Some fairly rare, One-Hit, and not so popular songs are the theme of this post. These can be found in a collection of “Hot 100 Hits from 1954 to 1963” that was produced a number of years ago.
This music all came in a 5 CD set called “The Golden Age of American Rock ‘n’ Roll” (ironically, produced by a British company called Ace a number of years ago, ).
ARTISTS IN THIS POST
SONGS IN THIS POST
Diamonds and Pearls
Down the Aisle of Love
Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight
Glory of Love
I Sold my Heart to the Junkman
I Understand (Just How You Feel)
La Dee Dah
Life’s Too Short
Lonely Saturday Night
Rockin’ Little Angel
So This is Love
Tell him No
The Joker (that’s what they call me)
What’s your Name
Woman Is a Man’s Best Friend
Your Ma said you cried in your sleep last night
That’s Life (that’s tough)/ Swan 4118/ October 1962/ #51
Dino’s family moved to Hicksville, Long Island in 1955, where he worked on a family farm. He joined the Navy in 1957, and while stationed in Iceland he was runner-up in a talent show with his version of an Elvis Presley song.
Dino sang regularly on his tour of duty, and then put together an ensemble back in the States, which toured in Texas and Louisiana. He frequently played with Doug Sahm at the San Antonio Blues Club at this time.
He signed with Dot Records around 1960 after moving to New York City, but quickly lost the contract and signed to Columbia not long after.
Dino was actually offered a chance to duet with none other than Paul Simon, but turned it down this opportunity. He later was offered the song “Suspicion” (an Elvis Presley song, which was a big hit for Terry Stafford) but was denied permission to record it by his label. He did a number of demos for Elvis, including the song “Good Luck Charm“.
His lone hit was “Your Ma Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night“, a #24 U.S. Pop hit in 1961. Robert Plant later covered this tune on his 1990 release, Manic Nirvana.
On December 9, 2009 Kenny Dino had finished his second music gig of the day and was driving from Melbourne, Florida on I-95 to his home in Cocoa and into the early morning of Dec 10th. He pulled over to the side of the road where D.O.T. construction workers found him unconscious. They called the Florida Highway Patrol and paramedics, but Dino died from a heart attack around 1 AM, Thursday, December 10, 2009.
Down the Aisle of Love/ Hunt 321/ September 1958/ #18
They started playing local events around town, and met disc jockey Paul Landesman, who worked at WHGB in Harrisburg, PA at 1400 on the AM dial. He worked with the group for a bit, and got them their first recording with the powerhouse Chess label out of Chicago.
They changed their name to “the Quintones”, and were able to get on a tour, despite the lack of success of their first record. This took them out of school for a period of time to chase their dream.
The group got together to write their next song, “Down The Aisle Of Love“, and back to the studio they went. This time it was for the local Philadelphia label, Red Top, owned by Irv Nathan and Marvin “Red Top” Schwartz.
The unique beginning treatment of “Here Comes The Bride” using the organ, gave it a hook. That combined with a fine ballad in it’s own right, and the group was off to the races. The group name was now “the Quin-Tones” with a hyphen, and the record eventually sold nearly a million copies.
The demand was so great for the independent record label Red Top, that they had to get agreements with other business partners to keep up with the orders.
They switched to the bigger local label, Hunt, who was affiliated with Globe records. And there was an agreement with ABC Paramount to distribute the disc nationwide.
The engagements increased, including the prestigious Apollo theatre and American Bandstand, and a follow up was in order. “There’ll be No Sorrow” failed to make the national charts, but hit many local lists, while remaining with the Hunt/Globe/ABC Paramount deal.
One more record and still no royalties so the QuinTones disbanded. A hard line stance by the record companies with the “What have you done lately” attitude, and they had nowhere to go.
But, they left the music business with some great recordings, treasured memories and a huge hit to be proud of.
The Videls were a Rhode Island-based trio, Peter Andreoli, Vincent Poncia, Jr., and Norman Marzano, who met in Providence and cut records initially for the local Rhody record label. They came to national attention when one of the Rhody releases, “Mister Lonely,” got picked up by the JDS label based in New York.
It became a modest hit in the spring of 1960, rising to #73 nationally. This was to be the peak of their chart success, but it led to releases for Kapp and other labels.
The Videls never charted another single, but two of their members became reasonably successful songwriters and charted regularly for much of the rest of the ’60s. Andreoli, who changed his last name to Anders, and Poncia, found much greater success during the early ’60s as songwriters in association with Phil Spector, co-authoring such future classics by the Ronettes as “Do I Love You?” and “(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up.”
This led to their signing to Red Bird, where they scored under the alias “the Tradewinds”, with a song called “New York’s a Lonely Town,” that made the top 40.
They later hit again in a small way as “the Tradewinds” with the single “Mind Excursion,” and even got a full LP release out of it on the fledgeling Kama Sutra label. Later still, as “the Innocence”, they got a top 40 single out of “There’s Got to Be a Word.”
Anders and Poncia were mainstays of the early Buddah-Kama Sutra label for most of the ’60s, not only cutting hits as the Tradewinds and the Innocence but also contributing to the success of the Critters (who, ironically, were managed by Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin, a pair of similar refugees from an early-’60s outfit, the Ivy Three). They formed their own label, Map City, at the end of the ’60s. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
The Blue Belles
(with Patti Labelle)
I Sold my Heart to the Junkman/ Newtown 5000/ March 1962/ #13
In 1962, Chicago-based girl group “The Starlets” were riding high with their top forty single, “Better Tell Him No“. That year, while on tour, they were convinced by Newtown Records president Harold Robinson to appear in a recording schedule where they recorded two songs, one of which was “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman“. After recording these songs, Robinson released the “Junkman” song on his label but, instead of crediting “the Starlets”, he credited a Philadelphia-based girl group named “The Ordettes” (who had changed their name to “The Blue Belles”) – after a threat from another record boss, the name was altered to “Patti LaBelle and Her Blue Belles”.
The song eventually reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, thanks to promotion by the Blue Belles, who made their first television appearance on American Bandstand in mid-1962.
It’s not known as to whether Robinson erased the original lead vocal from the song and added in Patti LaBelle’s lead vocal, or whether “the Starlets” themselves were replaced by session singers. Nevertheless “the Starlets” manager sued Robinson for ownership of the song, with the girls each winning $5,000 from the suit. Despite this, however, it still isn’t clear as to how the song was released.
Ironically when “the Blue Belles” recorded their own version shortly before promoting it, both “the Starlets” and “Blue Belles” versions were strikingly similar to each other.
“The Starlets” never really recovered from the “Junkman” fiasco and after a half-year of further recordings, they split up in 1963. Meanwhile, the newly christened “Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles” went on to national fame that same year with their hit, “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)“.
To this day, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” is credited to “Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles”.
Diamonds and Pearls/ Milestone 2003/ September 1960/ #18
The quartet, comprised of friends William Powers and Bill Meyers plus Chuck Weldon and West Tyler, gigged at school dances and local clubs around Bakersfield, CA, singing what the audience requested until a chance to record came about with Milestone Records. Their first session, one night of work, yielded eight sides, including the hit “Diamonds and Pearls” and the B-side “I Want Love.”
“Diamonds and Pearls” became a favorite on radio stations and generated appearances on American Bandstand, the Apollo, the Howard, and other top venues for R&B artists.
Money problems put a monkey wrench in the mix, however, and the group disbanded after disenchantment set in. The follow-up “Bells Ring” failed to do anything, and neither did “Take All of Me” nor “I Had a Dream.”
The group stayed together less than a year, but Milestone kept issuing Paradons sides until they exhausted the supply. Making rock & roll records, even good ones, didn’t prove fruitful for the Bakersfield lads. ~ Andrew Hamilton, All Music Guide
OK, moving on with The Golden Age of American Rock ‘n’ Roll, here is Volume 3…
Lillie Bryant (born February 14, 1940, Newburgh, New York).
Billy Ford had previously recorded two singles for United Records, without attaining much commercial success. Billy & Lillie recorded for Swan Records in the late 1950s, and charted three hit singles in the United States, two of them written by the songwriter and record producer Bob Crewe, and producer Frank C. Slay, Jr.
Crewe later became one of the most successful songwriters and producers in history, having produced or written most of the songs record by The Four Seasons.
Frank C. Slay, Jr. co-wrote several songs with Bob Crewe, including “Tallahassee Lassie” by Freddy Cannon. He would also, later in 1967, produce the hit “Incense and Peppermints” by The Strawberry Alarm Clock.
The first single, “La Dee Dah” (written by Crewe), was the only one of them to hit the Top 10 on the Billboard chart, peaking at #9. It was released on Swan Records (catalog reference #4002). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Dick Clark, when they were performing “La Dee Dah” on American Bandstand, liked their song so much that he asked the songwriters to write another song. Crewe and Slay came up with their third single release, “Lucky Ladybug“.
The Billy & Lillie version of “Lucky Ladybug” was a #14 hit on the Billboard Chart, released by Swan Records (catalog #4020). Both “La Dee Dah” and “Lucky Ladybug” referred in their lyrics to a number of other recent popular hits, a formula first used by Larry Williams in his hit “Short Fat Fannie“
“Lucky Ladybug” was later covered by The Four Seasons, and appeared on the B-side of their big hit “Walk Like a Man” (1963).
Billy Ford died in 1985 at the age of 59. Lillie Bryant returned to her hometown of Newburgh, New York, and became a community activist. She was the Democratic candidate for mayor of Newburgh in 2007. She lost the election to the Republican candidate by a slim 150 votes.
Rockin’ Little Angel/ Judd 1016/ 1960/ #22
Ray Smith was a rockabilly and country singer who recorded for the legendary Sun Records label, and is best remembered for his 1958 hit “Rockin’ Little Angel.” Smith was born on October 31, 1938 in Melber, KY, where his father supported his family as a sharecropper and sheet metal worker.
Smith was a self-taught musician who didn’t begin performing in public until he joined the Air Force in 1952, after driving a Coca-Cola truck, operating an oven for a commercial baker, working in a shoe factory, and brewing moonshine with his brother-in-law.
Smith was recruited to perform in a talent show while in basic training in Syracuse, NY; after winning first prize for his rendition of Hank Williams‘ “Lovesick Blues,” Smith began teaching himself to play the piano, guitar, and harmonica.
While stationed in California, he began playing club dates on weekends, and in 1956 he formed his band “The Rock & Roll Boys,” featuring Raymond Jones on guitar, Dean Perkins on steel guitar, James Webb on bass, and rhythm guitar, and Henry Stevens on drums.
The band began playing clubs in Kentucky and Illinois, and in 1956 Ray Smith & the Rock & Roll Boys landed their own local television show on a station in Paducah, KY. The show caught the attention of manager Charlie Terrell, who signed Smith as a client and got him a deal with Sun Records. Judd Phillips, brother of label founder Sam Phillips, produced Smith‘s sessions and gave his material a bit more polish than much of the classic Sun material, but Ray Smith was a strong singer with a solid band, and his fourth single, 1959’s “Rockin’ Little Angel” — a revved-up rewrite of the folk chestnut “Buffalo Gals” — became a major hit. (While his first three singles were issued on Sun, “Rockin’ Little Angel” appeared on the subsidiary label Judd, as did most of his subsequent releases for the Phillips Brothers.)
Smith followed his up-tempo hit with a handful of ballads that failed to make a serious impression on the charts, but he continued to perform and record as a journeyman rock & roll and country act, cutting material for Vee-Jay, Warner Brothers, Smash, Tollie, Vix and Cinnamon Records over the next decade-and-a-half.
In the ’70s, Smith relocated to Canada and continued to perform regularly there, as well as landing frequent dates in Las Vegas. Smith‘s career came to an abrupt and tragic end on November 29, 1979, when he unexpectedly took his own life.
The Joker (that’s what they call me) / Ember 1026/ November 1957/ #25
Billy Myles specialised in love ballads (sometimes in the doo-wop style) and ‘Uptown Blues’ songs, occasionally co-writing with vocalists such as Jackie Wilson and Brook Benton. Artists who recorded his songs include Wilson, Benton, Little Willie John, Freddie King and Gladys Knight. He has over 1170 works registered with the collecting society, BMI.
Billy Myles recorded singles for labels Ember, Dot and King, a few of these made history. “The Joker (That’s What They Call Me)” charted in the U.S. and Canada (US Pop #25, R&B #13) in 1957.
Myles was working as a staff songwriter for Al Silver’s New York City-based Herald/Ember labels; Silver thought “Th Joker” was not suitable for doo-wop act The Mello-Kings and issued Myles’ own recording. The success of the single led to Myles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 (alongside Buddy Holly), and the 1959 UK film Swing Beat with label mates The Mello-Kings and The Five Satins.
Blues guitar maestro Freddie King recorded Myles “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” in 1960, and King aficionado Eric Clapton covered the track on “Derek and the Dominoes” album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). This album is highly regarded in Clapton’s catalogue, and classic rock in general, with Myles’ song, like the title song “Layla“, having a biographical resonance with Clapton’s unrequited love for Patti Harrison.
Billy Myles lived in Greenville, North Carolina and managed his music publishing company Selbonn Music Inc. (‘Nobles’ spelled backwards) until his death in October 2005. The music publishing is now managed by his son Steven Myles Nobles. http://www.selbon.com
Selective discography of Billy Myles’ compositions
- 1957 “Tonight Tonight” – The Mello-Kings (US Pop #77) – later covered by Dion, Timmy Thomas, The Tokens, The Four Seasons
- 1957 “The Joker (That’s What They Call Me)“/”Honey Bee” – Billy Myles – (US Pop #25, R&B #13)- cover by The Hilltoppers (U.S. Pop #22)
- 1958 “King of Clowns“/”So In Need of You” – Billy Myles
- “Price Of Your Love“/”I’m Gonna Walk” – Billy Myles
- 1959 “Chapel of Dreams” – The Dubs (US Pop #74)
- 1960 “(You Were Made for) All My Love” – Jackie Wilson (US Pop #12) BMI award-winning song
- 1960 “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” – Freddie King – later covered by Derek and the Dominoes, Eric Clapton, Little Milton, Van Morrison
- “I Love That Woman” – Freddie King
- 1961 “Your One and Only Love” – Jackie Wilson (US Pop #40)
- 1961 “The Greatest Hurt“/”There’ll Be No Next Time” – Jackie Wilson (US Pop #34)
- “My Love Is” – Little Willie John – later covered by Diana Krall, Holly Golightly
- 1962 “Careless Hands” – Baby Washington
- “Let’s Go Again (Where We Went Last Night)” – Hank Ballard And The Midnighters
- “The Hoochi Coochi Coo” – Hank Ballard And The Midnighters
- “If Ever I Should Fall in Love” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
- “Bye Bye Baby” – Johnny Copeland
- “I Won’t Cry Anymore” – Big Maybelle
- “Tell Me Who” – Big Maybelle
- “Love, Oh Love” – Mongo Santamaría
- “No Love (But Your Love)” – Johnny Mathis
- “Nobody But Me” – Lou Rawls
- “Your Love Alone” – Brook Benton
Love Letters/ Era 3068/ March 1962/#5
Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson on August 16, 1934, in Hope, AR. She was one of 15 children born into a farmer’s family. After winning a scholarship in 1955, she moved to California and attended San Francisco City College, majoring in nursing.
Lester sang in church and the school choir, and performed in summer stock theatre. She also appeared as a contestant on the classic ’50s game show You Bet Your Life.
Meeting country singer/comedienne Dorothy Shay at the Purple Onion club (where she was performing), Lester was introduced to producers Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga. Herb Newman‘s Era Records released the resulting single, “I’m a Fool for You” b/w “Love Letters.”
DJs and listeners preferred the sparse, steamy B-side, making it a Top Five pop hit. The follow-up single, a cover of George Gershwin‘s “But Not for Me” from the musical Girl Crazy, peaked at #41 Pop during summer 1962.
The Ketty Lester album was issued that same year. It featured two singles, “You Can’t Lie to a Liar” and a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Another Era single was “Fallin Angel” b/w “Lullaby for Lovers.”
She also recorded the upbeat “West Coast” b/w the ballad “I’ll Be Looking Back” for Capitol, “I Said Goodbye to My Love” b/w “Queen for a Day” for Everest, and “Measure of a Man” b/w “Cracker Box Livin’,” “Show Me” b/w “Since I Fell for You,” and the LP Same for the Pete label.
Lester recorded for RCA (Soul of Me, Where Is Love, the singles “Better World,” “Roses Grow With Thorns,” “You Go Your Way,” “Some Things Are Better Unsaid,” “The Luck of Ginger Coff“) and for Tower (When a Woman Loves a Man, “Love Me Just a Little Bit”).
She also recorded a Christian album, I Saw Him, for Mega Records. Originally offered the lead role in Julia, starring Diahann Carroll, Lester appeared in the films Just for Fun, Up Tight, Uptown Saturday Night, The Terminal Man, Street Knight, House Party 3, and Blacula, and the TV movies Louis Armstrong: Chicago Style and Percy and Thunder.
She also guest-starred on TV series like Sanford and Son, Laugh-In, Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, Love American Style, The FBI, Harry O (the 1975 episode with Maureen McCormick), That Girl, Marcus Welby, and Lou Grant.
She became a regular on Little House on the Prairie (as Hester Sue Terhune) and the soap operas Days of Our Lives (as Helen Grant) and Rituals.
The singer won an Off-Broadway Theater Award for her performance in a revival of A Cabin in the Sky. Lester also had a recurring role as Vivica A. Fox’s grandmother on the 1998 sitcom Getting Personal.
1. Sacred/ Era 3048/ July 1961/ #20
2. So This is Love/ Era 3073/ May 1962/ #21
The Castells were a male vocal quartet from Santa Rosa, California best remembered for their hits “Sacred” (#20 in 1961) and “So This Is Love” (#21 in 1962), both released on Era Records.
Their sound blended light rock with elements of collegiate vocal harmony and jazz, and proved popular with teenagers as well as adults.
The Castells was formed at Santa Rosa, CA High School, circa 1959. They were booked for a performance at a local teenage “canteen”. They did not have a name, and their pianist, Jeff Bush, suggested the name. It had no meaning other than they thought that it sounded good, and the intent was to be more thoughtful and change it later. They obviously never did.
Through a local Santa Rosa KJAX disc-jockey who went by the name of Dan Dillon, they got some Hollywood contacts. Girard’s mother financed a demo for $100., which was recorded in a San Francisco studio. They took their demo and went door-to-door in Hollywood, first to Crystalette Records,which seemed to be defunct, Alladin records, and then Era Records. They were excited that Alladin seemed interested, as they considered themselves to be R&B, but eventually it was Era who signed them.
Their first release “Little Sad Eyes“, went to “Bubbling Under” on the Billboard chart, then came “Sacred“, which charted for them. “Make Believe Wedding” went “Bubbling Under”, then “So This Is Love” again charted.
They played shows for a few years, and were privileged to share the stage with many of their idols, among them Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Vee, and Brenda Lee.
They never again charted, but did continue to record for a few years, first for Warner Brothers Records, and then lastly, Decca Records. They disbanded around 1964.
Member Chuck Girard later joined the surf rock group The Hondells, and in the 1970s became a popular and pioneering CCM artist.
Don French was born in Wayne Pennsylvania in 1940. He learned to play the guitar by ear before he was 10. While attending High School he got four of his friends to form a group known as the Falcons. In 1959 Don signed a contract with Lancer records and recorded “Lonely Saturday Night” which became his only hit.
The Lafayettes were a short-lived ’60s Rock band (’62-’63) from Baltimore who only achieved mild success within the Eastern part of the US (including Philly) . They released just two 45s and the A-side of the first, “Life’s Too Short”, charted at #87 on Billboard and was featured in the original movie Hairspray. In a new documentary, it was also touted by Brian Eno as having a profound effect on him as a youth.
(without Cathy Jean)
From Kew Gardens, Queens New York, “the Roommates” were fifteen year old Steve Susskind and Bob Minsky of Russell Sage Junior High. Susskind originally sang with a local quartet called “the Sparklers”, but in 1959 he and Minsky became a duo. Later that year they took second place at a Forest Hills High School competition losing to Tom and Jerry who would later become Simon and Garfunkel.
Deciding to become a group several members came and went until the 1960 members included Steve Susskind (lead), Jack Carlson (first tenor and falsetto), Felix Alvarez (second tenor) and Bob Minsky (bass).
The group practiced after school and began writing songs. Realizing the songs weren’t good enough they began going through their 45s to find workable material coming up with “One Summer Night” and “The Glory of Love.”
The group often sang in the lobby of the Forest Hills apartment building where Jody Malis lived. Malis was the record librarian at WMGM radio, which had one of the nation’s first top 40 formats. Along with her husband Gene she signed them to a management contract.
The Roommates first single was a Country hit from the ’50s, “Making Believe“, which received some airplay, but soon disappeared.
Around this time, on May 3, 1960, Gene and Jody Malis, recorded a new single for their recently established Valmor label. The singer, fourteen year old Cathy Jean Giordano, recorded the ballad “Please Love Me Forever.”
Feeling that something was missing “the Roommates” were brought in and overdubbed the harmony parts. Cathy Jean had already left the studio by the time the Roommates recorded so they never met her. Feeling that if they had a hit they would have two acts, the Malis’ credited both on the label.
“Please Love Me Forever” won dick jockey Murray the K’s Boss record of the Week on WINS in New York City in late 1960. On February 27th it entered the Billboard Hot 100 and by April it was at #12, reaching #2 in New York. None of Cathy’s follow-ups sold many copies.
As a reward for their part in “Please Love Me Forever” The Malises gave the Roommates a free session at the Regent Sound Studio. That night of that free session, November 25, 1960 they recorded “Band of Gold,” “Glory of Love,” and “My Foolish Heart.”
“Glory of Love” entered the charts and rose to #49. “Band of Gold,” made it into the top twenty in New York, but failed to chart nationally for a technical reason.
Before Valmor Records closed down in 1962 a “Cathy and the Roommates” album was issued. George Rodriguez was added to the Roommates. Versions of “Gee” and “A Sunday Kind of Love” were recorded, but no one was buying.
In the spring of 1965 the Roommates disbanded. Jody Malis later wrote and produced recordings for the children’s labels Peter Pan and Golden Records
The Rocky Fellers
Killer Joe/ Scepter 1246/ April 1963/ #16
Stanley Kahn discovered The Rocky Fellers, a Pop/rock band in the 1960s, and signed them to Scepter Records. The group was composed of four Filipino brothers: Tony, Junior, Eddie, and Albert Maligmat, and their father, Doroteo “Moro” Maligmat.
They had a hit single called “Killer Joe”, written by Bert Russell and Bob Elgin in 1963. The song was inspired by famed dance instructor and “King of the Discotheque,” Killer Joe Piro. It has many similarities to the chorus of the Mickey and Sylvia hit, “Love is Strange.” “Killer Joe” reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1963.
They followed up with another Bob Elgin song called “Like the Big Guys Do“. Among their other recordings was a Christmas novelty song, “Santa, Santa“, written by a then-unknown songwriter, Neil Diamond. The Rocky Fellers faded quickly from the music scene in the mid-1960s, due primarily to the British Invasion bands.
Barbara/ Climax 102/ August 1959/ # 29
This group, not to be confused with Motown’s Temptations, was a typical New York Group, a bunch of clean-cut all-American boys who were good-looking and sang love ballads in the style of Dion and the Belmonts, the Elegants, the Passions, the Regents and the Mystics.
They where signed to George Golder’s Goldisc records in early 1960. Their one major hit was “Barbara“, a moderate tempo ballad.
Here are some more “Forgotten Songs”.
Wiggle, Wiggle/ Brunswick 55100/ November 1958/ #51
During a time period, 1958, one of the ugliest fashion’s became popular, the “Sack Dress”. Robert Draper and the Accents recorded this forgotten song in November 1958.
Don & Juan
What’s your Name/ Big Top 3079/ February 1962/ #7
Don And Juan were a US R&B vocal duo who recorded one Top 10 ballad that has since become a doo-wop classic: ‘What’s Your Name’ (1962). Don (Roland Trone) and Juan (b. Claude Johnson) were members of a vocal quartet called the Genies in Brooklyn, New York, USA. In 1959 the Genies released the up-tempo single ‘Who’s That Knockin’’, which reached number 71 in the US charts on Shad Records. Unable to follow it with another hit, the group was dropped from the label, and subsequent recordings for Hollywood Records and Warwick Records also failed to chart. Trone and Johnson left the group and became house painters in the Long Island, New York area, until they were rediscovered, this time by an agent named Peter Paul, who arranged for the pair to sign with Big Top Records. Under their new name, they recorded ‘What’s Your Name’, which reached number 7 in the Billboard charts in February 1962. Only one other single, ‘Magic Wand’, charted, although Don And Juan continued to record until 1967. Trone died in 1983 and Johnson rekindled the act with Alexander ‘Buddy’ Faison, another former member of the Genies, as the new Don.
Sometime/ United Artist 338/ 1961/ #51
I have included this song again, because, since starting the Blog, I have met the actual Gene Thomas (via email) and have kinda become friends. He is a very nice and talented guy, who wrote and recorded a great song in 1961.
Travis & Bob
Tell him No/ Sandy 1017/ April 1959/ # 8
- Travis Pritchett, born 18 March 1939, Jackson, Alabama,
- Bob Weaver, born 27 July 1939, Jackson, Alabama
Travis and Bob were one-hit wonders from Jackson, Alabama, a small town in Clarke County, with a population of 5,419 at the 2000 census. They attended the local grammar school together and had a common interest in making music. A DJ at WPBB, Jackson’s hometown radio station, suggested that they go to Mobile to make a demo. A guy called Henry Bailey had a little sound studio there and was so enthusiastic about their song “Tell Him No” that he introduced Travis and Bob to Johnny Lee Bozeman and Paul Dubois, who owned the Sandy label in Mobile. Dubois and his brother Johnny recorded the duo in a garage in their hometown, Gulfport, Mississippi. “Tell Him No” was the first song Travis Pritchett ever wrote. The record took off immediately and the Sandy label, which had never had a hit before, arranged a deal with Randy Wood’s Dot label to ensure that the record would get national distribution. By April 1959 the disc had climbed to # 8 on the Billboard charts. A cover version by Dean and Marc (the Mathis brothers, who had worked with Dale Hawkins and would later form the nucleus of the Newbeats) also charted, on the Bullseye label, peaking at # 42. There were other covers : by the Jackson Brothers (Atco 6139, issued in the UK on London HLX 8845*) and in the UK by the Mudlarks and the Lana Sisters, a trio that included a youthful Dusty Springfield. The Travis and Bob version was released in the UK on Pye Inter- national N 25018, but did not chart there, though it was a hit in several other European countries, like my native Holland, where it went to #2.
The follow-up, “Little Bitty Johnny” (Sandy 1019) was issued in May 1959 and is arguably their best record. However, in Billboard it got no further than a “Bubbling under” position at # 114, and it spent two weeks on the Cash Box Top 100, peaking at # 95. “Oh Yeah”/”Lover’s Rendezvous” followed soon thereafter, but sold even fewer copies and “Wake Up And Cry”/”That’s How Long” (Sandy 1029, March 1960) was their swan song on Sandy, though an album’s worth of stuff was recorded. “They had quit trying on us”, said Travis. “They’d made some bucks, and they were satisfied. It woulda meant puttin’ more money into us”. Travis and Bob are sometimes compared to the Everly Brothers, but they were not in that league. A comparison to the Kalin Twins is more appropriate and for Mercury they cut one song by the Kalins, “The Spider And the Fly” (recorded prior to “When”). Wesley Rose, hot for a duo after losing the Everly Brothers, tempted them with 10 grand if they would sign to his Hickory label. But Bob Weaver had developed a deep mistrust of the music industry and would not go along with the plan. He and Travis parted ways, with Travis continuing as a solo act and songwriter. Travis Pritchett would later work in insurance for many years, eventually settling into the security business.
Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight/ Vee-Jay 107/ April 1954/ # 24
Gary, Indiana, natives Ernest Warren (first tenor), Opal Courtney Jr. (baritone), Willie Jackson (second tenor), and Gerald Gregory (bass) met and started singing in Rosevelt High School. The unnamed quartet had heard schoolmate James “Pookie” Hudson sing, and they convinced him to sing with them for the school talent show. They debuted as Pookie Hudson and The Hudsonaires for the Christmastime 1952 show and fared so well they decided to continue as a quintet.
The 11th graders rehearsing and performing Pookie-penned songs like “Baby It’s You” at local churches and talent show performances, with Pookie’s smooth and smoky leadmarvelling the masses. The group was looking for a new name when Gregory’s wife heard them singing and told them they sounded like a “bunch of dogs”. Not wanting to join the bird group club they went for The Spaniels.
In the Spring of 1954 the group visited a local record shop owned by James Bracken and Vivian Carter Bracken of WWCA. The groups singing convinced the Bracken’s to start their own label named after the couple’s first name initials (V.J.) The Brackens moved their operation to Chicago and on May 5, 1953, had a bouncy ballad piano, bass, and melody line that surfaced in numerous later recordings started getting enough radio response and sales in Chicago area to interest the larger Chance label. (In later years Vee Jay would own and distribute all of Chance’s recordings.) On September 5th, “Baby” hit number 10 on the national R&B Best Seller and Jukebox charts.
The follow up, “The Bells Ring Out” was a mellow bluesy ballad with lots of vocal harmony but it received only some local play.
The Spaniels were the first of the successful Midwestern R&B groups. They were also one of the first (if not the first) R&B groups to perform with he lead singer on one mic and the group on another, and they initiated a trend toward using tap dance routines in live shows. In terms of the original material, Pookie’s songs did not come about through the traditional formula. Normally the group would just walk down a street and harmonize till something came together.
In March 1954 Vee-Jay released “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” about which Billboards reviewer wrote “Almost pop-like piece of material. The imitation of the sounds of a sax by the bass singer gives this side a gimmick which helps greatly. Strong wax.” The success of “Goodnight” prompted the McGuire Sisters to cover it for the white market, stealing a lot of The Spaniels thunder. But their version still managed to peak at number five R&B in the summer of 1954. It became one of the most requested records on oldies radio.
Pookie and the company’s next single “Let’s Make Up”, earned more for writer Hudson as someone else’s B-Side that it did as his A-Side. That’s because the voice of Walter Schumann had it on the flip of the hit “The Ballad of Davey Crocket”.
On June 11th, 1954 The Spaniels made the first of numerous appearances at The Apollo in New York, along with Joe Turner and Arnett Cobb’s Orchestra. In Augusta they toured with the second annual “Biggest R&B Show” through the Midwest with The Drifters, The Counts, Erskine Hawkins, Roy Hamilton and King Pleasure, winding up on September 12 at the Brooklyn Paramount.
Their mid dash tempo “Do Whaa” single of May of 1955 failed, but the follow-up “You Painted Pictures” reached number 13 R&B in October and kept The Spaniels working.
Opal Courtney Jr. was then drafter and replaced by a Vee-Jay A&R man Cal Carter for a few months until James “Dimples” Cochran took over. Shortly thereafter, Ernest Warren was drafted and the group continued recording as a quartet. Two subsequent singles, “False Love” and “Dear Heart” drifted off into obscurity.
With records not selling Pookie and Willie left. The roster now read Carl Rainge, Gerald Gregory, James Cochran, and Don Porter this contingent lasted for only one single in 1956 until Pookie rejoined and began creating some of the groups most outstanding sides: “Peace Of Mind”, “Everyone’s Laughin”, the solid rhythm number “Tina”, and an exciting fast version of the standard “Stormy Weather”. The story goes that in 1958 Pookie Hudson was performing with the group at the Casbah Club in Washington D.C., at the time when a gospel act, The Nightingales, were also there. The’Gales had a song called “The Twist” that they offered to the Spaniels since they couldn’t record secular songs and still kept their gospel following. The Spaniels passed on it and Hank Ballard put it out shortly thereafter. When Chubby Checker had his hit version of it, The Spaniels must have kicked themselves for letting it get away. It’s unclear how the Nightingales came upon the song, though they probably had heard Hank and The Midnighters performing it before it was released since Hank is acknowledged author of the song and the Nightingales never publicly claimed to have created it.
By 1960 The Spaniels were Hudson, Ernest Warren, Gerald Gregory, Bill Carey, and Andy McGruder. They recorded the groups last Vee-Jay single, “I Know”, in 1960, and it reached number 23 R&B that summer.
By 1961 McGruder and Gregory had left. Road manager Ricky Burden took over on bass for “For Sentimental Reasons”. Pookie did a few solo sets for Jamie and in 1962 cut “I Know, I Know” backed by The Imperials minus Little Anthony for Lloyd Price’s double-L label. In the late 60’s Pookie formed his own North American Records and issues “Fairy Tales” becoming Pookies last chart single in the Fall on 1970.
Two more North American singles were issued in the early 70’s with a new Spaniels lineup of Hudson, Charles Douglas, Alvin Wheeler, Alvil Lloyd, and the groups former guitarist Pete Simmons. Douglas was replaced by Andrew Lawyer and the group recorded a remake of “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” for Buddah.
Their last release was for Henry Farag’s Canterbury label of Gary, Indiana, in 1974 when Hudson, Rainge, Cochran, and Porter recorded a contemporary version of “Peace of Mind” and two B-Sides, “She Sang To Me” and a cappella arrangement of “Danny Boy”.
Pookie and The Spaniels remained active and were one of the more in-demand acts on the oldies circuit. Though they never had a pop hit, oldies radio made them popular far beyond the R&B audience. Their recordings remain excellent examples of fine R&B and Rock and Roll, and Pookies sound remains unique.
The Jive Bombers
Bad Boy/ Savoy 1508/ March 1957/ #36
The Jive Bombers (who are not to be confused with the rockabilly group bearing the same moniker) are best known for their Savoy single “Bad Boy” which reached number seven on the R&B charts in 1957. The group — Earl Johnson, Al Tinney, William Tinney (aka “Pee Wee”), and lead vocalist Clarence Palmer — were formed from the membership of two other vocal acts: Sonny Austin & the Jive Bombers and the Palmer Brothers. They were originally known as the Sparrows — again, these weren’t the Sparrows who recorded “Why Did You Leave Me?” for Jay Dee — when they recorded early in their career for Coral in 1949; they later changed names back to the Jive Bombers when they switched over to Citation Records in 1952.
The Jive Bombers’ “Bad Boy” (written by Avon Long and Lillian Hardin Armstrong, better known perhaps as “Lil Hardin” and wife of Louis Armstrong from 1924-1938) was their only charting hit, it peaked at number 36 on the pop/number seven on R&B in 1957.
Clarence Palmer’s beautifully sung classic has been re-recorded by a number of artists, including the Escorts (’50s), Mink Deville, Ringo Starr, Sha Na Na, and many more. It was later featured prominently in the John Waters-directed movie, Cry Baby. ~ Bryan Thomas, All Music Guide
1. Ka-Ding Dong/ Pilgrim 715/ September 1956/ #24
2. I Understand (Just How You Feel) / Terrace 7500/ October 1961/ #9
The G-Clefs vocal group was a product of Massachusetts in 1955, Roxbury to be exact. The quintet consisted of the four Scott brothers – Teddy, Timmy, Chris, and Arnold, as well as friend Ray Gibson. Originally formed with an eye and ear toward gospel music, the boys saw that the R & B music of the day was a way to become popular especially with the ladies. As they got their musical act together and learned how to hit the harmony they were soon put in contact with Jack Gold who was an A & R man in the region for a Boston based record label run by Cecil Steen called Pilgrim Records. Before long the G-Clefs worked out a fast paced jump tune that seemed to hold promise called “Ka-Ding Dong”. It became the ‘A’ side of the group’s first record on Pilgrim #715. As legend has it, the galloping guitar on the song was played by a teenager from the greater Boston area named Fred Picariello who would find rock ‘n roll riches under the name Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon in a couple of years. The flip side was one of the many “girl’s name” tunes so common in the fifties called “Darla My Darling”. The record hit the radio airwaves and the record stores in early July of 1956 The up tempo side was the choice of listeners and broke big immediately in the Northeast during all of August. By September it had begun to sell in big numbers in the Midwest especially in Kansas City and St. Louis where it was a top five selling record. Sales of the record resulted in the usual number of tepid pop music covers. The popularity moved the G-Clefs into the top lines of the vocal groups doing personal appearances in the region and ended talk of confusion over their name ( too close to Gee Records and The Cleftones for some). Riding a four month crest for the record, the G-Clefs readied their follow-up side for Pilgrim in early November. The songs were another fast paced rocker “Cause You’re Mine” and the ballad side “Please Write While I’m Away” and the release was Pilgrim #720 (which had moved its headquarters to New York). Once again the rockin’ up tempo tune started to sell immediately and the G-Clefs were back on the best seller charts. Soon after the November release of the new record Jack Gold left Pilgrim Records and decided to start his own record company. He brought the G-Clefs (who were under a personal contract with Gold) along with him to his new enterprise which he named Paris Records located in New York.
With “Cause You’re Mine” the second solid seller for the group, Gold had the group ready their first record for the new label in March of 1957. “Love Her In The Morning” was the up side and a dramatic ballad was the flip. It was called “Symbol Of Love” and released on Paris #502. This time listeners went for the ballad side of the record and “Symbol Of Love” continued the success of the Massachusetts five. “Symbol” was a very unique treatment of a ballad for an R & B group. It featured a framing device of a dramatic spoken reading of the name of the song followed by a smooth shuffle rhythm instead of the usual hard edged triplets. The song was an atmospheric and dramatic mood piece of the story of teenage love in the fifties. The G-Clefs now were appearing on stage with Alan Freed at the New York Paramount and did not disappoint. The group had really learned to put over this song on stage with their choreographed manoeuvres integrated with the lyrics for a great visual presentation, one of the best of any vocal group I have ever seen. By spring the G-Clefs gave some tunes the once over before deciding on their next record. “Is This The Way ?” was to be the ballad side and for the jump side a nonsense syllable rocker called “Zing Zang Zoo” was the choice for Paris #506. This time after initial airplay and some sales, the record went flat and by mid summer the single was missing in action. After the summer when the group had fulfilled its in person dates there was serious discussion among the brothers about whether they wanted to continue the grind of the road and the pressures to come up with a top seller all the time. A couple of the guys wanted to further their education and one wanted to try the non performing part of the music business. There were no forthcoming records by the group, and even though George Goldner announced that he had signed The G-Clefs to his Gone label in April of 1958, nothing more was heard of that supposed partnership.
It is now three years later and jack Gold is still at it this time with another label in New York called Terrace Records. He calls around and gets the G-Clefs together once again and they agree to give their group harmony a shot. The result is the first release for the company on Terrace #7500 in September of 1961. The group does a version of a song that was a huge hit for The Four Tunes in 1954 called “I Understand (Just How You Feel)” a lovely ballad reworking of “Auld Lang Syne”. The flip side is “Little Girl I Love You” but that is never a factor as the ballad takes off immediately. “I Understand” creates a huge stir as the record sells in all areas and becomes a pop smash. By November it is into the top ten best seller lists of popular music in the U.S. and is easily the biggest record ever for the group. Jack Gold looks like a genius for bringing the G-Clefs back after a three year hiatus and scoring such a big seller on his new label.
Unfortunately, that was the high point for the group and the Terrace label. The vocal group sound was just about to fade away behind all the new movements in music that would take place in the early sixties. The G-Clefs kept at it for another few years, with four more tries for Terrace : #7503 – “A Girl Has To Know”; #7507 – “Make Up Your Mind”; #7510 – “A Lover’s Prayer” / “Sitting In The Moonlight”; and #7514 – “All My Trials” / “The Big Rain”. There were also sides for small labels such as Regina, Veep, and Loma, until the G-Clefs called it quits in 1966. And so ended a decade of vocal group harmony by the Bay State boys.