How Boyz II Men broke Elvis Presley’s #1 record 30 years ago

When Boyz II Men first heard their signature smasher “End of the Road,” they weren’t all into “Cooleyhighharmony” about the song.

In fact, the demo, sung by writer-producer Babyface, fell flat on a member of the Grammy-winning group.

“Nate [Morris] didn’t like it at first. He just said, ‘Uh, it’s fine,'” Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman told the Post. “And we were like, ‘Man, you’re crazy. It’s better than everything is fine. We’re going to make this record!’ ”

And the rest was really history 30 years ago: After “End of the Road” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 15, 1992, it stayed at the top of the chart for 13 consecutive weeks, breaking a long-standing Elvis record Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” single. Indeed, it was an endless road for the old-school soul ballad that ultimately led to Boyz II Men’s debut album Cooleyhighharmony going nine times platinum.

Boyz II men at "American Bandstand 40th Anniversary Special" on March 25, 1992 at Studio 59, ABC Television Center Studios in Hollywood, California
Boyz II Men at the “American Bandstand 40th Anniversary Special” in 1992.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The Titanic tune was also one of the hits on the all-star soundtrack of Eddie Murphy’s classic romantic comedy Boomerang. Babyface – who wrote and produced much of the soundtrack with his End of the Road collaborators LA Reid and Daryl Simmons – was inspired by the film.

“I had to write a song for a scene,” Babyface said. “But Reggie [Hudlin, the director] it ended up being used elsewhere in the film.”

Babyface (fourth from left), James Taylor (third from left) and Boyz II Men
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, James Taylor and Boyz II Men.

Babyface had such a special feeling about the song that he almost couldn’t let it go. “I said, ‘Wow, I almost want to keep this to myself.’ ”

But the singer and hitmaker for everyone from Whitney Houston and TLC to Madonna and Mary J. Blige thought the four-part harmonies of Boyz II Men — then a quartet, now a trio — would make “End of the Road” perfect space . “It had that ‘Motownphilly’ sound…that old school sound,” he said.

Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy in the 1992s "Boomerang."
Halle Berry and Eddie Murphy in 1992’s Boomerang.
©Paramount/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
Eddie Murphy, Grace Jones, Robin Givens and Eartha Kitt in a scene from the 1992s "Boomerang."
Murphy, Grace Jones, Robin Givens and Eartha Kitt in a scene from 1992’s Boomerang.
Getty Images

At the time, Boyz II Men were riding high on the breakthrough hit Cooleyhighharmony, which didn’t include End of the Road when it was originally released in April 1991. But then-Philly group manager Michael Bivins — of New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe fame — thought the song could take them to an even higher level when he played them the demo at home.

The Boyz were in the middle of a tour with MC Hammer when they briefly returned to Philadelphia to record “End of the Road”.

“We really only had one day to get it done,” Morris said, adding that they didn’t have time to expand when they first met Babyface in the studio. “We just wanted to bang the song out, so we definitely focused on that. But it was our first chance to work with Babyface, so it was great.”

Boyz II Men during the 8th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, 1993 held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, CA, USA.
Boyz II Men at the 8th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1993.
FilmMagic, Inc
Boyz II Men pose with their Grammys at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards in 1995.
Boyz II Men pose with their Grammys at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards in 1995.
AFP/Getty Images

About five hours later, the magic was done. And 13 weeks after “End of the Road” debuted at #1, a record was broken. Boyz II Men were on the road once again when they heard the historic news about the song.

“When we found out it broke Elvis’ record, we were in London performing,” recalls Stockman. “And we were so broken and so tired that when they told us we were like, ‘Oh, cool.’ ”

The record was then broken again in 1993 by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which stayed at No. 1 for 14 weeks before Boyz II Men tied it with another babyface ballad, “I’ll Make Love to You.” . 1994. Then, “One Sweet Day” — Boyz II Men’s 1995 collaboration with Mariah Carey — broke the record again in 1996 after its 16-week reign. And now the record belongs to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which topped the singles chart for 19 weeks in 2019.

Boyz II men Wanya Morris (left), Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman
Boyz II men Wanya Morris (from left), Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman.
Chris Martin

However, when it comes to timeless classics, End of the Road beats Old Town Road. Although Babyface has a hard time picking a favorite among his many hits, he holds a special place in his heart. “It’s definitely top of the list,” said Babyface, who will release Girls’ Night Out, an album of collaborations with female R&B artists, in October. “You know, it will stay there.”

And “End of the Road” remains a staple of every single Boyz II Men concert. “If we don’t do it, we’ll be booed,” Morris said.

“You can’t ask for more from a song,” added Stockman. “It has developed an immortality. We want to have those kinds of records that survive us.” How Boyz II Men broke Elvis Presley’s #1 record 30 years ago

Emma Bowman

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