Gary: “When I first heard “Crazy bout you Baby” in 1954, Rock and Roll was new, I was young, I liked it because it was different and up tempo. Looking back, was it Rock and Roll? – Probably not; it was more Pop, with upbeat Orchestral Arrangements of the day. Did the Crew Cuts have an Impact? Well I think so, especially “Sha Boom.”
The Crew Cuts from Toronto
The Crew-Cuts were:
- Rudi Maugeri (January 21, 1931 – May 7, 2004) baritone
- John Perkins (born August 28, 1931) lead
- Ray Perkins (born November 28, 1932) bass (John Perkins’ brother)
- Pat Barrett (born September 15, 1933) 1st or high tenor
Yes, they where clean cut and their vocal harmonizing was like the Four Lads and so on, but they themselves would tell you that they really liked the R&B songs of the day. One thing we forget is that in the beginning, even Elvis was clean cut by today’s standards.
My Billboard book only starts a 1955, so I had to look two of them up. Most if not all of their hits where on the Mercury Label. Even though they may not have been true Rock and Roll, Sha Boom is # 215 on Rolling Stones 500 most important Rock and Roll Songs.
1. Crazy Bout’ you baby/ Mercury 70341/ March/54/ #8
2A. Sh Boom/ Mercury 70404/ June/54/ #1 for 8 weeks Aug/Sept 54
2B. I Spoke To Soon/ B side/ June 54/ #24
3A. Earth Angel/ Mercury 70529/ 1/29/55/ #3 Billboard
3B. Ko Ko Mo/ B side/ 1/29/55/ #6 Billboard
4A. Don’t be Angry/ Mercury 70597/ 4/30/55/ #14 Billboard
4B. Chop Chop Boom/ B side/ 4/30/55/ #14 Billboard
5. A Story Untold/ Mercury 70634/ 6/25/55/ #16 Billboard
6. Gum Drop/ Mercury 70741/ 8/27/55/ #10 Billboard
7A. Angels in The Sky/ Mercury 70741/ 12/17/55/ #11 Billboard
7B. Mostly Martha/ B side/ 1/7/56/ #31 Billboard
8. Seven Days/ Mercury 70782/ 2/18/56/ #18 Billboard
9. Young Love/ Mercury 71022/ 1/26/57/ #17 Billboard
Yes they where Pop, but if you had been around in 54/55/56 you would realize the part they played.
They all had been members of the St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, which also spawned another famous quartet, “The Four Lads“. Maugeri, John Perkins, and two others (Bernard Toorish and Connie Codarini) who later were among the Four Lads first formed a group called The Jordonaires (not to be confused with a similarly named group, The Jordanaires, that was known for singing backup vocals on Elvis Presley’s hits) and also The Otnorots (“Toronto” spelled backwards being “Otnorot”), but they split from the group to finish high school.
When the Four Lads returned to Toronto for a homecoming concert, John Perkins and Maugeri ran into each other and decided that they could themselves have a musical future. They joined with Barrett and Ray Perkins in March 1952. The group was originally called The Four Tones (not to be confused with The Four Tunes, a group on the borderline between pop music and rhythm and blues).
A Toronto disk jockey, Barry Nesbitt, put them on his weekly teen show, whose audience gave the group a new name, The Canadaires. All four of the members were at the time working at jobs with the Ontario government, but quit their jobs to sing full-time. They worked clubs in the Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, NY area, but saved up their money and drove to New York City, so they could appear on Arthur Godfrey’s television and radio program, Talent Scouts, where they came in second to a comedian. While they did get a record with Thrillwood Records and recorded a song titled “Chip, Chip Sing A Song Little Sparrow“, this led to no improvement in their fortune, however, and they continued playing minor night clubs.
In March 1953, they returned to Toronto and appeared as an opening act for Gisele MacKenzie at the Casino Theatre. She was impressed with them and commented favorably to her record label, but could not remember the group’s name!
They were playing in a Sudbury, Ontario, night club in a sub-zero Canadian winter when they received notice that they had been invited to appear as a guest on a Cleveland television program. They drove 600 miles at -40° temperatures to appear on the Gene Carroll show, where they remained for three appearances and also, while in Cleveland, met local disk jockey Bill Randle. On his show, on Cleveland AM radio station WERE, he coined the name that would from that point on belong to the group. In addition, Randle arranged for them to audition with Mercury Records, who liked them enough to sign the quartet to a contract.
The name Crew Cuts refers to their short hair as opposed to long hair, which at the time implied classical music. It was a decade later that long hair came to be associated with the counter-culture movement.
Their first hit, “Crazy ‘Bout You, Baby,” was written by Maugeri and Barrett.
Crazy ‘Bout You Baby
They quickly became specialists in cover recordings of originally-R&B songs. Their first cover, “Sh-Boom” (of which the R&B original was recorded by The Chords) hit #1 on the charts in 1954.
A number of other hits followed including “Earth Angel” which rose to the number 2 spot on the charts and had great success in England and in Australia.
Interestingly, many of the non-cover songs of theirs that became hits in Canada were unknown in the United States of America, while it was only their covers that had great success in the United States.
The group moved from Mercury to RCA Records in 1958 and eventually broke up in 1964, but they all moved to the U.S. and reunited in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1977.
In the 1990s they were inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame. In recent years, the three remaining members have appeared on a PBS special filmed in Atlantic City’s Trump’s Taj Mahal. The program. “Magic Moments: The Best of ’50s Pop” continues to air as part of the fund raising efforts for the Public Broadcasting System.