by Lee R. Watkins
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

“I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody Else” put The Masqueraders on the map in 1968 but the soul and gospel music group struggled to find consistency after producing that hit record.
Fast forward almost 50 years and The Masqueraders are turning to “America’s Got Talent” (AGT) for a music industry comeback. The Memphis-based trio will appear on AGT’s live round on Tuesday, August 22, at 7 p.m.
They have a simple appeal: Tune in to vote live.
The trio of Harold Thomas, 74, Robert “Tex” Wrightsil, 73, and Sam Hutchins, 73, was made aware of the AGT Memphis live audition while reading a newspaper. Wrightsil placed a call to Thomas, and they both persuaded Hutchins to give the audition a shot. Hutchins, hours removed from completing his shift at FedEx, joined the other two members at the AGT audition held at the Cook Convention Center in February.
The members of the veteran music group found themselves wedged among 4,000 AGT hopefuls. The Masqueraders grew weary and contemplated leaving the audition. Thomas recited a poem and encouraged the other two members to stay. They regained their composure and proceeded to sing Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
The judges were impressed and The Masqueraders was selected to move to the next round. The type of perseverance displayed on audition day is what kept the group afloat during the hard times. Eager for another opportunity to showcase their skills, a 12-hour audition day was not going to prevent them from doing such.
“Having the experience helped us out a lot because when we walked out on the stage we wasn’t nervous,” Thomas said. “That’s where we are comfortable at. That’s what we always wanted, for the people to hear us.”
The Masqueraders’ professional musical journey began as a five-man vocal unit from Dallas in the late 1950s before two of original members left the band to pursue other careers.
With hopes of landing with Motown Records, The Masqueraders traveled to Detroit. But opportunity didn’t knock there, so they headed over to La Beat records to record several tracks. After a brief return to Dallas, The Masqueraders settled in Memphis, where the trio resides today.
Drawn to Memphis by the allure of Stax Records, a conversation with Bobby Womack led them to American Sound Studio, where they recorded “I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody Else,” which featured Womack on lead guitar.
The Masqueraders also worked with other artists such as Willie Mitchell and Box Tops, signing with Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul label in 1975.
The partnership with Hayes was short-lived.
“We never got the exposure like The Temptations and the Four Tops,” Thomas said. “When we got with Isaac Hayes, we thought we finally had our chance. Isaac had received an Academy Award and he chose to produce us. We recorded two great albums (‘Everybody Wanna Live On’ and ‘Love Anonymous’) and then he filed for bankruptcy. It will always be something there to stop us.”
The Masqueraders spent some time in the United Kingdom.
“The people in England love us,” Wrightsil said. “Over here in the United States, we are treated like peons. The people in England would kiss our hands and be in awe when they saw us. We didn’t know the music we recorded back in Detroit was gaining attention in England, but the people was going crazy over our music.”
The Masqueraders would like for Memphis to get behind them and give them some much needed hometown support.
“It would mean a lot us to have Memphis rally around us,” Thomas said. “It will show some positivity from the Memphis scene.”

WHERE TO WATCH

The Masqueraders
perform during
“America’s Got Talent — LIVE”
on Aug. 22
on WMC-TV5.
Check local listings for time.