of Detroit, and was Nolan Strong & The Diablos’ only national hit.
The group, also billed as The Diablos Featuring Nolan Strong, were a Detroit-based R&B and doo-wop vocal group. In Detroit they were one of the most popular pre-Motown R&B acts of mid-1950s. The group was signed to Fortune Records from 1954 to around 1973.
Nolan Strong was born in Alabama and moved to Detroit when he was very young. He started his first vocal group when he was 16, and called it The Diablos (he just really liked that name). Strong’s high tenor voice was very recognizable. Strong died young, age 43 in Detroit. Very little is known about the last years of his life.
The Diablos were most known for Nolan Strong’s high tenor voice, and their most popular hit, “The Wind”. The group formed in high school around 1950, and they started recording demos for Fortune Records in 1954 to further their careers. They had no idea how quickly success would come to them. Their second demo record was all written by members of the group, and it was the haunting sound of “The Wind” that really made them stick out. After the release of “The Wind”, two of the original members left the group, and were replaced by Nolan Strong’s brother on tenor, and George Scott on bass. For the next two years, this configuration was busy, recording several records and performing all around Detroit.
In 1956 more changes happened to the lineup with George Scott leaving to join another group, and Strong departing for a two-year army stint. Without Strong, the group seemed to waiver, releasing only a few recordings that didn’t have the same magic as those recorded with Nolan Strong at the helm.
After Strong returned from the army, things weren’t quite the same. The Diablos group felt that Fortune Records were focussing too much on Strong while ignoring the Diablos, and their names on the records changed from The Diablos Featuring Nolan Strong to Nolan Strong & The Diablos, and eventually, just Nolan Strong, even though The Diablos featured just as prominently on those recordings. This, combined with a very unequal pay rate between Strong and the rest of the group, eventually led to the group’s demise.
In 1964 the group disbanded. Some members went to other groups, some tried for solo careers, but with limited success.
Smokey Robinson lists Nolan Strong’s voice as one of his biggest inspirations.
Why have I never heard of this group before?? This is absolutely the kind of doo wop that I’m in love with. Anyway, I’m also not surprised at all that this came out of Detroit, some of my favourite music comes from there. I’m also not surprised that Smokey Robinson says the lead singer inspired him, I can hear Smokey all over this! When the song started with that mellophone or whatever instrument it was I originally thought, ooooo is this song gonna be ooky spooky? But then the 4 part harmony comes in and tunes themselves up and I let out an audible “woooo!” I was not expecting the rest of the song to sound the way it did, and love the chord it ended on (augmented? Diminished? I don’t remember anymore). Anyhow, it’s a shame that Nolan Strong isn’t more famous because he was so influential. Love it.
YES!!! I love getting to hear new-to-me music in a genre I enjoy! Nolan Strong has a unique, smooth, and shockingly high-pitched voice. The background vocals are tight, and seem to meld together well. Personally, I wish the bass voice had taken the talking part in the middle, but that’s just a little thing. You can really hear how future doo-wop and R&B musicians were influenced by the Diablos’ sound. One other thing I wish this song had was more of the feel of that intro. I was so hooked by that intro and wish it came back, maybe to bookend the song or something. All in all, though, I’ll consider this one another great find in this 1,001 songs journey!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
The Calveys version is good if you can completely ignore the horrific saxophone playing:
The Jesters, absolutely killing it:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:
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