THEY GATHERED in the parking lot of a Mount Airy diner, a bunch of senior citizens, hair gray, paunches protruding - a mere shadow, one might think, of the singing group that once wowed audiences in the U.S. and abroad.
The group, the Tymes, produced what some regard as the greatest pop ballad of all time, and actually edged out the Beatles to reach the No. 1 spot on the pop charts in the United Kingdom in the early '60s.
But there they were, attending a ceremonial occasion on April 22, 2010, the dedication of a doo-wop mural featuring two groups, the Tymes and Neighbor's Complaint, at the Trolley Car Diner on Germantown Avenue.
Among the group was the bass singer, Donald Banks, who had retired but who still showed up for special performances.
He died Oct. 7 at age 72 of complications of a stroke and cancer.
Donald was one of the original members of the group, which started in the '50s as harmonizing teenagers on the streets of North Philadelphia when they called themselves the Latineers.
With Donald were Norman Burnett, Albert "Caesar" Berry III and George Hilliard. Later, they added George Williams Jr. as lead singer.
The Latineers started getting a local reputation after they appeared on a talent contest hosted by WDAS radio, called "The Tip Top Talent Hour."
Billy Jackson, the talent researcher for Cameo-Parkway Records and himself a singer, auditioned the kids and signed them up.
The group changed the name to the Tymes and recorded "So Much In Love," which hit No. 1 on the pop charts in the summer of 1963.
"There are those who say 'So Much In Love' is the greatest pop ballad of all time," the Tumblr.com blog states. "Many could tell where they were the first time they heard that immortal 'As we stroll along together . . . ' opening."
It was the record that replaced the Beatles on the UK charts. In 2001, it was elected to the Songs of the Century list.
The Tymes followed up with "Wonderful Wonderful," which reached No. 7; "Somewhere"; "To Each His Own"; "The Magic of Our Summer Love"; and "Here She Comes."
The group moved to Columbia Records and scored a moderate hit with "People."
"This is a group whose hits spanned the most exciting period in pop music, the mid-Sixties through the mid-Seventies," the Tumblr blog said. "In addition to having hit records throughout the world, the Tymes' first two tours of England were smashing triumphs and a third tour set attendance records."
A song recorded in 1974, "Ms. Grace," didn't do well in the U.S. but reached No. 1 in the U.K. The Tymes, far from being over the hill, recently returned from a major soul-music concert in the U.K., although Donald wasn't with them.
At the mural dedication in Germantown, Norman Burnett, then 66, who sings lead and second baritone, told the Inquirer, "People think we're old, but we can step like the Temptations, cool and sophisticated."
Although the Tymes never returned to the top of the charts after those heady days of the '60s and '70s, they accomplished something just as important: They stayed together.
"Sure, we've had our differences of opinion, but nothing we couldn't settle," Donald once said.
"I don't feel too many groups have stayed together after this many years."
In 2005, the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, in Sharon, Pa.
Donald was born in Philadelphia to Nathan Banks and the former Edith Reinisch.