Boyz II Men held the record for the longest weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 23 years — but the four-time Grammy-winners almost went down in history under a "pretty corny" name.
"It all began when we heard New Edition's song 'Boys to Men' on the radio," founding member Shawn Stockman, 48, tells PEOPLE. "Nate [Morris] and I were on the phone talking about changing our name because we thought the one we had sucked." (At the time, the group was going by Unique Attraction, a name Stockman had come up with while they were still in high school.)
"I was like, 'Yo, that should be our name. I'm telling you, it sounds like a concept,'" the tenor vocalist recalls. Bandmate Morris wasn't very fond of the new moniker at first, "but he couldn't find anything better, so we stuck with that."
"Thank God that song came on. It was an evanescent moment," Stockman says, laughing.
To date, Stockman admits he still cannot stop poking fun at the group's original name.
"Unique Attraction — ugh, so gross!" he jokes. "It was such a Philadelphia name. If you grew up in Philadelphia, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It was cheesy, but it was the vibe back then."
The career of Boyz II Men really did become a concept — the success story of Philadelphia youngsters Stockman, Morris, 49, Wanya Morris, 47 (no relation) and their former bandmate Michael McCary, 49, who left the group in 2003. (In 2016, McCary revealed on Iyanla: Fix My Life that he was coping with multiple sclerosis but chose to keep his diagnosis private at the time.)
Representing Boyz II Men while chatting with PEOPLE ahead of their Valentine's Day virtual show on Sunday (in collaboration with DoorDash and Shake Shack) as part of a "Love Delivered" experience, Stockman details the group's journey from releasing 18 Billboard bangers (including 10 Top 10 hits and five No. 1 songs) to performing in both the Super Bowl and the Olympics.
Viewers can stream the group's virtual show on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on Twitch, plus DoorDash and Shake Shack's respective Instagram and Facebook Live channels.
Out of all Boyz II Men's hit songs, Stockman tells PEOPLE, "I don't have a favorite. I love them all because they're parts of the story that made us who we are."
But there is one that stood out from the rest — "End of the Road." "It shocked me the most," he tells PEOPLE. The quartet recorded it during a day off from touring at a Philadelphia studio, where they met with Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons. "We didn't think much about it after we left."
Yet "End of the Road" became the group's first Billboard record-breaker. With 13 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the pop and R&B charts, it dethroned the previous record held by Elvis Presley. Not long after, Boyz II Men released "I'll Make Love to You" in July 1994. It spent 14 weeks atop the chart. Months later in November, they debuted "On Bended Knee" which dethroned their summer jam, making them the third musical act to ever replace themselves in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, only after Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
"We were like, 'Oh snap, we didn't expect this.' We knew there was something special about it. We didn't know it was gonna do that well. 'End of the Road' changed our lives. It took us to another plain internationally," says Stockman.
"Not saying we weren't successful before, but boy, 'End of the Road' took us to the phase artists dream of."
Stockman says part of what contributed to their success is their upbringing. "We do our best to be courteous and kind to everybody because we were raised by parents that made sure we were mannerable. That translated through our music."
Though the group had achieved fame by 1991, the moment Stockman personally realized Boyz II Men had made it big was when they sang the national anthem at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"At the arena they said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, singing the national anthem, Boyz II Men.' The lights and camera flickers went on. Then a guy working for the network said, 'There's over a billion people watching, have a good show,' and he walked off," Stockman laughs at the nerve-wracking comment. "That was a defining moment where I felt, 'Whoa, this is major.'"
Another memorable moment for Stockman was when they performed at Super Bowl XXXII halftime show. "To know that historically we were part of one of the biggest, most important events in American history, there aren't too many things bigger than that. The Super Bowl is special because you know everybody in your hometown is watching."
But as a football fan — he mostly wanted to see the game.
Stockman remembers what he calls a crowning achievement for Boyz II Men — when they won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with vocal in '91, the first year they were nominated by the Recording Academy.
"It was amazing. It was off-camera, like the pre-Grammys," he tells PEOPLE. "It was funny, some of Sounds of Blackness were there. We were crying like babies and they said, 'It's okay baby. Congratulations.'"
"I'm sure there are pictures on the internet of me crying," he says with a laugh. "It was emotional to know, 'Wow, I'm a Grammy Award-winner' and to hold that trophy you've seen your idols win."
Boyz II Men also appeared on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring their longtime friend Will Smith. "We're Philly boys and we have a history growing up in the same neighborhoods and being in the business. It was like hanging with homies."
"We were extremely proud of Will and seeing his success grow," Stockman recalls. "It's nice to see other brothers blowing up in a really good way. That's what I remember the most."
"There are a lot of things that have happened that when I look back on it, I'm like, 'Wow, that was a moment,'" he tells PEOPLE. "You don't remember every detail, but you remember how you felt."
Today, Stockman can look back on his career feeling proud that he accomplished what he felt was the most challenging part of fame. "Still believing in us and in what we're able to do while staying authentic," he says.
On what he would tell his younger self, "The key to life is patience. 'Relax, be patient. Be cool. Be yourself and continue to move in a natural way and everything will be all right.'"
And everything did turn out all right. Stockman released his solo album Foreword in April. More recently in December, he teamed up with his longtime collaborator Danny O'Donoghue to release "Everything."
"This is one of the gems that came out of this daunting past year," says the hitmaker. "The song is about the concept of a man proposing to his woman, nervous as all hell as most men are. The build up to that moment and the actual gumption to get down on one knee and actually do it, no matter how scared he was. I probably wouldn't have been able to articulate that before I got married."
Amid the pandemic, Stockman is happy to spend more time with his wife Sharonda, whom he wed in 2001, and their three children Micah, Brooklyn and Ty. He says, "I hope everyone stays safe and continues to do the right thing. Wash your hands, wear a mask."
Boyz II Men is proud owner of their Bordeaux brand, Harmony Wines. "Both grapes have to blend well or be in harmony, thus the name," Stockman tells PEOPLE. "It's synonymous with our music and what we've represented as brothers, family, friends and fraternity, which is romance, togetherness and intimacy."
Boyz II Men is sure to bring their signature style during their Valentine's Day performance on Sunday beginning 8 p.m. EST on Twitch, plus DoorDash and Shake Shack's respective Instagram and Facebook Live channels.
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