Little Caesar and the Romans

Gary: “This is a One-Hit group, but the song has been recorded by many other groups and is one of my favourites…

Little Caesar and the Romans

1.  Those Oldies But Goodies (remind me of you)/ Del-Fi 4158/ May 1961/ #9

Near the end of the Doo Wop era, this Los Angeles group made the Top Ten with the nostalgic “Those Oldies But Goodies (Reminds Me of You),” a piano-based ballad that sounded a bit like a bridge between the Five Satins and Little Anthony & the Imperials. Doo wop’s days were numbered when this was a hit in 1961, and indeed the song’s title would quickly become a catch-all phrase (Oldies Bu Goodies) for rock records of all kinds that had left the charts several years ago.

Little Caesar and the Romans originally went by the name “The Cubans”, featuring David “Caesar” Johnson (lead/baritone), Leroy Sanders, Johnny O’ Simmons and Early Harris. Carl Burnett, then a close friend of David Johnson, recalls his days at Virgil Junior High and later at Los Angeles Fremont High…

I had a group of my own, singing with the Donald and Dwayne Haddegs and a good friend of ours whose last name was Stokes, we called him Stokeabean. The group performed mostly past R&B hits like “Over the Mountain” “A Thousand Miles Away” and “In the Still of the Night.”

Another Fremont High student, Cad Coates,  encouraged Johnson to do some recordings. He and his group “The Marathons” had been watching Carl Burnett and David Johnson performing at the school’s track meets.

While still in high school, one day Burnett and Johnson attended a party at the home of songwriter Paul Politi who wrote “Those Oldies But Goodies.” Paul had been trying everybody out to record his song but just could not come up with anyone he wanted yet.

Coates knew David Johnson loved singing Doo Wop and asked Politi to let David try his song. Although David was talking to a girl at the party and appeared vary involved at the time, Coates managed to drag him over to a microphone to sing the song with him. When they started to sing everyone started clapping.

Politi went to the studio the next day, and a week later, they invited Carl Burnett and David Johnson, plus some of the girls from the party, to do that song. (They called the background group ” The Romans”. The “Little Caesar’ part would be a later addition).

When they brought the song to Del-Fl label owner Bob Keane, he  “went crazy over it,” recalled Carl Burnett, who by this time had been singing with ex-Cubans David Johnson, Simmons and Saunders. They rushed into the studio that evening to record the number. The backup musicians assembled and laid down their track separately. With Bruce Johnston arranging, the band included Charles Wright on piano and overdubbed bass guitar and Paul Politi on drums. (Barry White was to be on piano, but he did not show up for the session.)

The songs release was in the early spring of 1961, and it took off like a rocket. One of the first deejays to plug it was Dick “Huggy Boy” whose radio show then emanated from the Flash Record Shop on L.A’s East Vernon Avenue. Fittingly, it had had been Flash’s owner, Charlie Reynolds, who had first recorded The Cubans in 1959. In the east, Pittsburgh deejay Porky Chedwick was instrumental in breaking the record nationally. It reached #9 on Billboard’s national chart.

Little Caesar & the Romans went on to record a few singles, and an LP, for Del-Fi in 1961 and 1962. The LP was called “Memories of Those Oldies But Goodies“, produced by Fred Smith and it featured the group’s two hits and a series of remakes of songs made famous by other artists including “Work With Me Annie,” “I Need You So, “CC. Rider” and “Little Star“.

They made the middle of the Top 100 with the dance tune “Hully Gully Again,” and topped out at #101 with “Memories of Those Oldies But Goodies,” a single that was even more nostalgic than its prototype.

The act, which performed in togas for a while, broke up in 1962, partly as a result of a silly dispute between lead vocalist Carl Barnett and David Johnson (who did the spoken bridge of “Those Oldies But Goodies”) as to who was the real Little Caesar.

In 1975, Johnson put together a new Little Caesar And The Romans and recorded a single called “Disco Hully Gully“. For a while, they toured as Marvin Gaye’s opening act and in the late 70s, one of the backing singers for the group was Rickie Lee Jones. Carl and David are now performing again as Little Caesar and the Romans.

Those Oldies But Goodies (remind me of you)

(Paul Politti and Nick Curinga)
Those oldies but goodies reminds me of you
The songs of the past bring back memories of you
I always remember the first night we met
The songs they were playing I never will forget

I always will treasure them so close to my heart
They always will haunt me although we’re apart
Each time that I hear them a tear’s bound to fall
For I love those memories that I, I-I recall

Those oldies but goodies reminds me of you
The songs of the past bring back memories of you
Forever they will haunt me but what can I do

Those oldies but goodies reminds me of you
(Oldies but goodies reminds me of you)

[Spoken:]
Yes, dear, they are playin’ our songs
And they will always remain our songs
And each time you hear them
I hope you, too, will cherish
The wonderful memories that our love once knew
For these songs are just a symbol of the love that I had for you

Those oldies but goodies reminds me of you
The songs of the past bring back memories of you
Forever they will haunt me but what can I do

Those oldies but goodies reminds me of you
(Oldies but goodies reminds me of you)

–o–

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3 responses to “Little Caesar and the Romans

  1. Hi Russ; I remember seeing these guys on ‘Bandstand’ all dressed up in Roman costumes. By the way, I have a small collection of doowop tunes on my ITunes library that I don’t rmember hearing up here. One especially came out in 1978 by Cleve Duncan & The Penguins called ‘Memories Of El Monte’. Let me know if you want to have it . And incidentally, what about Billy Stewart, one of my faves ! Cheers…….Ron.

  2. I am an old friend of David Johnson and would like to contact hime again after many years ….Dmaestro-jacc@hotmail.com

  3. I am a Pittsburgh Disc Jockey and worked for Porky Chedwick for 12 years great group Hugh “BABE” O’Donnell

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