Gary: I have spent a lot of time on Rockabilly, R&B, Blues, so here is a Doo Wop song from a white group. It has one of the most infectious sounds that I have heard, and that gorgeous soprano voice of the late Lynne Nixon. This group is truly a one-hit wonder, but what a song!
I will also look at another of my favourite ballads, by another white group who’s one member would seek and find music’s highest pinnacle and ultimately would end up a recluse and in Jail, who else but Phil Spector. I just love his music and the Wall of Sound, but will not comment on current events.
When I was a teenager these where two of my favourites, “You” and “To know him is too love him“.
You (Fargo label #1001 May 5, 1958 Billboard # 21)
The Aquatones, In Pittsburgh / live 2002 /
The Aquatones were formed in 1956 in Valley Stream, Long Island as The Rhythm Kings. Originally they were a male threesome : Dave Goddard, Larry Vannata and Gene McCarthy. Each of them could play an instrument as well as sing, and all of their songs were original.
They added a drummer, their friend Bob Boden, to perform their music live. When they played some of their home recordings for a classmate’s father, a record distributor, he suggested that they needed a high voice in the group. Shortly thereafter, Larry met Lynne Nixon at a dance, found out that she could sing, and asked Gene and Dave to give her an audition. She was added to the group in 1957, originally to just sing the background vocals. But soon her vocal prowess would dominate the group’s pop harmony sound.
Lynne had originally aspired to an opera career and had even taken lessons to that end, but the chance for pop success was apparently a greater lure. She was possibly the first soprano in Rock n Roll.
Having changed their name to the Aquatones, the group (now minus Bob Boden) appeared in a talent contest in the neighbouring town of Malverne, NY in November 1957. There, they were spotted by Lou Fargo, a local real estate agent who wanted to get into the music business. He signed the group on the spot and the first three releases on the newly formed Fargo label would all be by The Aquatones.
Their first single was recorded in a demo studio in the Brill Building in January 1958. The A-side was a solid rocker, “She’s the One For Me“, with Vannata and Goddard alternating on lead. The other side, also written by Dave Goddard and Larry Vannata, could hardly be more different. “You” was a slow ballad featuring Lynne’s beautiful soprano.
As happened so often in the 1950s, disc jockeys started flipping the record over and “You” became a strong seller in the North Eastern markets, causing Lou Fargo to strike a deal for national distribution with ABC-Paramount. Eventually, “You” peaked at # 21 on Billboard’s pop chart.
Surprisingly, the very pop-sounding record did even better on the R&B charts, where # 11 was the peak position. In the UK, the record was released on London HLO 8631.
The group got the chance to perform on the usual circuit of deejay record hops and also did a variety of TV shows, including those hosted by Dick Clark and Alan Freed.There were also concert appearances with the likes of Danny and the Juniors, Bobby Darin and the Shirelles.
In spite of all this, The Aquatones lasted only until 1960. Their seventh and last Fargo single was released in 1961 and Lou Fargo issued an LP in 1964, “The Aquatones Sing For YOU“. “You” would remain their only chart entry and served as the blueprint for “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by the Teddy Bears later in 1958.
The Aquatones went their separate ways after 1960. Lynne stopped singing altogether. Though the group members remained friends and stayed in touch, it was difficult to get together to perform, and without Lynne, they were missing the sound for which they were known. Lynne Dixon passed away in January 2001 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
The Teddy Bears
To Know Him Is To Love Him (Dore label #503 Oct 13,1958 #1 on Billboard)
Rare TV Appearance (The Teddy Bears) / Yes, on the right is Phil Spector /
The Teddy Bears was a band that is perhaps most known for being Phil Spector’s first band.
Following his graduation from Fairfax high school in Los Angeles, Phil Spector became obsessed with a song, “To Know Him Is to Love Him”, he had written for his group, The Teddy Bears. After a hasty audition at ERA Records, who offered to finance a studio session, The Teddy Bears – Spector, Marshall Leib, lead singer Annette Kleinbard, and last minute recruit, drummer Sandy Nelson – recorded this song at Gold Star Studios at a total cost of $75. Released on ERA’s Dore label in August 1958, it took a full two months before “To Know Him Is to Love Him” began to get air play.
The record eventually stayed in the “Hot Hundred” for 23 weeks, resided in the “Top Ten” for 11 of those weeks, and commanded the #1 chart position for 3 weeks.
At age 17, Spector had written, arranged, played, sung, and produced the best-selling record in the country. Although subsequent releases by The Teddy Bears on the Imperial label were considered well-recorded soft pop, they did not sell, and within a year of their impressive debut, Spector had disbanded the group.
Spector was not the only Teddy Bear who went on to an illustrious career after the group broke up. Annette Kleinbard continued to write and record songs, and eventually changed her name to Carol Connors. Among her songwriting credits are the Rip Chords hit “Hey Little Cobra” and the Academy Award-nominated Rocky theme song “Gonna Fly Now.”