Shai formed at Howard University, originally for a talent show, but when they heard how their four voices sounded together, they thought it could be something more.
Group member Carl Martin came up with "If I Ever Fall In Love" when he was driving back to campus from his home in Louisiana after Christmas break in early 1992 after listening to the same songs on the radio over and over. He thought the airwaves needed something new and different, so he came up with the song in his head - he claims it all came to him in about 15 minutes. He knew it was good because he didn't forget it when he arrived on campus.
Martin taught the song to his bandmates and at the talent show they sang part of it along with some Boyz II Men songs. They eventually worked out the harmonies and performed the whole song at an open-mic night, getting a great reaction from the crowd. They made a demo and took it to the Howard radio station, WHUR, but they wouldn't play it. Undeterred, in August Martin went to a charity softball game hosted by the local station WPGC and started singing the song to their DJ, Paco Lopez. He gave the demo to Lopez, who played it at the station the next day for a group of women. They went crazy for the song, which convinced the program director it was a hit.
WPGC, the top-rated station in Washington, DC, started playing the demo and the phones lit up. Shai signed to the label Gasoline Alley, which released the song in October. Thanks to buzz from the WPGC airplay, stations around the country jumped on it, and the song became a huge hit, spending eight weeks at #2 in America starting on November 21 (for most of that time, it was held from the top spot by Whitney Houston's indomitable "I Will Always Love You
." Just a year after Martin drove home listening to the same five or six songs playing over and over on the radio, he had one of those songs in that rotation.