Marvin Berry and the Starlighters
Biographical information
Physical description
Behind-the-scenes information
"Onstage were the band, Marvin Berry and the Starlighters. All five men were black, consisting of drummer, piano player, sax and bass, with Marvin himself playing guitar and singing. Now he was rendering the popular melody from the motion picture Three Coins in the Fountain. On the dance floor, several hundred young men and women, elegantly dressed, leaned against one another and moved in torpid time to the music."
—From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, pages 201 and 202)

Marvin Berry and the Starlighters was a band led by Marvin Berry. They performed at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance on November 12, 1955. Marvin played the guitar and was the lead vocalist, while another member, Reginald, played the drums. The other three played the piano, the bass fiddle and the saxophone. The band took a break shortly before 9:00 in the evening, and went out to Reginald's car to smoke. When Marty McFly was locked in the trunk of their car during their break by Match, Skinhead, and 3-D, the band demanded to know why the bullies were messing with their car, which was the private property of the band. Biff's gang responded with racist taunts and accusations of drug abuse ("spook" and "reefer addicts" respectively). These slurs enraged the band, who chased away Biff's gang. As the keys were locked in the trunk with Marty, Marvin attempted to jimmy open the trunk with a screwdriver, but badly cut his left hand in the process. This caused Marvin to call it a night, since he couldn't play guitar with an injured hand; however Marty stepped forward to continue the dance.

Marty, Marvin and the Starlighters backstage.

After "Earth Angel", the band joined Marty in an upbeat tune that was to be a rock 'n' roll classic, "Johnny B. Goode". However, as Marty segued over to heavy metal, the Starlighters gave up on trying to figure out where he was going, and Marty concluded the act on his own, to the confusion of the audience.



Behind the scenes

  • The Starlighters were played by Harry Waters, Jr. (as Marvin), Tommy Thomas, Granville "Danny" Young, David Harold Brown, and Lloyd L. Tolbert.
  • The band "Joey Dee and the Starliters" (with a somewhat different spelling) would have a #1 hit in early 1962 with the song "The Peppermint Twist".
  • Due to the racist connotations of the term 'spook', the British espionage TV drama show Spooks (2002-2011) was renamed MI-5 when the screening rights were sold to the United States. The show's feature film sequel Spooks: The Greater Good (2015) was also renamed MI-5 for the U.S. market, for the same reason.


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