Delta Rhythm Boys
by Charlie Horner
Few vocal groups can come
close to matching the
accomplishments of The Delta Rhythm Boys. In over 50 years of singing, the group
made more than 35 motion picture appearances, were guests on hundreds of radio
and television shows, appeared in five Broadway musicals, recorded over 500
songs and performed in 10 languages on four continents. Yet the Deltas' biggest
contribution to popular music was the influence they had on other singing
groups. The Delta Rhythm Boys pioneered numerous vocal musical styles during
their career, including Afro-American spirituals, jazz harmonies and pop-styled
close harmony. During the 1940's, the Deltas set the stage for the development
of rhythm & blues vocal singing. Their disciplined harmonies acted as a
bridge between earlier groups like The Mills Brothers and R&B groups like
The Ravens and The Dominoes.
The Delta Rhythm Boys trace their beginnings to
1933 at Oklahoma's Langston University. Singing spirituals and pop tunes, the
original group consisted of Elmaurice Miller (first tenor), Traverse Crawford
(second tenor), Joseph Adkins (baritone) and Otho Lee Gaines (bass). In 1935 the
quartet transferred to New Orleans' Dillard University from where they launched
their career with a tour of South America and several years stay on Broadway. By
then, Harry Lewis had replaced Joseph Adkins and Clinton Holland had replaced
Elmaurice Miller as lead. Rene DeKnight was added as pianist and arranger. A
contract with Decca Records followed, leading to popular recordings such as
"Dry Bones" and "Take The A Train." In 1943, Kelsey Pharr
replaced Harry Lewis and the Delta Rhythm Boys moved from New York to Los
Angeles. There the group starred in numerous feature length motion pictures
until their courageous stand against stereotyping blacks in films led to a
termination of their contract. In late 1944, Clinton Holland was replaced by the
magnificent lead tenor Carl Jones. Carl also took over most the group's
arranging chores. In the mid and late 1940's, The Delta Rhythm Boys again scored
big on record with songs like "Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin',"
"For Sentimental Reasons" (with Ella Fitzgerald), and RCA Victor
re-recordings of "Dry Bones" and "Take The A-Train." The
Deltas can also be credited with helping to open up Las Vegas to black
In the late 1940's and early 1950's, The Delta Rhythm Boys dabbed inR&B, waxing several outstanding sides for Atlantic Records (with and without Ruth Brown). Recording before The Clovers, The Deltas gave Atlantic its first true R&B vocal group sides. In 1948, The Delta Rhythm Boys began touring Europe annually, and by the late 1950's the group was based overseas. The familiar Delta Rhythm Boys group underwent some changes in 1960 when, after Kelsey Pharr's death, Carl Jones and Rene DeKnight left the group to pursue other ventures. Lee Gaines and Traverse Crawford kept The Deltas going through the sixties and seventies. After Traverse's passing in 1975, Lee Gaines continued singing with the group until 1986, when he retired for health reasons. Later, key members of The Delta Rhythm Boys, whose contributions should not be overlooked, were Clifford Holland (replaced Kelsey Pharr from 1951-54), Herb Coleman, Hugh Bryant. BilIy Moore, Jr., Ray Beatty, Walter Trammell, and Barry Johnson.
story begins on the street corners of Harlem in 1953, Seventh and Eighth
Avenues, between 131st and 133rd Streets. Originally called The Carnations, they
were recognized by the flowers they wore in the lapels of their jackets at
was in 1953 when Lover Patterson, organizer of The Five Crowns, discovered the
group at a talent show at P.S. 43. Patterson brought them to audition for Esther
Navarro of Shaw Artists Booking Agency. Navarro loved them, but not their name,
which was soon changed to The Cadillacs.
this time the group consisted of Laverne Drake, Earl Carroll, and Bobby Phillips
from The Carnations, plus James "Papa" Clark from The Five Crowns and
Johnny "Gus" Willingham. After their first two records,
"Gloria" and "Wishing Well" in 1954, Clark and Willingham
were replaced by Earl Wade, lead singer of The Crystals/Opals and Charles
"Buddy" Brooks. Many personnel changes followed through over 20
releases for Esther Navarro's Josie label spanning over six years.
Cadillacs biggest hit was "Speedo" in 1955, making the Billboard
R&B chart as well as the pop charts. Other great Cadillac's uptempo
recordings include "No Chance," "Down The Road,"
"Zoom," "Woe Is Me" and "My Girlfriend." Let us
not forget their plaintive, stirring ballads with the Speedo Man on lead. Among
my favorites: "Wishing Well," "Sympathy," 'Window
Lady," "You Are," "The Girl I Love," "Tell Me
Today," and of course, "Gloria."
Cadillacs are into the 90's with the same enthusiasm they possessed in the 50's
with original lead Earl "Speedo" Carroll and original bass Bobby
Phillips plus the talent of John Brown and Gary Lewis. The Cadillacs remain at
the top of their field with their vocal capabilities and slick choreography.
March 9,1991, we honor this legendary New York City giant, The Cadillacs.
in 1946 in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, The Clovers are one of the truest
and one of the most underrated pioneer groups in the R&B vocal group field.
They were discovered by DC record store owner Waxie Maxie Silverman, who was
also a silent partner in Atlantic Records. However, Herb Abramson,
President and co-founder of Atlantic Records, was not interested in R&B
groups in 1950 (ironic - for six months later The Clovers got their chance on
Atlantic and turned the label into an R&B giant!). Silverman then brought
the group to Lou Krevetz, a record distributor who became their manager. Krevetz
got his group a recording contract with Rainbow Records of New York City. 1950
brought their only release ‑ a 1920's standard with The Clovers' touch:
"Yes Sir That's My Baby" backed with "When You Come Back To
January of 1951, Atlantic changed their minds about The Clovers, for they were
recording only pop groups at that time; they had no R&B to compete with the
likes of The Dominoes and The Orioles. Abramson brought The Clovers to New York
City in February of 1951 for their first recording session, which produced their
first release, "Skylark" backed with "Don't You Know I Love
You." The Clovers: John "Buddy" Bailey, Matthew McQuater, Harold
Lucas, Harold Winley and guitarist Bill Harris were on their way! Twenty
national R&B hits from 1951 through 1956, including three reaching #1:
"Skylark," "Fool, Fool, Fool," "One Mint Julep,"
"Ting‑A‑Ling," "Hey Miss Fannie," "Good
Lovin'," "Little Mama," and "Nip Sip" were among them.
Of course, their two very popular ballads: "Blue Velvet" and
"Devil Or Angel." Through the years, other talented singers with The
Clovers included fabulous leads by Billy Mitchell, Charlie White (from The
Checkers), and Tippie Hubbard.
at UGHA are proud to have The Clovers in our Hall of Fame, for their
contribution to our music is enormous. Unfortunately, they always were, and
still remain very underrated in the New York City area, because of lack of
airplay. The Clovers paved the way for The Cardinals, Clyde McPhatter & The
Drifters, Sonny Wright & His Diamonds, and other great Atlantic groups.
Tonight we honor original lead, Buddy Bailey and original recording bass, Harold
Winley. Winley has been the bass of the Jim Nabbie Ink Spots for many
years, and now resides in Manhattan. Bailey has retired from singing and now
resides in Long Island. Only Harold Lucas, original baritone, remains with The
personally feel that this dynamic group's perfect styling of gospel and blues
fusion and their prolific pop-style ballads remains unparalleled. They
deserve universal recognition as a super pioneer R&B group. The UGHA Hall of
Fame is a milestone in helping to achieve this.
by Christine T. Vitale
The Harptones are the epitome of the classic New
York City R&B vocal group sound of the 50's. Rooted in Harlem,
they strove to survive for over a decade the many pitfalls so common to groups
of the 50's. It should come as no surprise they never received the national, let
alone worldwide, recognition they so deserve. Hence, on this memorable night of
March 9, 1991, we proudly announce the induction of the legendary Harptones!!
Let's meet the inductees individually:
Willie Winfield: Originally from Norfolk, VA,
Willie Winfield came to New York City in 1950 at age 21. Willie is undisputably
one of the finest lead tenors in the history of R&B group music. Is it
ironic that Willie has claimed, "Singing harmony never felt natural to me.
For the other fellows in the group, the harmony flowed smoothly. I always felt
more comfortable singing lead." Among his "main heroes," Willie
cites Rudy West, Nat King Cole and Ivory Joe Hunter.
Raoul Cita: Mr. Cita has made an abundance of
contributions to the New York R&B scene. He wrote and arranged so much of
the fabulous Harptones material, such as "My Memories of You,"
"Loving A Girl Like You," and "I Depend On You." He also
produced, wrote, arranged, managed, and in general, was very instrumental in
advancing the careers of many other acts such as: The Joytones (one of whom
sings with The Harptones today), Lyrics, Ruth McFadden... just to name a few. He
also worked on his own special project: The Royale Cita Chrous, which combined
members of The Harptones, Joytones and Lyrics.
William "Dempsey" James: Original second
tenor of The Harptones and a member of the Royale Cita Chorus, Dempsey continues
to reside in New York City.
William "Dicey" Galloway: Original
baritone of The Harptones and a member of The Royale Cita Chorus, Dicey was
drafted in 1954. After his service, he returned briefly with The Harptones, then
went on to work withThe Five Satins.
Today The Harptones forge onward, singing their
beautiful ballads with Willie and Cita remaining as the backbone of the group,
along with the fine talents of Marlowe Murray (formerly of the Fi-Tones) and
Lynn "Sugar" Middleton (formerly of The Joytones). Let's hope they
live on forever.
by Ronnie Italiano
The Heartbeats are the epitome of the term "vocal group," and to many teenagers of the mid-1950's, The Heartbeats represent deity. Commonly referred to as the "Kings of Vocal Group Harmony," the fabulous five's story began in 1954 in Jamaica, Queens. Wally Roker (bass), Vernon Seavers (2nd tenor), Albert Crump (1st tenor and lead), Robert Tatum (baritone) formed a quartet called The Hearts.
Soon after, James Sheppard, who had been singing lead
with a substandard group, was added, making The Hearts a quintet. The Hearts
made their first public appearance in 1954 at Woodrow Wilson High School. They
soon changed their name to The Heartbeats Quintet when they learned of The
Hearts (female group) from Manhattan.
In early 1955, the Network record label out of
Philadelphia released the first The Heartbeats Quintet single
"Tormented," which sold poorly. I can remember purchasing my first
copy of "Tormented" for 39 cents in a bargain bin at McCrory's
5&10 in Passaic, NJ in 1956. After "Tormented," they dropped
"Quintet" from their name and were taken to Hull Records where four
consecutive masterpieces were released in 1955-56: "Crazy For You,"
"Darling, How Long," "Your Way", 'People Are Talking,"
and the monster hit "A Thousand Miles Away." The success of
"A Thousand Miles Away" caught the eye of one George Goldner who lured
The Heartbeats onto his "bigger and better" labels: Rama, Gee, &
Roulette. Some of the more popular classics released through Goldner are
"I Won't Be The Fool Anymore," "Everybody's Somebody's
Fool," "500 Miles To Go," "Down On My Knees," and
"One Day Next Year." To say that every Heartbeats release is a classic
is no understatement. 1959 saw the demise of The Heartbeats with their
last recording for the Guyden label, "One Million Years."
The Heartbeats remained from 1954 to 1959 with their
original lineup always intact. Their trademark and legacy to R&B group
harmony music is their smooth, extremely tight, blow-type, close-mouthed
harmony. Their unique sound is complimented by Wally Roker's mellow bass
and the "magic" of James Sheppard's unique vocal delivery. Shep
wrote most of The Heartbeats' material, drawing from his personal experiences.
It would not, and could not be a Hall of Fame without
the Heartbeats, and we proudly induct them into the UGHA Hall of Fame tonight on
this night of March 9,1991. Shep is gone, but we welcome and thank Wally Roker,
Vernon Seavers, Al Crump and Robert Tatum.
in the late 1940's as "The Vibranaires" and re-dubbed The Orioles in
honor of the Baltimore, Maryland state bird, The Orioles have long been admired
by singers and record collectors alike. The vintage Orioles (Sonny Til,
Alexander Sharp, George Nelson, Johnny Reed and guitarist Tommy Gaither) under
the determined management of Deborah A. Chessler took the infant R&B world
by storm with their highly original rendition of "It's Too Soon To
Know" (It's A Natural, 1948).
releases under the jubilee banner saw ballads emotionally rendered by lead tenor
"Sonny" Til, whilst unique ethereal harmony and George Nelson's
emotional second lead bridges became Oriole trademarks. Immensely popular with
the young ladies, the romantic "new" sound of Sonny Til and The
Orioles created an interest in R&B vocalizing that made the 1950's the
Golden Age of Harmonizing. In addition to a much sought after legacy of
recordings on the Jubileelabel, Sonny Til fronted Orioles groups on Vee Jay
(Aaron Cornelius, Albert Russell, Billy Adams, Jerry Rodriguez, formerly The
Regals) and on Charlie Parker (Gerald Gregory, Delton "Satan" McCall
and Billy Taylor). Sonny Til also performed at "revival" shows with
former Regal/Oriole members Billy Taylor and Jerry Rodriguez until his untimely
death in 1981.
UGHA honors the original Orioles and their distinguished alumni (Ralph Williams,
Charlie Harris, Gregory Carroll, Bobby Thomas) as R&B innovators,
harmonizing inspirations and a landmark group in the R&B collectors' field.
by Ronnie Italiano
Affectionately called the "grand-daddy" of
all the groups, it all started in the mid-1940's at a bar called the 400th
Tavern, located on 148th Street & St. Nicholas Ave. in Harlem. Singers since
childhood, Jimmy Ricks (originally from Georgia) and Warren Suttles (originally
from Alabama) would frequent the 400th Tavern where they often talked about
forming a group. One day "Ricks" brought along Leonard Puzey (born
& raised in NYC) to meet Warren. Ricks had found Puzey around 116th Street
and liked his voice which, to him, was reminiscent of Nat King Cole. They formed
a trio and decided to visit Jimmy Edwards/Fritz Pollard talent agency on 125th
St. (Fritz Pollard is the one and same who produced Rockin'The
Blues in 1955.) It was there that they met Henry "Ollie"Jones
(originally from Philadelphia) who had just written a song called "Lullabye"
that the trio liked. Thus the trio turned quartet, and called themselves The
Ravens. Ricks, the man with the contacts, brought The Ravens to Hub Records
where they auditioned with Warren on piano as well as vocal baritone, Leonard as
2nd tenor, Ollie as lead, and Jimmy (Ricks) as bass. (As an aside, Ricks, with
his distinctive lower-than-low vocals is considered the greatest bass in the
history of R&B/pop music. His stupendous bass voice is yet unmatched.)
They ran through "Dark Town Strutter's
Ball" and were signed to record three records for Hub. Among them was Ollie
Jones' "Lullaby"; the others were "Out Of A Dream," "My
Sugar Is So Refined," "Honey", "I Don't Know Why" and
"Bye Bye Baby Blues." Not long after this recording session, Ricks
discovered Maithe Marshall (originally from Florida). With his high, silky tenor
voice, Maithe Marshall replaced Jones. (Ollie Jones later found success as the
lead of The Blenders, another excellent pioneer group).
With Marshall in the group, they re‑recorded
all the Hub material for King records. It was in 1947 when on tour with Cab
Calloway, that The Ravens signed with National Records. 21 releases followed on
National ‑ including their big hit, "Ol Man River" injune of
1947. After National, they recorded for Columbia /Okeh, and by late 1951, they
were signed to Mercury. At this time, Ricks replaced his tenor-lead again. This
time, Joe Van Loan, a powerful, smooth, operatic-type tenor from Philly. (Maithe
Marshall moved on to a group called the Marshall Brothers and recorded for Savoy
Other personnel changes in The Ravens through the
years were Lou Frazer, Louis Heyward and Jimmy Steward. They replaced Puzey and
Suttles, although Suttles would return again, and again. Tommy Evans filled in
for Jimmy Ricks on occasion. Evans had a great natural bass voice, but
indisputably, Ricks was the very best. Joe Van Loan continued The Ravens in 1956
and 1957 with recordings on Argo. Jimmy Ricks passed away on July 5,19 75;
Joe Van Loan a few years later. Maithe Marshall passed away on
Thanksgiving Day Weekend of 1989; Ollie Jones as recent as October, 1990.
Tonight, The UGHA Hall of Fame honors the greatest
quartet of them all, with Warren Suttles and Leonard Puzey to receive their
plaques, as well as widows of Jimmy Ricks and Ollie Jones. and the sister of
Lymon & The Teenagers
by Christine T Vitale
One cannot underestimate
the tremendous influence Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers bequeathed upon the
doo‑wopp scene. For after Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers made their
mark, groups with high‑tenor adolescent leads began sprouting everywhere.
Their sound proved to be no short‑lived novelty. The Teenagers, with
Frankie's powerful high‑tenor lead, began influencing groups such as The
Students, The Schoolboys, The Kodaks, Richard Lanham & The
Tempo‑tones, The Chanters, Butchie Saunders & The EI-Chords, Ronnie
& The HiLites, and more.
Frankie Lymon & The
Teenagers began their recording career in November of 1955. They had their first
shot of success with "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" followed by 1 Want
You To Be My Girl," "I Promise To Remember" and a multitude of
hits after that. Indeed, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers were very talented
and innovative. Their fancy footwork, harmony and the exceptional
crystal‑like high‑tenor voice of Frankie charmed both American and
British audiences through 1957.
members, Joe Negroni (baritone) and Sherman Marlow Garnes (bass) have passed; so
too, has passed the person of Frankie Lymon. The legend, however, lives on! On
this night of March 9,1991, the United in Group Harmony Association Hall of Fame
presents awards to Herman Santiago (original first tenor) and Jimmy Merchant
(original second tenor). We also present an award in the name of Frankie Lymon
to his brother Louie Lymon (originally from The Teenchords). As I have
said, through the UGHA Hall of Fame, the legend of Frankie Lymon & The
Hall of Fame Literary Award:
Groia: They All Sang On The Comer
by K.J. O'Doherty
1973 witnessed the publicationof a landmark book in
the fledgeling (dare I say non-existant) R&B vocal group research
field. Lovingly written and illustrated, author Phil Groia's They All Sang On The Corner not only evoked the golden age of New
York street corner singing, but set a lofty standard for aspiring R&B
In its 147 pages, readers were treated to definitive
studies of Hall of Famers: The Cadillacs, Harptones, Heartbeats and Frankie
Lymon & The Teenagers. This is not to slight the vast array of vocalizing
brethren from The Avons to The Wanderers, whose appearances made They
All Sang On The Corner a truly remarkable work. The harmony and the hits.
The heartbreak and this history of a cultural dynamic whose echoes resonate
clearly this evening. They All Sang On The
Corner painted a brilliant picture of the vocal group harmony music we
In the years since its initial publication (and
subsequent revision in 1983), much has been written concerning R&B groups.
All of those writers owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Groia. A devotee of R&B
harmony whose love and affection for this unique American art form is so
eloquently shared in his book.
The street lamp on Phil Groia's corner shines
brightly this evening. The membership of UGHA is proud to recognize Phil Groia's
contribution to our music. He quoted The Harptones: "All we have to keep us
is our memories of you." Thanks to you, Phil, we can all share those
memories of the great New York City vocal groups. Congratulations on your
induction into the UGHA Hall of Fame, first annual induction, March 9,1991.
Hall of Fame Industry Award:
Ertegun: Atlantic Records
by K.J. O'Doherty
The son of the former Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.,
Co-Chairman of the Board and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Records,
Ahmet Ertegun is a living legend. Mr. Ertegun was there at the very beginning
and, along with Herb Abramson, co-founded Atlantic Records in 1947. As well as
serving as an executive, through the years Mr. Ertegun has also produced records
and written many songs (often under the pseudonym of Nugetre). Early Atlantic
vocal groups included The Harlemaires, The Delta Rhythm Boys and The Three
Success for Atlantic in the growing R&B group market was to coincide with the signing of The Clovers. Their release of "Don't You Know I Love You," written by Mr. Ertegun himself, was one of the many songs to hit #1 on the R&B chart. Future Atlantic recordings by the mighty Clovers and their label-mates The Cnrciinalq. The Coasters and Clvde McPhatter & The Drifters would cement the label's place in the pantheon of genuine R&B group pioneers.
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