Earlington Carl Tilghman (Sonny Til) was the lead singer of The Orioles, a vocal group from Baltimore, Maryland. In the late 1940s, the Orioles had many R&B hit records, starting with their first, “It’s Too Soon To Know.” Their biggest hit was 1953’s “Crying In The Chapel.”
Before serving in the military, Erlington Tilghman always wanted to make it big as a singer. When he returned home from serving in the service, his girlfriend encouraged him to perform in a local amateur show; he won first place two nights in a row and began vocalizing with subsequent winners.
Til formed a group which included Sonny (lead and second tenor), Alexander Sharp (first tenor), George Nelson (second lead and baritone), Johnny Reed (bass), and guitarist Tommy Gaither. Sonny named them the Vibranairs. Their harmonizing on Pennsylvania and Pitcher Streets earned them a chance to sing at the bar on that corner. Inside they met songwriter/salesclerk Deborah Chessler, who’d written a ballad, “It’s Too Soon to Know.”
Jerry Blaine, a record distributor, signed them to his It’s a Natural label that summer, changing their name to the Orioles. Blaine’s label became Jubilee in August 1948, and the sales of “It’s Too Soon to Know” were credited to that company. Their next release, “Lonely Christmas,” reached number eight on the R&B chart. Two singles later “Tell Me So” became their second R&B number one. The Orioles disbanded when they found it difficult to earn top dollar in a market flooded with a new generation of groups. However, Til would go on to form other groups under the Orioles name. On December 9, 1981, Sonny Til died at the age of 56 due to heart failure.