Although Wingate refused to sign the group (stating that he "didn't want any more white acts on his label"), the four continued to hang around the Golden World studios at night and on weekends. It was here where they met engineer/producer John Rhys, who worked for the label. Rhys thought the act needed a name that better suited their vocal style and suggested "The Shades of Blue." Everyone agreed, and the name stuck.
One day at Golden World, The Shades were introduced to Edwin Starr, (real name: Charles Hatcher), who recorded for the label. Starr showed the group a song he was writing called "Oh How Happy." It was just the right kind of tune that the quartet was looking for. The Shades worked with Edwin to complete the song, (although they were never credited for it), and recorded it at the Golden World studios in January 1966.
Producer John Rhys was so impressed with the finished master that he immediately took the tape to Harry Balk, owner of the Detroit-based Impact label. Balk, who was responsible for Del Shannon's early record success, signed the Shades of Blue to a multi-record contract.
On March 30, 1966, "Oh How Happy" (Impact-1007) made its public debut on Detroit radio stations WKNR and WXYZ, as well as Windsor, Ontario's 50,000 watt giant, CKCLW. The platter took off like a "shot out of the blue," and blasted to the #1 spot on all three stations in less than three weeks. The record spread like wildfire into other major markets abroad, hitting #12 on the national pop charts, #7 on the R&B listings, and reaching the top ten in Canada.
The overnight success of "Oh How Happy" caught everyone by surprise, as Nick Marinelli remembers: "We literally hit the road running. All of us were still in college at the time, and suddenly, Harry Balk is calling us up saying, 'I've got all kinds of bookings lined up for your guys.' It was crazy!"
In addition to a grueling cross-country tour schedule, the Shades TV appearances included several spots on Dick Clark's "Where the Action Is" and Jerry Blavat's Philly-based "Discophonic Scene" teen show. In the Detroit area, they were regulars on Robin Seymour's "Swingin' Time."