1954, Carlyle Dundee aka Robert Mosely overheard "wannabes" Stewart
Crunk, Bobby Adams, Jack Harris and Sterling Meade rehearsing. Carlyle stated
that he had contacts in the music industry and two (2) songs that he wanted the
group to record with him as the lead singer. After a few rehearsals and an
introduction to Producer Lee Silver, the "Dundees" recorded two songs,
"Never" and "Evil One" on the "Space" label. Bobby
Adams was the 2nd tenor, Sterling Meade, 1st tenor, Stewart Crunk, baritone,
Jack Harris, bass. Carlyle Dundee soon left the group. The remaining four (4)
members formed another group called "The Wonders." Two songs were soon
recorded, again, on the "Space" label; "Bop Bop Baby," and
"Little Girl" with Bobby Adams singing lead vocals on both. The group,
"The Wonders" soon broke up.
1955, while still in high school, Stewart Crunk and Bobby Adams recruited Herman
Pruitt lead, Joe Hampton, 2nd tenor, and Jack Harris, bass, to start another
group. Stewart named the group, the "Calvanes." The meaningless name,
according to Stewart, "just sounded good." Cornelius (Cornell) Gunter
of the then popular group "Flairs," later known as the
"Coasters," was instrumental in preparing the "Calvanes:
musically for the next level in their R&B career.
group soon immigrated to 95th and Central Avenue (Watts) in Los Angeles,
California to "Dootone" Records, owned and operated by Walter
"Dootsie" Williams who had the hottest record label around, following
the recording of the hottest record at that time, "Earth Angel" by the
group known as the "Penguins." After a brief audition with
"Dootsie" Williams, the "Calvanes" recorded their first
songs, "Don't Take Your Love From Me" and "Crazy Over You"
with Herman Pruitt singing the lead. These two recordings put the
"Calvanes" on the west coast map. The group never "toured"
because they were all still in high school. However, the group did appear on two
television shows, and "gigged" on the weekends.
Call Me Fool" and "One More Kiss" was suppose to follow
"Don't Take Your Love From Me" however, "Dootsie" Williams
had a disc jockey friend named "Zeke Manners" who wrote a song called
"Florabelle," named after his girlfriend. Zeke basically persuaded
Dootsie to allow the "Calvanes" to record this song, against the
wishes of the Calvanes. "Florabelle" took the group down the tubes.
Lately, after some demand, "Florabelle" has made its way back on the
"Calvanes" set list for performances.
"Calvanes" broke up in 1957, after a dispute with Dootsie Williams.
1957 Herman Pruitt joined a young group called the "Youngsters," which
included Donald Miller, Charles Everidge, James Warren, Homer Green, and Harold
Murray. The "Youngsters" recorded "Dreamy Eyes." Herman
Pruitt's high falsetto lead voice on the "bridge" put the recording
over the top of the local music charts. "Dreamy Eyes" and "Chapel
of Love" are currently part of the Calvanes performance set list.
In 1958, The Calvanes regrouped as a quartet when Bobby Adams, Herman Pruitt, and Stewart Crunk recruited a new bass singer, Fred Willis, who had a deep voice, a creative mind, and an exceptional "ear" for harmony Six singles were recorded on Hite Morgan's Deck label.
Also in 1958, responding to the need to make extra money, Bobby Adams joined a newly formed group, called the "Hitmakers," put together by a local D.J., Art La Bow, on his "Original Sound" label. The group also consisted of Val Poliuto, 1st tenor, of the "Jaguars," Rodney Gooden, with two other singers. "Chapel of Love" was recorded and became a hit song on the west coast, which was led by Rodney Gooden. Bobby Adams sang the nonlyrical chant at the beginning and ending of "Chapel". Adams was also the bass singer during the middle of the song. The flip side was "Cool School" led by Bobby Adams.
a few "gigs" the racially integrated "Hitmakers" went their
separate ways. In order to showcase, the "Calvaries" knack for
providing great harmony, the Calvanes began arranging and rehearsing prerecorded
popular songs using four (4) part diminished chords (patterned after the
"Four Freshmen" and the "Hi-Lo's"). For the next two years
the group saturated the Los Angeles County clubs, hotels, and party scenes.
1961, Fred Willis was drafted into the Army. Adams, Pruitt and Crunk recruited
Sidney Dunbar and recorded for RCA as the "Nuggets".
1962, the "Nuggets" had left the music business and found regular
jobs. Bobby Adams, eventually became a Los Angeles Police Officer and served for
28 years before retiring as Director of Security for Mayor Tom Bradley in 1993.
Bobby Adams is currently the Security Director for Lionel Richie that
periodically requires extensive worldwide travel.
Willis, after being honorably discharged from the Army, made a career in the
U.S. Postal Service as did Herman Pruitt. Note: Original "Calvanes"
member, Jack Harris moved to Atlanta, Joe Hampton just dropped out of sight;
Stewart Crunk passed away from asthma in 1967; Sidney Dunbar passed away in 1983
from a heart attack.
1990, Bobby, Fred and Herman were contacted by the Southern Califomia Doo Wop
Society (DWS) to resurrect the "Calvanes.: The group was one man short.
Upon visiting a Doo Wop Society (DWS) show, they noticed Jimmy Corbitt, a bass
singer with a great voice, singing with Johnny Staten, who was the original lead
of the "Feathers." It was revealed that Jimmy also sang on occasion
with Vernon Green's "Medallions" and was noncommital to any group.
Jimmy was immediately approached and asked to join the "Calvanes,"
which he was historically familiar with. After the first rehearsal, the marriage
was in place. The DWS was contacted and advised that the "Calvanes"
were "ready to go." Soon the Calvanes were providing background vocals
at a recording session with the late Rudy West of the "5 Keys" on
Bruce Patch's "Classic" Label. The harmony was so good that Bruce
encouraged the "Calvanes" to record "Take Me Back" written
by DWS's Jim Dawson and "Have You No Heart," written by the late Dave
"Doc" Antrell with Herman Pruitt leading both songs.
early 1991, the "Calvanes" became the "Tune Weavers,"
backing the late Margo Sylvia at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. They
were so impressive that the "Calvanes" were again invited back to the
Amphitheater and provided the opening act for a Doo Wop show featuring the
"Spaniels, and the "Flamingos."
Calvanes soon met and befriended Buddy Bailey of the "Clovers". After
several rehearsals, the "Calvanes" became the "Clovers" at a
DWS show in Bellflower, California. Buddy was so impressed that he stated that
"you all sound better than the original "Clovers." The Calvanes
were overwhelmed with the compliment, because they had always idolized the
"Clovers"", as well as the "5 Keys", the
"Dominos", Clyde McPhatter's "Drifters", "Harptones",
Moonglows", Flamingos", and the "Spaniels". The "Calvanes"
remained close friends with Buddy Bailey until his recent death in Las Vegas.
the last few years the "Calvanes", in addition to performing their own
recordings, have provided background vocals while performing with Richard Berry~
Gaynell Hodge of the "Turks", George Grant of the "Castelles",
Jewel Akins, and Leon Peels of the "Blue Jays".
1996, the "Calvanes" were voted the UGHA's Group of the Year. The
group was invited to the east coast, where they received the prestigious award
and performed in New Jersey and Pittsburgh. The group has returned to the area
on several occasions, and rendered outstanding performances to their many fans.
The Calvanes also received a "Certificate of Commendation" from the
City of Los Angeles, presented by Mayor Tom Bradley in 1992.
the United In Group Harmony Association enters the Calvanes into their Hall of
Fame. Perhaps the group did not have a major hit during their recording career
but that never stopped UGHA in recognizing the group as one of the 1950's finest
and as far as today's scene in group harmony music, who's better?
Congratulations: Herman, Bobby, Fred & Jim!
Todd R. Baptista
the height of the vocal group era, few acts could lay claim to the degree of
national success enjoyed by the Crests. In just over four years together, they
placed 13 records on billboard's pop chart, six of which hit the Top 20. Led
by the powerful and distinctive tenor of Johnny Maestro, Crests' classics
including "16 Candles", "Step By Step", and "The
Angels Listened In" are defining examples of the rock'n'roll vocal group
native Jay "J.T." Carter formed the original quartet in 1955. First
tenor Talmadge "Tommy" Gough, second tenor Harold Torres, and tenor
Patricia Vandross, all residents of the Alfred E. Smith housing project in
Chinatown on the Lower East Side, joined the bass‑singing Carter while
students at P.S. 160 Junior High. The unnamed group performed in their school
auditorium, at neighborhood dances, and on street corners, emulating the
sounds of the Harptones, Cadillacs, and Penguins, among others.
1956, John Mastroangelo, a 17‑year old from nearby Mulberry Street, met
the group at the Henry Street Settlement House. Johnny Maestro, as he came to
be known, was initially influenced by Johnny Ray, before tuning into the
sounds of the Harptones, Moonglows, and Flamingos. "They were learning
harmonies from a gospel singer," Maestro recalls. "They were looking
for a lead singer and they lived in the same neighborhood as I did. They had
heard that I was singing with a couple of friends in the neighborhood,
approached me, and asked if I would sing with them. I joined them, and that's
how we began the Crests."
of a small number of mixed race and gender groups, the original Crests
consisted of three African Americans, one Italian American and one Puerto
Rican member. Although the association was unusual, it was never an issue for
the five teenagers. "We were all very interested in the music and
harmonies at the time," Maestro explains. "All of us were looking to
form a group and it wasn't even a thought. We just worked well together, sang
well together, and that was the main concern."
quintet practiced regularly for over a year, eventually adopting the Crests
name at Carter's suggestion. On one occasion in the early months of 1957, the
Crests boarded the Lexington IRT and began singing. "We were singing on
the subway as we traveled from point to point, "Maestro remembers.
"A woman heard and approached us and gave us Al Browne's card. She said,
'You should contact Al and he may be able to help you'."
freelance producer, musician and bandleader who had worked with artists
including the Heartbeats, Browne landed the group a contract with the tiny
Joyce record label, operated out of the back of a record shop at 1928 Fulton
Street on the edge of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. With
Browne arranging and producing, the Crests' first release, "My
Juanita"/ "Sweetest One". was recorded and issued in the spring
of 1957. Both sides received heavy airplay in the New York area and
"Sweetest One" climbed to #86 on Billboard's pop chart, a lofty
accomplishment for a small firm like Joyce. Maestro's royalty check for the
disc totaled $17.50.
One To Love"/"Wish She Was Mine". a favorite among vocal group
enthusiasts today, received little attention when Joyce issued it as a
follow-up single in the summer of 1957. While recording for the label,
the Crests were introduced to Browne's friend, songwriter, arranger, and
singer Billy Dawn Smith. Smith, it turn, brought them to the attention of
George Paxton, a music publisher who signed the group and formed Coed Records.
At this point, Patricia Vandross was forced to drop out. "Coed wanted us
to travel and promote the records and the group, "Maestro explains.
"I think she was 16 at the time and her mom wasn't too happy about her
traveling with us so she pulled her out."
with songwriters Luther Dixon and Billy Dawn Smith and arranger Bert Keyes,
the Crests turned out polished, well crafted music which Coed's distributors
were able to promote nationally. Their initial offering, the uptempo
"Pretty Little Angel", backed with "I Thank The Moon",
another collector's favorite, did well locally in the summer of 1958. The
follow up, "16 Candles", was penned by Dixon and Allyson Khent.
Issued in November of 1958, "16 Candles" was an American Bandstand
favorite that climbed to #2 on the Hot 100 during a 21 week chart run into
early 1959. The rich, soulful harmonies of the Crests also appealed to R&B
fans, with the disc hitting #4 on that chart as well. "That was
unexpected to me and the group, "Maestro confesses. "We were rooting
for the other side, 'Beside You'. That's the side that we wanted
with Buddah Records, the Brooklyn Bridge scored a gold record hit with "The
Worst That Could Happen" in early 1969. A number of contemporary rock
efforts kept them on the national charts into 1970 including "Welcome Me
Love", "Blessed Is The Rain", and "Your Husband, My
Wife". With only a few changes in personnel, Johnny Maestro and the
Brooklyn Bridge continued to tour the country steadily, occasionally recording
and releasing new material.
leaving the Crests in 1961, Tommy Gough moved to Detroit and went to work for
General Motors. Harold Torres found employment in the jewelry industry and still
lives in New York. J.T. Carter continued touring with Ancrum and Lewis as the
Crests into 1978. After spending a year with Charlie Thomas' Drifters, he formed
a new touring Crests group in 1980 and has kept them going on and off for the
past 20 years.
Vandross left singing altogether in 1958 but watched her younger brother,
Luther, become one of R&B's biggest stars in the 1980s. "Luther was the
annoying little kid who used to sit in the living room with us while we were
rehearsing and we'd have to throw him out of the room, "Maestro quips.
"Maybe he learned something from us." Diabetic complications led to
Pat Vandross' untimely passing in 1993.
their individual careers, the original Crests are bound by the legacy of their
classic hit recordings. In June of 1987, Maestro, Carter, Torres, and Gough
reunited as the Crests for a concert in Peekskill, New York. Tonight, the United
In Group Harmony Association takes pride in honoring the Original Crests at the
10th Annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.
The Four Tunes
of the vocal quartet family tree are not only intertwined but frequently spring
from the same roots. The Four Tunes trace their origins to one of the premier
quartets of the twentieth century, the Ink Sports. Yet the Four Tunes themselves
must be considered one of the greatest groups ever to lift their voices in
1944, Deek Watson left the Ink Sports in a riff with lead Bill Kenny. Deek
started his own Ink Spots group that also included Joe King, Pat Best and Jimmy
Gordon. Prohibited from using the Ink Spots' name, Deck Watson's group was
renamed the Brown Dots. By early 1945, Joe King was replaced in the group by an
extraordinary lead tenor named Jim Nabbie.
Nabbie, a native of Tampa, had graduated from Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona
Beach and had taught high school math in Winter Haven, Florida. After singing
with a Florida group called the Orange Blossom Singers, Nabbie served in the
army during the war. Discharged in 1944, Jim Nabbie moved to New York in search
of a singing career. What he found was a position as the Brown Dots' new lead
Brown Dots signed with Manor Records and scored big immediately with the Deck
Watson and Pat Best composition, "For Sentimental Reasons". Jim Nabbie
did the lead. The success of "Sentimental Reasons" and other hits like
"Just In Case You Change Your Mind", "Let's Give Love Another
Chance" and "Satchelmouth Baby" led to Brown Dots appearance in
the movies "Boy! What A Girl" and Sepia Cinderella".
clash between Deck Watson and the others led the three to strike out on their
own. Recruiting tenor Danny Ownes from the Coleman Brothers (Danny had also sung
with the Southern Sons and Melody Masters), the new group began recording with
Manor Records as the Sentimentalists. It was this group of Jim Nabbie (lead),
Danny Owens (tenor), Pat Best (baritone) and Jimmy Gordon (bass) that shortly
thereafter became the Four Tunes.
of the Four Tunes' best recordings with Manor were done with Savannah Churchill,
who was also recording for the label at that time. "Time Out For
Tears", "Foolishly Yours" and "I Want To Be Loved" have
all become R&B standards.
1949, the Four Tunes had signed with RCA Records. Their first release for RCA,
"Careless Love" b/w "You're Heartless", may very well have
been the first R&B quartet record pressed on 45 RPM. The Four Tunes; RCA
material was beautifully polished and very well received. Songs like "My
Last Affair", "Am I Blue", "Come What May" showcased
the group's talent. The Four Tunes were eventually credited with 18 RCA
releases. They stayed with RCA through most of 1953 but as the rock & roll
era came in they needed to change. That change came with a new record label.
in 1953, the Four tunes; first jubilee Records recording, "Marie"
became a smash hit. Giving the old standard an upbeat rock & roll flavor,
the song soon hit #18 on the charts. It's follow up, "I Understand (just
How You Feel)" was even bigger, cracking the Top Ten. The flip, "Sugar
Lump" also did well. Fifteen releases were issued by Jubilee, running
1955, the Four Tunes had relocated to Las Vegas, where they played the Hacienda
for eight years. The group's last recordings were for the Crosby Record label in
Jim Nabbie left the group in 1963 to go solo, the Four Tunes broke up. A reunion
of sorts was organized in 1970, when a Four Tunes group reformed. Members
included Pat Best, Jimmy Gordon, Billy Wells and Frank Dawes. Jim Nabbie was not
available to join them. He had already formed his own Ink Spots group and sang
with them until his death in 1992.
we welcome this great vocal quartet , the Four Tunes into the UGHA Hall of Fame.
Tom Luciani & Steve Flam
following information has been compiled from an interview with Gene Pearson by
Tom Luciani and an interview with Mel Dancy by Steve Flam at a Rock Rivival
Show at Hunter College.
Rivileers began their singing career in Jamaica, New York, where they were
students at Jamaica High School. Some of the guys were from the neighboring
community of Saint Albans. Like many other groups, they practiced whereever
they could, and many times they could be found harmonizing in the neighborhood
candy stores, much to the delight of their classmates.
original members of the group, which banded together in 1953, were Eugene
Pearson, lead; Alfonso Delaney, baritone; Erroll Lermard, 2nd tenor; Milton
Edwards, bass; Herb Crosby, lst. tenor and a sixth member, David Grissom. The
fellows first called themselves the Five Bells and a Chime, but never recorded
as such. After David Grissom left the group, they changed their name to the
Five Bells, then the Harmoneers. Using this name, they made their first
professional appearance at the Lost Battalion Hall, on Queens Blvd. They were
so excited and so anxious to present a good appearance that they purchased
tuxedos for the occasion. When the evening was over, each of the guys were ten
started writing songs and one of his first was "Paradise Hill" which
he gave to Duke Ellington's son, a good friend of his. This song was recorded
by The Embers on the Herald Label. Gene did not sing with the Embers as many
long after, they were walking pass the Rivoli Theater in New York and noticed
the name on the marquee. After a brief discussion, the name Rivileers was
coined. The Fellows began serious rehearsals now, most of them at the home of
the Miller Sisters, a popular area group (and popular dates with the boys).
Mr. Miller, the girls father helped the boys polish their act and coached them
was employed in a drug store across the street from Triboro Records, and often
spent his spare time in Triboro, rapping about the music of the day with Jack
Keller, who worked there. When Jack learned of the Rivileers, he introduced
them to a business associate of his, Sol Rabinowitz, who had plans to
establish a new record company and was looking for talent. The first time
Rabinowitz heard the group, he knew he had hit pay dirt, and the Baton label
was born. He took the group to Bell Sound Studios in Manhattan, and from that
first session came four sides: "A Thousand Stars", "Hey
Chiquita", "Eternal Love", and "Darling Farewell".
Thousand Stars"/ "Hey Chiquita" was released as Baton #200, and
became an almost instant success in the New York metropolitan area. The boys
were really on their way. They made several personal appearances in New York,
Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington D.C. The following release,,
"Darling Farewell"/ "Forever, Baton #201, was an excellent
effort, but failed to rack up impressive sales.
Delaney really dug a chick named Carolyn Grissom, who was the sister of David,
and the two of them were so close that the rest of the boys in the group
thought that marriage was a forgone conclusion. He wrote a song which really
expressed his true feelings for her at the time, and thus the next sides
"Carolyn"/ "Eternal Love", Baton #205, were released. Gene
Pearson wrote "Eternal Love", but his inspiration came, not from a
girl, but from of all things, a race horse! Many collectors feel this is their
best effort. Unfortunately, this disc failed to be a big seller. At this
point, discouragement set in. Gene joined the Marines, and Herb and Erroll
went into the Air Force. Mel Dancey and Pete LeMonier joined Alfonso and Herb
in the effort to keep the group alive.
new group kept on doing personal appearances and a few months later Gene
returned to New York on leave from boot camp at Parris Island. Gene was asked
to sing lead on their next recording. Gene at first didn't feel that he could
add anything to the new group and was very reluctant to take the lead chores
away from Mel and Pete. The boys insisted and they went back into the studio
and cut their biggest hit, "For Sentimental Reasons". This record
shot onto the R/B charts and sold over 500,000 copies. With this record the
group was invited to appear at the Apollo theatre. Unfortunately Gene was sent
to Japan and was unable to appear. The group went into the Apollo with Alfonso
Deleney, Mel Dancey, Pete LeMonier and Milt Edwards. (See Pictures). "For
Sentimental Reasons" has become a Rhythm and Blues Standard and in Deke
on the Ink Spots he mentions the Rivileers version. With Pete taking over the
lead the group cut "Little Girl" and Baton took "Don't Ever
Leave Me' out of the can which was recorded at the same session of "For
Sentimental Reasons" and released Baton #209. Gene sings lead on
"Don't Ever Leave Me" and the group feels that this song is their
best effort. Again, the group could not follow up their success with a back up
hit. Baton records took "Who Is The Girl" out of the can and backed
it with the groups first hit "A Thousand Stars" several years later
and the record sold well. By this time the group had drifted apart and this
became the last record by the group released by the Baton label.
1971, the group reunited, still retaining that fantastic sound that was evident
in their recordings. At this time, the personal consisted of Gene Peason, Herb
Crosby, Al Delaney, Milt Edwards and Mel Dancy.
In 1996, the group reunited once again for UGHA and gave a performance at a
Collectors Show. At this time Gene Pearson, Herb Crosby and Milt Edwards were
joined by Don Cruz (former lead singer of the Metros and 1st tenor of the
is indeed with pleasure and pride that tonight at our 10th Hall of Fame
Induction Ceremony that we enter these NYC legends, The Rivileers.
The Royals / Midnighters
Todd R. Baptista
the 1950s, the most popular and successful of Detroit's R&B vocal groups
was the Royals/ Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Between 1953 and 1961, the
group hit the pop chart 13 times and scored 14 Top 10 R&B hits including
the #1 records "Work With Me Annie", "Annie Had A Baby",
and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go". Their suggestive lyrics,
driving, rhythmic style, and soulful harmony led by Ballard, made them a
dominant and influential force in the industry.
royals were formed by five young men from Detroit's East Side in 1950. They
were baritone lead Charles Sutton, tenor Henry Booth, baritone Freddie Pride,
bass Sonny Woods, and arranger/ songwriter/ guitarist Alonzo Tucker. The group
appeared locally on amateur talent shows singing the early hits of the
Dominoes and Orioles, from whom Woods had once worked as a valet. Within six
months, Pride was drafted and replaced by Lawson Smith. All of the group
members worked day jobs at the Ford or Chrysler auto assembly plants in the
the late fall of 1951, the Royals won an amateur show at the Paradise Theater
singing the 5 Keys' "The Glory Of Love". In the process, they split
$25 and captured the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis who was headlining at
the venue that week. The quintet signed a one‑year managerial contract
with Otis who hooked them up with his current record label, Syd Nathan's
Cincinnati‑based King/Federal firm.
Royals' first session, in January, 1952, produced their first two singles,
including Otis' timeless ballad "Every Beat Of My Heart", featuring
Charles Sutton's velvety lead. The flip side, "All Night Long", is
notable for the inclusion of R&B great Wynonie Harris who was in the
studio and sang the bridge. Not long after their initial recording date, Smith
was drafted and replaced by Hank Ballard, who worked with Woods at the Ford
plant."Moonrise", a haunting ballad written by Tucker and led by
Sutton, was issued in July of 1952. Although "Moonrise", 1953's
"The Shrine Of St. Cecilia", and the other Royals discs failed to
draw national attention, R&B collectors have come to revere the simplistic
charm and soul of these first offerings.
1953, more of the group's efforts began to feature Ballard in the lead. Born
in Detroit in November of 1936, the 16 year‑old tenor had spent seven
years living with relatives in Alabama before returning to the Motor City. His
early influences ranged from Gene Autry and Roy Rogers to the Dixie
Hummingbirds, Soul Stirrers, and label mates Clyde McPhatter and the Dominoes.
The Royals' breakthrough hit, "Get It", issued on Federal in the
summer of 1953, hit #6 on Billboard's R&B chart. Written and lead by
Ballard, with bass Sonny Woods reciting the bridge, the bouncing "Get
It" was the blueprint of the group's successful style. Ballard's leads,
developed with the help of guitarist/arranger Alonzo Tucker, allowed the
Royals to take on a more rocking, uptempo persona.
with A&R man Ralph Bass, ballard conceived the overly sexual "Sock It
To Me Mary", which found its way onto wax as "Work With Me
Annie" in the spring of 1954. An undeniable rhythm and blues classic, the
record spent 23 weeks on the R&B chart, including seven at #1. "Work
With Me Annie" spawned a whole series of answer records including Etta
James' "The Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry)". By this point, a legal
battle that had ensued in 1953 (when the Royals were reluctantly booked into
masquerading as the Five Royales on a lengthy tour), resulted in a name
change. With confusion, the threat of ongoing litigation, the 5 Royales
apparently on their way to the King roster as well, Nathan changed the Royals
name to the Midnighters while "Work With Me Annie" was climbing the
Royals /Midnighters were also able to cash in on the "Annie" answer
craze. After the Ballard‑penned "Sexy Ways" went to #2 during
a 17 week chart run, "Annie Had A Baby" topped the charts for two
weeks in the fall of 1954. The saga continued into mid - 1955 with Henry
Glover writing or co‑writing "Annie's Aunt Fannie", a Top 10
hit, and "Henry's Got Flat Feet (Can't Dance No More)" (#14).
Despite the success for the records, lyrics like "Annie please don't
cheat, give me all my meat" caused an uproar with parents and civic
organizations who labeled them offensive and obscene.
"Work With Me Annie", "Sexy Ways" and "Annie Had A
Baby" were banned by many radio stations.
rocking, guitar-driven sound of the Midnighters early records featured Arthur
Porter, who took over the role from Tucker and accompanied the group in the
studio on "Work With Me Annie", "Sexy Ways", and
"Annie Had A Baby". Beginning with "Annie's Aunt Fannie",
Porter was replaced by Texas guitarist Cal Green, who stayed with the group
until J.C. "Billy" Davis took over the role in late 1958. Over the
years, personnel changes also effected the vocal group lineup, Illness forced
Charles Sutton to leave at the end of 1954 with Lawson Smith rejoining as
baritone. In the mid to late 1950s, Smith, Booth and Woods would all be in and
out of the Midnighters lineup.
Midnighters'version of "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" cracked the
top 10 in summer of 1955. They toured constantly throughout the decade,
recording stellar material throughout. With the enormous success that the
group had enjoyed in 1954-55, Syd Nathan did little in the way of promoting
subsequent releases, believing that the records would essentially sell
themselves. Consequently, a host of classic R&B sides, "Rock and Roll
Wedding" and "That House On The Hill" in 1955, and 1956's
"Don't Change Your Pretty Ways", "Rock, Granny, Roll" and
"Tore Up Over You" failed to attract the attention they richly
deserved. By 1957, Sonny Woods left and was replaced by bass Norman Thrasher.
ballard and the Midnighters'resurgence began in early 1959 with the release of
"Teardrops On Your Letter" / 'The Twist" on Nathan's parent
King label. A strong, brooding ballad written by producer Henry Glover,
"Teardrops" hit #4 on the R&B chart in the spring of 1959.
"The Twist", credited to Ballard despite a questionable lineage,
took over the mainstream airplay and eventually became a top 30 pop hit. The
album release that followed, "The One and Only Hank Ballard and the
Midnighters", was a dynamic artistic triumph that included the new hits,
great rockers like "Sugaree" and "Kansas City", and the
pleading ballads, "Rain Down Tears", and "House With No
Windows". "Kansas City" hit the R&B Top 20 on the heels of
"The Twist" and over the course of the next two and a half-years,
Ballard and the Midnighters would appear on the pop or R&B lists an
additional ten times.
Poppin' Time" hit #7 on the Hot 100 and #2 during a 21‑week stint
on the R&B chart in the spring of 1960. Following Chubby Checker's cover
of "The Twist" that year, the original began selling once again as
well. Although Cameo/Parkway managed to easily outsell King, Ballard has never
appeared bitter about the outcome. He continued to hit with dance tunes,
following the "The Hoochi Coochi Coo", "The Continental
Walk", "The Float", and "The Switch-A-Roo", all Top
20 R&B hits. In the fall of 1960, the group returned to the #1 spot for
three weeks with "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go", also a #6 pop hit.
The Midnighters' formula, featuring a driving rhythm with honking saxes and
fiery guitar, continued to draw audiences at rate of nearly 300 booking dates
a year in the early 1960s. During one Memphis visit, Elvis Presley dispatched
a state trooper to their hotel to bring them to his Graceland mansion for a
1960, the Midnighters included Henry Howard, and returning original Royals
Sonny Woods and Freddie Pride. That year, without Ballard, they recorded
"Goodbye Jesse", a tribute record to Jesse Belvin for Peacock, as
Billy Davis and the Legends. With personnel changes taking their toll, the
Midnighters. disbanded in 1962. Ballard continued on as a solo artist. Backed
by the New Dapps, he hit the R&B charts with "How You Gonna
Respect" on King in 1968, just months after label owner Syd Nathan's
death. In the Early 1970s, he spent 18 months touring with James Brown's Revue
and scored again with the contemporary "From The Love Side: on Polydor
Records. In 1974, "Let's Go Streakin" and "Hey There, Sexy
Lady", issued on the Stang label, became regional soul hits.
the reissue of his classic 1950s material in the mid‑1980s, Ballard
experienced a resurgence in popularity. Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan covered
"Look At Little Sister" on two of his platinum‑selling albums.
With the help of his late wife and manager, Theresa MacNeil, ballard and his
reformed Midnighteres, with guitarist Billy Davis, began appearing at concerts
and festivals worldwide. A December, 1986 performance in London was broadcast
by the BBC and released as a CD by Charly Records.
1990, Hank Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
Cleveland, Ohio. Several new studio albums including "Naked In the
Rain" in 1992, and 1998's "From Love To Tears", have followed.
In recent years, the
California based Midnighters have consisted of Ballard, James Dorsey, Eddie
Stovall, and Curtis Colbert.
of the original Royals /Midnighters have passed away. Alonzo Tucker passed on in
1977 and Sonny Woods died in 1984. Henry Booth is also deceased. The original
Royals'lead, Charles Sutton, went on to sing with Stanley Mitchell and the
Tornados. Today, he is retired and living in Michigan. Lawson Smith now known as
Abdul Binasad is retired and living in a suburb of Chicago. Tonight, the United
in Group Harmony Association recognizes the Royals and the Midnighters for their
contributions to rhythm and blues vocal group harmony music with induction into
the Hall of Fame.
Banks and the Turbans only real hit, "When You Dance," graced
Billboard's pop chart for 21 weeks beginning November 12, 1955. Their first
Herald recording rose to #33 on the pop list, although it ascended to #3 on
Billboard's r&b list. Based on these somewhat dry statistics, the
Turbans would be considered a mere footnote to rock 'n roll history, easily
dismissed as yet another "one‑hit wonder" group from the
fifties. Nothing could be further from the truth. The guys from South
Philadelphia may have cut only six released singles from Herald Records between
1955 and 1957, yet almost every song they sang is a gem of r&b group
harmony. The Turbans have been favorites of r' n r' fans since they first
appeared sporting their characteristic headgear in the mid-fifties. In a
different time, perhaps Al Banks may have matured into one of the more
influential voices of rhythm and blues. His piercing falsetto and unique
phrasing may have been initially influenced by Clyde Mc Phatter, but the quickly
developed his own signature. One can hear Al Banks's potential on his
classic Herald sessions to rival a Pookie Hudson or even Aaron Neville, however
different those vocalists may be.
small item in Cashbox for July 9, 1955 states that a new group, "the
Turbans just cut for Herald." According to Banks, they were just 16 or
maybe 17 at the time. The fellows had met in a local South Philly recreation
center the previous Christmas (1954) and garnered first place in a talent show
vocalizing their own version of the Drifters' "White Christmas"."
original Turbans were: Al Banks, lead; Matthew Platt, tenor; Charlie Williams,
baritone; and Andrew "Chet" Jones, bass. (Jones wrote "When You
Dance.") The group remained intact for three years with Herald, although
Donald Jones, Chet Jones's brother, often filled in for the absent Charlie
Williams during personal appearances.
Turbans couldn't come up with a name for their new group at first, so their
manager suggested they don caps while performing. According to Banks, the guys
rebelled and opted instead for turbans. Their exotic headgear quickly set them
apart from the rest of their street‑corner brethren. They diligently
worked with ace choreographer Cholly Atkins to perfect synchronized stage moves
to accompany their new songs.
Turbans' first single, "When You Dance"/"Let Me Show You Around
My Heart" was released in July, 1955. According to Chet Jones, "When
You Dance" was far bigger in New York, Washington, D.C., and the south than
in their home City of Brotherly Love. The Turbans; Herald 45 (and 78) took a
long time to build momentum, entering the charts from the first time in
November. A year later the Five Satins, newly signed to Silver's Ember label,
would watch their own "In the Still of the Night" also take months to
gain national attention.
the strength of "When you Dance," the Turbans appeared at the Apollo,
Howard, and Uptown theatres, and they did the usual southern circuit of grueling
one-nighters. "When You Dance" was featured on southern r&b radio
shows which often omitted the contributions of most east coast vocal groups. By
way of New Orleans, "When You Dance" eventually emerged as a true rock
'n roll standard in the early sixties, partly because of exposure on Art Laboe's
"Oldies But Goodies" albums.
Gillespie wrote "Sister Sookey," the Turbans' second Herald single,
released as #469 in February, 1956. "Sister Sookey" was a decent
r&b hit although it never made Billboard's national charts. According to Al
Banks, the ballad flip side, "I'll Always Watch Over You" was sung
deliberately in a Clyde McPhatter style. Gillespie encouraged him to "Put a
little Clyde into it," as he had similarly implored on "Let Me Show
You Around My Heart."
Jones has mentioned the influence of the Five Keys, Dominoes, and Clovers on the
Turbans, but perhaps the young group echoes Clyde and his Drifters most "B-I-N-G-O,"
a catchy novelty, backed with "I'm Nobody's," was the group's next
outing on Herald. It was released in May, 1958 (#478) and sold moderately.
Turbans returned to Latin rhythms for their fourth single, "It Was a Night
Like This," backed with "All of My Love" as Herald #486. Issued
in August, 1956, "It Was a Night Like This" did reasonably well but
faced enormous competition with the myriad of excellent r&b group records
released in the late summer and fall of 1956.
Turbans had been completely eclipsed by other groups of the moment by the time
their quivering ballad, "Valley of Love," (coupled with "Bye and
Bye") was issued in January, 1957. Despite minimal airplay and even less
sales, "Valley of Love" is an understandable favorite of Turbans'
fans; Al Banks never sounded better (except maybe on their next Herald single).
The unreleased songs, "Lonely" and "Miss Thing," date from
Farewell to Arms" and "Zaki Sue" were recorded at the same time
as the Turbans' last Herald single. "Zaki Sue" was also waxed by one
Melvin Smith on an obscure early Cameo 45. "Congratulations," backed
with" The Wadda-Do" as Herald #510, was a very moderate local hit at
the end of 1957, but may well be Banks (and the Turbans) finest performance. The
Al Banks who so movingly sang "Congratulations" could have been a
great solo artist with the right material. Instead, he and the Turbans were
disillusioned with their lack of real success after three years and opted to
leave Herald. Banks worked with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes for a few years
and did some solo work in small clubs and cabarets around Philadelphia.
to Mike Sweeney, Andrew and Donald Jones, Edward V Cole, and James Jenkins next
waxed "I Promise You Love": for Irv Nahan's Red Top label using the
Turbans' good name. Unless you looked at the artist listing on the label, you'd
never identify this mediocrity as a Turbans' song.
Turbans again re-formed in 1959 with Al Banks, Chet Jones, Earl Worsham, and
John Christian (from the Universals). This Turbans recorded for Roulette and
Parkway, but the magic was gone. They added tenor Sonny Gordon from the Angels
on Grand for three Imperial singles in late 1961-62. Banks and Gordon alternated
lead on fairly decent songs perhaps not really suited for the early sixties teen
or r&b market.
the late 70's Al Banks, Charlie Williams and Andrew Jones have passed away.
Tonight we have their memories and along with surviving members Matthew Platt
and Donald Jones enter the Turbans in our UGHA Hall of Fame.
pop-jazz group, the Wanderers were probably too pop for the rock and roll era
and too jazzy for success as rhythm and blues artists. Alfonso Brown (lead),
Frank Joyner (second tenor), Robert Yarborough (baritone), and Shephard Grant
(bass) started out as the Barons on 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in New York's
Harlem, circa 1952. For a short while they were the Larks (not the Apollo group)
and changed to the Singing Wanderers after appearing at an Apollo amateur night
show and winning. Their early style was based on a MILLS BROTHERS sound.
1953 Alfonso Brown was not taking rehearsals seriously, so Joyner asked
returning Korean vet Ray Pollard to take over the lead spot. (Pollard and Joyner
had both attended Cooper Junior High School.) With Pollard's powerful
bass‑to‑tenor flexibility the group sounded better than ever and by
mid to late 1954 found themselves on Savoy Records for the single "We Could
the fall of 1954 the Singing Wanderers joined Decca for two totally opposite
sounding singles, the novelty number "Say Hey Willie Mays' and the strong
ballad "The Wrong Party Again."
Majid, Savoy's A&R director, found their sound to his liking and took on the
managerial reins, booking them with such luminaries as Eartha Kitt, Ethel
Merman, and Martha Raye. Even without a hit they appeared numerous times on Ed
Sullivans TV show. Though their sound was more polished than that of the average
black group of the era. they were not spared the trials and tribulations of the
touring life. On one trip, the quintet found itself snowbound in Kansas. When
they finally made it to a small nearby town, the hotels were filled up with
other trapped travelers, forcing them to hole up in the one available place of
lodging in the burg, the town jail.
late 1957 the group, now called the Wanderers, signed to Onyx Records for one
superb pop outing called "Thinking of You." It received good response
in the New York area and established Pollard's powerful pipes as among the elite
of the mid-50's group leads.
acquired Onyx records. Since they also owned Orbit and Cub, "A Teenage
Quarrel" followed on those two labels. The group usually proved to be
superior to the ballads they issued in 1958 and 1959, though the
StallmanJacobson influenced "I'm Waiting in Green Pastures" were
1961 someone finally got the idea to pair the power of the Wanderers with some
powerful past hits, a combination that yielded the group's biggest success,
"For Your Love." It was reviewed on March 27, 1961, by Billboard, with
the reviewer observing, "Ed Townsend's 1957 hit rock-a-ballad is wrapped in
emotion packed vocal by lead singer and group. Good side."
May 15, 1961, it charted nationally at number 93 but attained greater acceptance
in the New York area. Their follow up was the rhythm and blues oriented
"I'll Never Smile Again".
best single was a rhythm ballad issued in late summer of 1961 called
"Somebody Elses Sweetheart,:" credited to someone named David
Bacharach. That writing entity was understandably unknown; it was their first
recorded song, partially explaining the dash left out between the two names Hal
David and Burt Bacharach. The Wanderers' last and highest chart record was
"There Is No Greater Love" (#88 Pop) in the summer of 1962. As the
single took off it was transferred to the parent company MGM, and the group's
reward for MGM's inept promotion was to be dropped.
Wanderers continued to perform until 1970, when bass Shep Grant died. Pollard
continued singing and landed a role in the Broadway play "Purlie" in
1971. In 1972 he joined the Joe Cuba Sextet. During the '80s Ray sang with
an INK SPOTS group, but on November 24,1989 he jumped in his time machine and
turned the clock back to the '50s, re-forming the Wanderers with Robert
Yarborough for a 13th anniversary United in Group Harmony show in North Bergen,
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