The Echoes were a product of the great New York borough of Brooklyn. Harry Boyle recalls that in 1959 (at the ripe old age of 15) he was singing with a guy named Charlie Morrissey whose older brother Tommy (age 21) was just getting out of the service. Tommy started signing with some different guys including Bill Perry the lead of Billy and the Glens. Bill Perry introduced Tommy to Tom Duffy. Duffy knew two other guys – Sam Capano and Willie Bender. These five guys started practicing and getting songs together as the Laurels. Duffy knew Johnny Powers (of Johnny and the Jokers). The story goes that two teachers from Brooklyn wrote a song called “Baby Blue.” Those two were Sam Guilino and Val Lagueux. The two offered the song to Johnny Powers. Powers didn’t think the song was right for him and he passed it along to Duffy. In 1959, the Laurels took the song and did a slow, “Earth Angel” type ballad demo version of Baby Blue. They shopped it around without success.
In 1960, Harry Boyle was asked to join the group as a guitar player. Capano and Bender left the group and the remaining trio asked Harry Boyle and Tommy Morrissey to start singing. They renamed themselves the Echoes.
Harry recalls that at the time he was a student of music. Listening to the radio, reading Billboard and Cashbox and hanging out at the Brill Building, Boyle noticed that there seemed to be a trend towards cha-cha style music. He suggested re-recording Baby Blue as a cha-chat. The group did that, picking up the pace a bit and changing the intro of the song by spelling out the words “Baby Blue.” It was Duffy, Morrissey and Boyle with Ralph DePalma on drums.
They shopped the record at the famous “1650” building and met up with Jack Gold of Paris Records (of the G-Clefs, Four Esquires, and Newports fame). Gold liked it and re-recorded it again with a new arrangement that included guitarist Billy Mueller. That was December 1960.
Baby Blue b/w Boomerange was released in January 1961 on the S.R.G. label (named for Gold’s son Stephen Richard Gold) and Gold leased the rights to Seg-Way (#103 1961). The song first broke in Cleveland and was a huge hit going all the way to #12 in Billboard and #9 in Cashbox.
Harry Boyle recalls that they became very friendly with Murray the K (Murray Kaufman) who broke the record in New York. “It was some ride,” recalls Harry. A funny story has Murray the K giving Harry a hard time because the group played its own instruments. Kaufman advised the guys that they needed to lose the instruments (this was around 1961) if they wanted to be successful. A few years later, after the Beatles arrived in America, Harry called up Kaufman (by now he was the “5th Beatle”) and kidded Murray, saying “you gonna tell Paul to lose his guitar, Murray?!?!?” The Echoes also played Alan Freed’s Brooklyn Paramount for the Easter Show of 1961 with Jackie Wilson and the Isley Brothers. Later in September 1961, the group played Palisades Park with a whole host of great artists.
Like a few other groups at the time, the Echoes have the story of being mistaken for being a black group. There was an early 50’s group the Five Echoes and Segway was a predominantly black R&B label. Those facts apparently threw off a few promoters. They showed up the black Newark Paramount for an all-black show. The owner was a bit surprised to find 4 white kids ready to play. The Heartbeats were there and the group had a great time visting with Shep.
The Echoes followed up on Seg-Way with Sad Eyes b/w Its Rainin (Seg-Way #106 1961) which did well locally but only reached #88 nationally. They followed with Gee Oh Gee b/w Angel of My Heart (Seg-Way #1002 1961) which did not chart. “Better to be a one-hit wonder than a no-hit wonder,” says Harry.