The following scenario might sound familiar: A pair of German music producers cut a record with hired studio musicians and release it under the name of a fictitious group. The record becomes an international dance hit, and suddenly the world wants to see the “artists” behind it—live and in person. So, people are hired to play the role who, though they had nothing to do with creating the hit, look good on stage and are skilled dancers. When this scenario played out in 1989 and 1990 with the group Milli Vanilli, the eventual exposure of the deception caused an international uproar. But when it happened the first time around, in the mid-1970s, nobody seemed to care. In that first case, the group in question was Silver Convention—a disco trio portrayed by three attractive female singers who never sang a single note on the song “Fly, Robin, Fly,” which became a #1 pop hit in the United States on this day in 1975.
The Silver Convention deception was born in Munich, Germany—a mid-70s hotbed of dance-music production whose most famous exports would be Queen of Disco Donna Summer and the super-producer Giorgio Moroder. But before that pair rose to fame in 1978, a pair named Silvester Levay and Michael Kunze went into a studio in early 1975 and created a European disco hit called “Save Me,” using a trio of hired female background singers to lay down the vocals. Released under the name Silver Convention, “Save Me” was a big enough hit to lead to a contract for an entire album. Using the same hired talent, Levay and Kunze recorded the song “Fly, Robin, Fly” (originally intended to be called “Run, Rabbit, Run”), which, to their great surprise, crossed the Atlantic first to American dance clubs, and then to American pop radio.
As “Fly, Robin, Fly” flew up the charts in the fall of 1975, booking requests for live appearances began building up, forcing Levay and Kunze to come up with a group to front their creation. Unable to come to terms with their original hired singers, Levay and Kunze hired Penny McLean, Linda Thompson and Ramona Wolf to become Silver Convention.
While the parallels to the Milli Vanilli story are striking, the attractive performers put forward as Silver Convention not only looked the part in their sequined disco dresses, but they could also actually sing their hit in live performances—something the attractive gentlemen who comprised Milli Vanilli could not do. In fact, McLean, Thompson and Wolf are the actual voices on Silver Convention’s only other American hit, “Get Up And Boogie,” which climbed as high as #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1976.