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The Super Rare Doo-Wop 5-CD Box Set

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Super Rare Doo-Wop is a massive collection of groups that made records that are long-forgotten and prized by collectors.

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Track List:

DISC ONE

  1. WHEN I LEAVE THESE PRISON WALLS - The Larks
  2. ONCE THERE LIVED A FOOL - Savannah Churchill
  3. YOU’RE MINE - The Crickets
  4. TRUST ME - The Swallows
  5. ROSEMARIE - The Chimes
  6. I JUST CAN’T TELL NO LIE - The Moonglows
  7. MY DEAR, DEAREST DARLING - The 5 Willows
  8. GOOD GOOGA MOOGA - The Magic Tones
  9. PLEASE TELL IT TO ME - The Five Bells
  10. I CAN’T BELIEVE - The Hornets
  11. DEAREST DARLING - The Chimes
  12. THESE FOOLISH THINGS (Remind Me Of You) - The Dominoes
  13. LOVE BELLS - The 5 Willows
  14. SEPTEMBER SONG - The Flamingos
  15. TONY, MY DARLING - The Charmers
  16. BELIEVE ME, MY LOVE - The Earls
  17. NAGASAKI - The Five Chances
  18. AURELIA - The Pelicans
  19. THE STARS ARE OUT TONIGHT - The Tear Drops
  20. DOLL FACE - The Vibranaires

DISC TWO

  1. ESTELLE - The Belltones
  2. 219 TRAIN - The Moonglows
  3. JOHNNY DARLING - The Feathers
  4. PLEASE COME HOME - The 5 Embers
  5. ALL I WANT - The Five Chances
  6. GLORIA - The Five Thrills
  7. OVER A CUP OF COFFEE - The Castelles
  8. LONELY MOOD - The Five Echoes
  9. BELLS OF ST. MARY’S - Lee Andrews & the Hearts
  10. MY GAL IS GONE - The Five Blue Notes
  11. HOPING YOU’LL UNDERSTAND - The Strangers
  12. CHIMES - The Pelicans
  13. YOUR LOVE - The Crickets
  14. MY TRUE LOVE - The Swans
  15. THE WIND - The Diablos
  16. TONIGHT KATHLEEN - The Valentines
  17. THEY TRIED - The Velvets
  18. TELL ME - The Mastertones
  19. DELORES - The Four Buddies
  20. I DON’T WANT YOU TO GO - The Casanovas

DISC THREE

  1. LOVING A GIRL LIKE YOU - The Harptones
  2. REALLY WISH YOU WERE HERE - The Keynotes
  3. LOVE IS A VOW - The Mello-Harps
  4. NEWLY WED - The Orchids
  5. DARLING (You Know I Love You) - The Vocaltones
  6. SHIP OF LOVE - The Lyres
  7. MONTICELLO - The Concords
  8. TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LOVE - The Five Diamonds
  9. IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU - The Harptones
  10. YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME - The Orchids
  11. I DON’T STAND A GHOST OF A CHANCE - The Solitaires
  12. MY ANGEL - The Californians
  13. IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG - The Inspirators
  14. LOVE DOLL - The Scarlets
  15. IN THE RAIN - The Four Fellows
  16. AND I NEED YOU - The Pyramids
  17. TORMENTED - The Heartbeats Quintet Russell Jacquet Orchestra
  18. ARE YOU FORGETTING ME - The Kidds
  19. WE DANCED IN THE MOONLIGHT - The Five Stars
  20. WHY CAN’T YOU TREAT ME RIGHT - The Sequins

DISC FOUR

  1. ARE YOU SORRY - The Whispers
  2. MAGGIE - The Inspirations
  3. DEAR HEART - Jesse Belvin
  4. ZOOM BOOM ZING - The Cadillacs
  5. LOVE IS TRUE - The Chestnuts
  6. (Shimmy Shimmy) KO KO WOP - The El Capris
  7. MOMENTS LIKE THIS - The Baltineers
  8. COLLEGIAN - The Copesetics
  9. LITTLE DARLIN’ - The Willows
  10. MOTHER’S SON - The De’Bonairs
  11. HEAVEN ABOVE ME - The Jets
  12. YOU ARE - Nolan Strong & the Diablos
  13. DON’T SAY YOU’RE SORRY - The King’s Men
  14. TAKE ME AS I AM - The Demens
  15. LULLABYE OF THE BELLS - The Deltairs
  16. SO GOOD - The Playboys
  17. BELIEVE IN ME - The Swans
  18. ROMEO - The Velours
  19. A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE - The Del-Vikings
  20. DRY YOUR EYES - The Inspirations

DISC FIVE

  1. DID IT - The Aladdins
  2. WALKING WITH MY BABY - The Vocaltones
  3. BLUEBERRY SWEET - The Chandeliers
  4. PEPPERMINT STICK - The Elchords featuring Butchie Saunders
  5. JEANNIE - The Unique Teens
  6. DANCE GIRL - Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords
  7. FRANNY FRANNY - The Ebb-Tides
  8. SHIFTING SANDS - The Rajahs
  9. SCHOOL BELLS - Nicky & the Nobles
  10. ANGEL OF LOVE - The Schoolboys
  11. POOR ROCK’N’ROLL - The Nobles
  12. DEACON DAN TUCKER - Jesse Belvin
  13. OUR LOVE IS TRUE - The Delrays
  14. ONE KISS, ONE SMILE AND A DREAM - The Delrays
  15. MY DREAM - Dino & the Diplomats
  16. A WONDERFUL DAY - The Dee Cals
  17. SMOKE FROM YOUR CIGARETTE - The Fabulons
  18. ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM - The Dreamlovers
  19. PUPPY LOVE - Little Jimmy & the Tops
  20. TRUE TRUE LOVE - The Corvairs
  21. YOUR WAY - The Camelots

Once upon a time there was a tiny store located in what many consider to be the center of the world, Broadway and 42nd Street in New York City: Times Square. The name of the shop was in fact Times Square Records, and it was operated by a local denizen named Irving “Slim” Rose. To enter, you had to go down the stairs, into the subway, past a filthy sink in the window and be careful not to trip over Teddy the raccoon who ran wild throughout the premises. Once inside, you’d see records hanging by strings from the ceiling, more records on the wall, with outrageous prices crudely written on the sleeves, records you’d never heard of, records by vocal groups. There were bins, and a “dollar table” containing 45s upon which Slim or his minions had either drawn a crude, black Magic Marker line or a slender piece of red tape, to denote that this was a dollar record. Times was virtually a male enclave. Young males, obsessed with the sound of other young males, mostly black, but not necessarily so, singing in harmony, the kind of primitive and untutored street harmony that today would be termed “authentic.” Guys would meet outside, carrying boxes of 45s, to trade (Slim allowed no such activity inside the store). You could bring in records for sale or for credit against future purchases. I first heard of Times at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, forty-five minutes north of midtown Manhattan. After winning the sophomore talent show—296 out of 298 votes—I was the cool kid and sat at the head of the cool table at lunch. One day, a kid named Johnny Lea approached my table and started talking records, cool, hip records. He mentioned this store in the subway and records unknown to me, with fascinating, mysterious titles, like “Over A Cup Of Coffee” and “Hoping You’ll Understand,” not the typical dumb rock’n’roll titles. So the next time I went to the city to peddle my songs to publishers and record companies I stopped off at this little store and was hooked. There were guys my age, but also older guys who’d come up during the early ’50s, who’d been digging pre-rock’n’roll, even before Alan Freed came to town, when you really had to search the right hand end of the radio dial to find this music, much as kids today search Youtube to discover music that the Industry doesn’t deem commercial enough. Although I first came to Times looking for records of my generation I’d missed due to lack of funds, these older guys turned me on to things that touched something deeper inside me, songs like “These Foolish Things” by the Dominoes or “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance” by the Solitaires. One day, I heard an eerie sound on the turntable that took me somewhere I’d never been emotionally. It was “Golden Teardrops” by the Flamingos. On the wall, the sleeve said five dollars for the song on red plastic on the original Chance label, well out of my price range, especially when I saw the reissue on Vee-Jay for a buck. Back then, I’d buy an album or a reissue 45 to acquire these songs, because I had little money and the sound was the important thing, not the artifact. I’m embarrassed to admit what I paid for that red plastic Chance version many years later. Slim had a radio show where he played the records he sold in the store. He’d make deals with label owners to reissue certain records. Occasionally, some would become hits. “Rama Lama Ding Dong,” “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” and “Baby Oh Baby” were just three that showed there was a market to be exploited. The Paragons Meet The Jesters was the first of several hit albums of obscure older songs to sell well. Oldies But Goodies became “a thing” in the early 1960s, at a time when these “oldies” were still no more than five years old. Some of the groups came out of the woodwork and disc jockeys like Jocko Henderson or Reggie Lavong put on shows at various theaters around town. A decade later, in the early ’70s, there’d be a second oldies revival, this time with shows filling Madison Square Garden to capacity. Many of the acts have been working the oldies circuit ever since, earning a decent living. Two decades ago, in 1993, Rhino Records put out The Doo-Wop Box, one of their biggest sellers ever, earning a gold record, eventually spawning a series of PBS TV specials. Two more volumes followed. I was privileged to work on all three. Former Rhino honchos Richard Foos and James Austin have entrusted me to do a fourth, this one concentrating on extremely rare items, records that are, not only rare, but great as well. Every record here was a favorite of the collectors who peopled that little store in the subway. Every one is a gem, an artifact of a special time and place. We dedicate this set to those groups and label entrepreneurs who scuffled and plied their craft for nickels and dimes, and not much else, but who left us with a legacy of this urban street corner folk art we call Doo-Wop. THE SIDES Apollo Records was run by a woman named Bess Berman. From the early 40s, she issued a diverse array of recordings, from ethnic Jewish humor to Dean Martin’s earliest attempts to jazz saxophonists like Illinois Jacquet or Arnett Cobb. Her best seller was gospel star Mahalia Jackson. In 1950 she signed a spiritual group that went by various names on several labels: the Selah Jubilee Singers on Jubilee and Capitol, the Jubilators on Regal and, as the Four Barons, singing blues for Savoy. Bess convinced them to go secular for Apollo as the Larks. The group was the brainchild of Therman Ruth. Other members were Hadie Rowe, Raymond “Pee Wee” Barnes, Allen Bunn and Eugene Mumford. Ruth, as T. Ruth, became a popular gospel dj and show promoter; Bunn found later fame as Tarheel Slim and Mumford went on to the Dominoes, singing lead on their hits, “Star Dust” and “Deep Purple.” Mumford had been falsely accused of raping a white woman and did time in prison, inspiring his song here, “When I Leave These Prison Walls.” The group appeared on TV shows like Perry Como and Arthur Godfrey, as well as in the movie Rhythm & Blues Review. The beautiful Savannah Churchill from Colfax, Louisiana lost her husband in an auto accident in 1941, leaving her with two kids to support, so she took up singing. With bandleader Benny Carter, she hit with “Hurry Hurry” and “Daddy Daddy.” Going solo, she had her biggest hits with her self-penned “I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)” and “Time Out For Tears.” Teaming up with the Striders, she cut one of the many versions of Jessie Mae Robinson’s “Once There Lived A Fool” for Fred Mendelsohn’s Regal Records. Joe Davis was another long time music publisher and label owner. He did his best to keep up with the times when vocal groups became popular among young blacks in the early ’50s. He discovered a group from the Morrisania section of the Bronx called the Crickets, featuring the smooth sound of lead singer Dean Barlow, Eugene Stapleton, Leon Carter, Rodney Jackson and Harold Johnson, who wrote the moving “You’re Mine.” Later, after joining the Mellows, Harold composed “Smoke From Your Cigarette.” Joe Davis leased “You’re Mine” to M-G-M, but after one more, decided to release their future songs on his own Jay-Dee label, like “Your Love,” which is notable as the first use of the background riff, “Doo-run, de-run-de-run de-papa,” later recycled on Frankie Lymon’s “Teenage Love” and the Shirelles’ “I Met Him On A Sunday.” In the wake of the success of the Orioles, Baltimore became a hotbed of group activity. One of the best was the Swallows, another “bird” group, comprised of Eddie Rich, Earl Hurley, Frederick Johnson, Norris “Bunky” Mack, Irving Turner and Herman “Junior” Denby, who sings lead in a Charles Brown manner here on “Trust Me,” written by Tommy Edwards, later to become famous for hits like “It’s All In The Game.” Fred Parris of the Five Satins once told me the Swallows were his favorite group growing up. Another neighborhood group from Morrisania was the Chimes: John Murray, Gary Morrison, lead singer Gene Redd, Jr., and bass Arthur Crier. Gene’s father was a well-known multi-instrumentalist and arranger and got them signed to Teddy Reig and Jack Hooke’s Royal Roost label. Their first record, “Rosemarie,” came out on Roost’s Betta subsidiary, while “Dearest Darling” was released on the main label. Morrisania also gave us the Chords and Lillian Leach & the Mellows, among others. Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester moved to Cleveland from Kentucky and hooked up with Prentiss Barnes and Pete Graves to form the Moonglows. They met local dj Alan “Moondog” Freed, who became their manager, recording them on his own label, Champagne. “I Just Can’t Tell No Lie,” was written by Fuqua, as were most of the group’s tunes, but Freed took the writing credit under the pseudonym, Al Lance. The record did nothing and they moved over to Art Sheridan’s Chance Records. Their final record on Chance, “219 Train,” is their rarest. A move to Chess brought their biggest song, “Sincerely” and many other great ones. They appeared in Freed’s rock’n’roll exploitation flicks, Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock’n’Roll. Harlem’s 115th Street gave us a number of good groups. One of the first was the Five Willows: Richie Davis, brothers Ralph and Joe Martin, Scooter Steele and lead Tony Middleton. When moving van entrepreneur Victor Allen got the show biz bug and decided to start a record company, he hired Pete and Goldie Doraine to run things. Tony recalled Mr. Allen as a kind man, taking the teens upstate to his farm, to give them a taste of what rural life was like. Doraine took the group in the studio with Don Archer’s band for the usual four sides allowed by union rules and the first release, “My Dear, Dearest Darling,” made them local heroes and took off in Los Angeles. A second date, arranged by Leroy Kirkland, failed to sell and the final two tunes from that session, including “Love Bells,” led by Davis came out on Doraine’s Pee Dee label after Allen went under. Two records on Herald did little, but a move to Morty Craft’s Melba label finally struck gold with “Church Bells May Ring, the song for which the Willows will be remembered. Their second Melba follow-up, “Little Darlin’,” in the same mold, didn’t sell. Tony went on to record for every label from A to Z, making some terrific records along the way, including “Untouchable” for Alto and the original version of Bacharach & David’s “My Little Red Book.” He later appeared on Broadway in Purlie and Cabin In The Sky. Another Baltimore group was the Magic Tones, who made one session for King, including “Good Googa Mooga,” written by their managers Bill Robertson and Homer Murray, who also wrote for the Marylanders on Jubilee. The title was taken from a stock phrase used by local dj Hot Rod Hulbert, whose schtick was appropriated by Jocko Henderson. The Magic Tones were Joe “Rico” Reed, Arthur “Boxy” Williams, James Williams, Willie “Ricky” Stokes and Gene Hawkins. Cleveland’s Central High gave us the Hornets, James “Sonny” Long, Ben Iverson, Gus Miller and Johnny Moore, who later sang lead with the Drifters on “Adorable,” “Ruby Baby” and “Under The Boardwalk.” The Hornets’ label, States, a subsidiary of United, was owned by Leonard Allen, a tailor by trade, and Lew Simpkins. United’s biggest hit was Jimmy Forrest’s “Night Train.” A 45 of “I Can’t Believe” sold a few years ago for an astounding $18,000. Times Square Records’ Slim Rose got King’s Syd Nathan to reissue a number of records his customers were fans of. Nathan even came into the store a number of times. One of these was “These Foolish Things” by Billy Ward & the Dominoes, featuring the great Clyde McPhatter. King’s vault guy pulled the wrong take for the reissue, which turned out to be the magnificent version heard here, much slower and with someone other than Clyde doing the sexy opening recitation. The revolving membership at the time of this session was Clyde, Ward, James Van Loan, William Lamont and Bill Brown. Clyde, of course, would go on to stardom at Atlantic with his many hits, including “Money Honey” and “Without Love (There Is Nothing).” Chance Records of Chicago was the first home to the smooth and classy Flamingos: Zeke and Jake Carey and cousins-by-marriage Johnny Carter and Paul Wilson with lead Solly McElroy. Why this glorious version of “September Song” wasn’t issued at the time is a mystery. In the early 60s it was included on a Vee-Jay LP of the Flamingos and Moonglows’ Chance sides. They moved on to Parrot, Checker (“I’ll Be Home”) Decca and End, where they finally broke through with classics like “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Their recording career continued into the late 60s. Brooklyn’s Charmers’ recording career consisted of two sessions, one each for Apollo subsidiary Timely, and Lee Magid and Larry Newton’s Central label. On “Tony, My Darling,” the lead was Vicky Burgess, later of the Joytones and who today sings with the Harptones. The other Charmers were Sonny & James Cooke, Alfred Toddman and George “Danny” Daniels. Newton owned Derby and Treat, and later helmed ABC-Paramount. Magid produced for National, Savoy and other labels. He also managed Della Reese and Al Hibbler. Much talent came out of Chicago’s DuSable High, most notably Nat “King” Cole. Of lesser importance in the scale of things were the Five Chances: Reggie Smith, Howard Pitman, Harold Jones, John & Darrell Austell and lead, Eddie Stillwell. Their first label was Chance, where they cut the old Harry Warren-Mort Dixon jazz standard, “Nagasaki.” A year later, for Art Benson’s Blue Lake label, they cut the collectors’ fave, “All I Want,” with the addition of Johnny “Chubby” Jones. The group continued on to States and Federal before they threw in the towel. Nothing much is known about the Pelicans, who recorded for Benson’s main label, Parrot, other than that lead singer Roger Heard wrote the lovely “Aurelia” for his love, Aurelia Brown whom he subsequently married. These are not the same Pelicans who appear later in our set on Imperial. Nothing is known and much has been speculated about the Tear Drops, whose “The Stars Are Out Tonight” is one of the earliest examples of white doo-wop, as can be heard by their New York accents. One thing is certain, they are not the Four Preps. Whoever came up with that one needs to have his ears cleaned. We asked a former Prep, and the answer is a definite no. Lexie “Flap” Hanford was a Harlem hustler who sold records from his shoe shine stand and owned a series of after hours clubs on side streets, hence his label’s name. His other labels included Chariot and Danice. The Vibranaires from Asbury Park, New Jersey were Roosevelt McDuffie, Mike Robinson, Herbie Cole, Jimmy Roache and lead Bobby Thomas, who in later years, sang with the Orioles. They also recorded for Chariot as the Vibes. Herb Slotkin, owner of Treegooh’s record and appliance store in West Philly, started his Grand label with producer/songwriter Jerry Ragavoy, who achieved later success with “Time Is On My Side” and “Piece Of My Heart.” The extremely rare “Estelle” by the Belltones is a work of beauty, sung by Irvin Natson, Jr., Hardy Hull, Jr., Donald Burnett, Frederich Walker, Estelle Powell and Harry Peschall, Jr. From the fact that their mothers all co-signed their contract, we can assume the kids were all under age. Record moguls can come from unusual backgrounds. Building contractor Peter Morgan ran his Show Time label on 54th Street in LA. The Feathers: Johnny & Louis Staton, Don Harris, John “Sonny” Harris and Mitchell Alexander made their first record for Morgan, “Johnny Darling.” It was soon covered for RCA’s label “X” by up-and-comer Sandy Stewart. Ignorant of the business and such things as exclusivity, the Feathers re-cut the tune for Aladdin. Morgan found out and sued, receiving a whopping $750 for his trouble. The group’s next, “Why Don’t You Write Me,” was also covered, this time by the Jacks who made it a hit. Disc jockey Al Benson ran his Parrot and Blue Lake labels as a one-man operation out of his home on 31st Street on Chicago’s South Side. His early acts included jazzmen Coleman Hawkins and Ahmad Jamal. When groups became the new thing, one of his first was the Five Thrills: Oscar Robinson, Fred & Obie Washington, Levi Jenkins and lead Gilbert Warren, writer of the beautiful “Gloria.” After Jerry Ragavoy produced a good seller in the Castelles’ “My Girl Awaits Me,” he went to work on the group, which epitomized what came to be known as the “Philly sound.” Lead singer George Grant, he of the high falsetto, was a large part of that sound, as heard on “Over A Cup Of Coffee.” The others were Octavius Anthony, Frank Vance, William Taylor and Ronald Everett. The group later recorded for Atco, and that was it. Chance Records would seem to have no need for a subsidiary, but Art Sheridan formed his Sabre label anyway, mainly for groups. The first was the Five Echoes: Herbert Lewis, Jimmy Marshall, Earl Lewis and Tommy Hunt, later of the Flamingos, after which Tommy went solo and made hits with “Human” and “I Don’t Know Just What To Do With Myself.” When the group later went to Vee-Jay, they added Constant “Count” Sims and Johnnie Taylor, later a big star himself. Walter Spriggs, writer of “Lonely Mood,” sang lead on this one, although not a regular member of the group. One of the finest voices of the period was that of Lee Andrews, born Arther Lee Andrews Thompson. Lee’s son, the drummer known as Questlove, is the leader of the band the Roots, house band on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Before they hit with “Long Lonely Nights,” Lee Andrews & the Hearts first recorded for Eddie Heller’s Rainbow label, followed by Gotham. Here, Lee, Roy Calhoun, Tommy Currey, Ted Weems and Wendell Calhoun sing “Bells Of St. Mary’s,” originally by Lee’s idol, Bing Crosby. The group always made quite an entrance, lit with a black light, so the audience could only see their white shirts as they started to sing. How the Five Blue Notes from Washington, D.C. wound up on Chicago’s Sabre label is beyond me, but that’s what happened. Andy Magruder, Waymond Mooney, Robert Stroud, Moise Vaughn and Fleming Briscoe, who wrote “My Gal Is Gone,” cut one session for Art Sheridan’s label, with accounting assistance from Ewart Abner. When Chance folded, the pair joined Vee-Jay and Abner eventually went to Motown, where he handled Stevie Wonder. Magruder later joined the Spaniels, toward the end of their Vee-Jay sojourn. Big favorites among the older guys at Times Square Records, the Strangers brought forth a depth of feeling in their songs that can be almost too much to bear. Brooklyn’s Billy Clarke, Pringle Sims, John Grant, Woodrow Jackson and John & Seifert Brizant were a big influence on the Jive Five’s Eugene Pitt. I first met Clarke when he was with the Flamingos during the 1960s. What strikes me about the Strangers is how, like the Rolling Stones, for example, they attempt to reach beyond their abilities, in the process creating something fresh and unique. King A&R man Henry Glover gave them all the room they needed to express their vision, which unfortunately resulted in few sales. Seifert Brizant wrote their greatest sides, “My Friends,” “Blue Flowers,” “Without A Friend” and, heard here, “Hoping You’ll Understand,” as well as the Velours’ “Crazy Love.” A real unsung talent. From my home town of White Plains, came the Swans, who made only two records: “My True Love” on Rainbow and “Believe In Me” on saxophonist Buddy Lucas’s Steamboat label, named after the song he wrote for the Drifters. Buddy, who lived in Stamford, Connecticut, recorded the group after his son joined. The Rainbow configuration: Charlie Drew, Donald Sledge, Ray Roberts and James Bradham, met man-about-Harlem Lover Patterson, who brought them to Rainbow chief Eddie Heller. The Swans on Steamboat were Drew, Bradham, Roberts, Charlie Sherock, Buddy Lucas, Jr., and the Mastertones’ Doc Robinson. I occasionally run into Donald, still hanging on the same old corner in Battle Hill, when I’m back home. Detroit’s Central High gave us the Diablos: Nolan Strong, Juan Guitierrez, Willie Hunter, Quentin Eubanks and Bob “Chico” Edwards. Fellow Detroiter Smokey Robinson cites Strong as his greatest early influence. The group recorded for record store owners Jack & Devora Brown’s Fortune label. Their second record was the legendary “The Wind,” popular at house parties, “where the only light was from the refrigerator,” due to its length, so dancers had more time to “grind ‘em up.” In 1956 Guitierrez and Eubanks were replaced by George Scott and Nolan’s brother, Jimmy for the wild “You Are.” Nolan had a turntable hit in the early ’60s with “Mind Over Matter.” Barrett Strong, of “Money (That’s What I Want)” fame, is Nolan and Jimmy’s cousin. From the neighborhood around 151st Street & Amsterdam Avenue came the Valentines: Mickey Francis, Ray “Pop” Briggs, Carl Hogan and Ronnie Bright. When Philadelphian Richard Barrett moved to Harlem, he joined as lead singer and songwriter. They made one record, “Tonight Kathleen,” for Hy Weiss’s Old Town, the label he ran out of a closet in the Tri-Boro Theater, before hooking up with George Goldner’s Rama label, where they hit with “Lily Maebelle” and “The Woo Woo Train.” Bright sang bass with the latter day Coasters, while Barrett discovered Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, the Chantels, Little Anthony & the Imperials and the Three Degrees, in addition to making solo sides like “Some Other Guy,” covered by the Searchers and other British Invasion acts. The Velvets’ lead singer Charles Sampson and the Valentines’ Carl Hogan recorded for Bobby Robinson’s Red Robin label as Charles & Carl. The other Velvets were Donald & Joe Raysor, Bearle Ashton and George Thorpe, all of Harlem. Robinson owned a record shop on 125th Street where he ran his various labels, Red Robin, Whirlin Disc, Fury, Fire, Enjoy and others from 1951, right up through the rap era, along the way recording the likes of Gladys Knight, Elmore James, Wilbert Harrison and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, always keeping his ear to the ground for the latest trends. Another group from White Plains was the Mastertones: Doc Robinson, Pop Gray, George “Bronx” Rivers, Frank McRae and Charles “Stony” Dimbo. They recorded for Monte Bruce, Leo Rogers and Morty Craft’s Bruce label, in the shadow of the more famous Harptones. They never made another record after their delicious “Tell Me,” another collector favorite at Slim’s. The Club 51 label was owned by one Jimmy Davis, who operated a record store and a skating rink on Chicago’s South Side. He ran the label out of a back room in the shop. His main group, the mis-named Four Buddies (there were five) backed his acts Rudy Greene and Bobbie James, and made a couple records of their own, including “Delores,” heard here. Members were lead Ularsee Manor, Jimmy Hawkins, Dickie Umbra and Willie Bryant. From the same part of the South as the famous “5” Royales came the Casanovas, of High Point and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. These were no kids, Willie & Frank McWilliams, Chester & LD Mayfield, and Melvin “Mike” Stowe had sung gospel before turning secular. Chester’s “I Don’t Want You To Go,” bears more than a passing melodic resemblance to the “5” Royales’ “Dedicated To The One I Love,” from several years later. But I guess he never bothered to sue, as Lowman Pauling’s name still remains on the song. The Harptones’ songwriter Raoul J. Cita wrote a winner in “Loving A Girl Like You,” one of his finest, but Bruce didn’t release it at the time, waiting for Slim to get them to put it out in the early ’60s. The lovely song shows lead singer Willie Winfield at the top of his game. The group backed Ruth McFadden on her version, under the title “School Boy.” Earl “Speedo” Carroll of the Cadillacs once told me, “We all used to practice at St. Nicholas Park. When the Harptones came to sing, we all had to move to the other side.” Our other Harptones track here is “It All Depends On You,” their follow-up to their famous “Life Is But A Dream” on Weiss’s Paradise label, named after the Loew’s Paradise Theater in Hy’s home borough of the Bronx. It’s always a treat to hear tenor saxophonist Jimmy Wright bluster his way into the middle of a tune and play one of his amazing solos. He does it here on the Keynotes’ rocking “Really Wish You Were Here,” which the guys cut for Apollo. The Central Harlem group members were Floyd Adams, Sam Kearney, Roger Lee, Howard Anderson, Larry “Sparky” Carter and Tucker Clark. Possibly the most obscure record on this set, the Mello-Harps’ “Love Is A Vow” is a work of exquisite delicacy. Backed by only an upright bass, Brooklyn’s Johnny Malone delivers the lead against Vernon Staley’s floating tenor, while Joe Gowder, Bony Elder and Ossie Davis harmonize in back. Guitarist Lawrence Lucie brought them to Morty Craft, who owned the label and later used the track on an oldies LP for his Warwick label. The group re-did the song for Rego as the Teen-Tones and, again later, for Karen as the Levee Songsters! The Five Thrills’ Gilbert Warren shows up in another Parrot group, the wonderful Orchids, perhaps the best on the label. Their “Newly Wed” was said to be Frank Zappa’s favorite record and it’s easy to see why. Warren, Buford Wright, Robert Nesbary and a guy remembered only as Charles were quite something. Their other side on this set is the moving “You Said You Loved Me,” heard here with a restored piano intro that was edited out for the original release. The St. Nicholas projects at 129th Street in Harlem brought forth the Vocaltones, an outgrowth of the Dovers. This fine street group: lead singer Bobby Jackson, Eddie Quinones, Wyndham “Corky” Porter, Tommy Grate (of the Five Wings and later, the Dubs) and Roland Martinez, brother of the Vocaleers’ Joe Duncan, could sing with the best on their Apollo sides like “Darling (You Know I Love You)” and later, for George Goldner’s Juanita label, “Walking With My Baby,” by which time the group consisted of Bobby, Roland, Corky, Bobby Moore and Irving Lee Gail. New Haven gave us some great groups, not the least of which was the Five Satins, also the Chestnuts and the Nutmegs. The latter’s earlier incarnation was as the Lyres, with a slightly different personnel: Bill Emery, Walter Singleterry, Sonny Griffin, Jimmy Tyson and two guys both named Leroy Griffin. Leroy #1 was lead singer and songwriter. The version of “Ship Of Love” here, recorded by engineer Tom Sokira, predates the Nutmegs’ more famous later version on Herald. By 1958, the Nutmegs were back with Sokira and his partner, Marty Kugell on their Klik label, as the Rajahs, with “Shifting Sands,” a Times Square fave. Mercury A&R man Bob Shad surreptitiously used any leftover studio time to record acts for his own and his brother Morty’s labels, Jax, Sittin’ In With and Harlem, for which the Concords recorded briefly. Shad did this on Mercury’s dime. The Concords, from central Harlem, were Joe Willis, Bob Thompson, Jimmy Hunter and Milton Love, who later joined the Solitaires. Speaking of the Solitaires, here they are on one of their most spectacular performances, the old Bing Crosby 1930s classic, “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance.” As told by the group, they were appearing at Baltimore’s Royal Theater, on a bill with the Five Keys, who’d recorded the song for Aladdin, but it wasn’t released. The Keys were singing it, either in their act or in the dressing room, and Bobby Williams heard it and taught it to his group, with the exact same arrangement. It didn’t sell at the time, but became a huge collector fave at Slim’s. Bobby Williams, Herman Curtis (Dunham), Buzzy Willis, Pat Gaston, Monte Owens and Bobby Baylor were one of the most respected Harlem groups, with tunes like “The Angels Sang,” “Blue Valentine” and “Walking Along” to their credit. Hy Weiss recorded them from the beginning of his Old Town label until the very end. Before there was a Five Satins, Fred Parris had another group, the Scarlets, with Sylvester Hopkins, Bill Powers, Nate Mosley and Al Denby, all of New Haven. They took the train to the 125th Street station and headed to Bobby Robinson’s shop to see about making a record. Robinson liked what he heard and booked a split session with the Velvets, who Fred admired. “Dear One” and “I’ve Lost” received split airplay with the typical results: neither side emerged as a hit. Red Robin put out three more Scarlets records, the rarest of which, “Love Doll,” is heard here. It was the Four Fellows’ intent to create a sound like the Mills Brothers, so they practiced religiously in their Brooklyn hallways. They made one record for Larry Newton’s Derby label and moved on, ending up on Glory, formed by former Coral A&R man Phil Rose. In 1955, a lot of guys just out of high school with no job prospects joined the armed forces, so David Jones and Teddy Williams wrote a song called “Soldier Boy,” which became a hit, with covers by Ella Fitzgerald, Sunny Gale, Eydie Gorme and others, including a later revival by Elvis Presley. The group’s follow-up, “In The Rain,” was itself a cover of a record by the aforementioned Charmers. The other two Fellows were Jimmy McGowan and Larry Banks, who went on to compose “Go Now,” covered by the British group, the Moody Blues. After Glory went out of business, Rose turned to producing Broadway shows, including Raisin In The Sun and Purlie. Around this time, Johnny Otis, always on the lookout for ways to make a buck, was recording groups in his garage, either formal groups or whoever was around that day. The Pyramids fall into the former category. They’d recorded for the Hollywood label and, with Otis, for Federal. These LA guys were Sidney Correla, Joe Dandy, Lionel Cobbs, Melvin White, Kenneth Perdue and Thomas “Buster” Williams. Not all of our favorite groups came out of the slums. The Heartbeats were from Ozone Park, then a middle class, near-suburb in Queens. One of their neighbors was tenor sax star Illinois Jacquet. The boys pestered him to listen and when he finally did, he sent them to his brother, trumpeter Russell, who was about to start a record company, Network Records. The beautiful “Tormented,” failed to get off the ground and Wally Roker, Vernon Sievers, Albert Crump, Robbie Tatum and lead singer/songwriter James Sheppard pestered another neighbor, William Miller, who with Billy Dawn Smith and Bea Caslon were forming their Hull label. Their first for the company, “Crazy For You,” made some noise, so the partners stuck with the group, cutting future collector classics like “Your Way” before hitting with “A Thousand Miles Away,” which was sold to George Goldner’s Rama. Further records for Gee and Roulette took the guys to the end of the line, upon which Shep formed Shep & the Limelights, writing his answer, “Daddy’s Home.” Yet another Baltimore act was the Whispers: Bill Mills, Eugene “Lump” Lewis, Billy Thompson, Jimmy & Terry Johnson. Terry wrote “Are You Sorry,” and later joined the Flamingos, writing “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” for them. The Whispers did one session, two records, for Irv Ballin’s Gotham label, before calling it quits. Saxman Jimmy Wright also appears on “Maggie” by the Inspirations, their one record for Apollo, done at a split session with the Keynotes and the Vocaleers. Members were: William Perkins, Burnett Langester, Willie Wiggins, Joe Warren, Felix Hunt and Harry Dixon. The great Jesse Belvin, before he became a legend with “Goodnight My Love,” made a lot of quickie doo-wop records, utilizing whichever local singers were available on a given day. A facile songwriter, he’d often knock off a tune in the car on the way to the studio. Such was likely the case when he sang on this Johnny Otis-produced record by the Californians. You can hear Jesse’s falsetto in the background. There’s some nice group backing on Jesse’s “Dear Heart” and on “Deacon Dan Tucker.” I’ve only seen one copy of it in all my years: mine! We come to the fabulous Cadillacs with the beloved Earl “Speedo” Carroll. Speedo and his boyhood friend Bobby Phillips had single mothers who did housework on Saturdays, dropping them off at a local theater that showed “the chapters,” movie serials. Watching Roy Rogers, they fell in love with Roy’s group, the Sons of the Pioneers and were inspired to start a group. At first calling themselves the Carnations, they acquired a manager, Lover Patterson, who introduced them to agent Esther Navarro, who renamed them the Cadillacs. Esther helped herself to the writer’s share on all the group’s tunes, and she hooked them up with choreographer Cholly Atkins, who gave them a stage act that put them ahead of their rivals. Hit records, “Gloria,” “Speedo” and others solidified their place in history. Their label Josie, put out an album, unusual for the time. One of the cuts, heard here, was “Zoom Boom Zing,” that perhaps sounded too much like “Sh-Boom” for release as a single, but it’s great nonetheless. The members by this time were Earl, Bobby, Lavern Drake, Earl Wade of the Opals and Charles Brooks. Joe Davis, having lost Lillian Leach & the Mellows, found another group with a female lead in New Haven’s the Chestnuts, featuring Ruby Whittaker, Lyman & Frank Hopkins, Jimmy Curtis and Reuben White. They had little success but left us this lovely ballad, “Love Is True,” and others on Standord, Eldorado and on Elgin, backing Bill Baker. Pittsburgh’s Hill District has given us many great musicians: Billy Eckstine, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, George Benson and the El Capris, a seven man group: Leon Gray, James Scott, Theo McCcrary, William Germany, Larry Hill and lead Edward Jackson. Woody Henderling, who owned the New York label Bullseye, was in Pittsburgh and happened upon the group and liked what he heard, so he took them into dj Porky Chedwick’s studio at WHOD to record “(Shimmy Shimmy) Ko Ko Wop,” a title that might ring a bell. Bill “Bass” Gordon, who had recorded for Gee, and alto saxophonist Ben Smith of Andy Kirk’s band formed Teenage Records to capitalize on the group trend. Their first act was the Baltineers. The only member we know is Percy Cosby, who wrote “Moments Like This.” The group was also known as the Valtones, who recorded for DeLuxe. Little is known about the Copesetics, a girl group from central Harlem who recorded one cool little record, “Collegian” for Joe Leibowitz’s Premium label. Black teenagers had taken to dressing in the preppy style they called “collegian” at that time, copied from the square white kids, adding their own personal stylistic touches, like buttoning only the top button on their sport jacket and letting the rest hang loose. Leibowitz had only one hit during his label’s short life, “My Heart’s Desire” by the Wheels, a group led by Allen Bunn, who we met earlier in the Larks. In the back of his shop at 4648 Cottage Grove on the South Side of Chicago, Frank Evans opened a little label that lasted less than a year, Ping Records. His first group, the De’Bonairs, was Ralph Johnson, William “Sonny Boy” Nelson, Earl “Poochie” Vanorsby, Virgil “Nip” Talbert and Ed Johnson. Their song, “Mother’s Son” was quickly covered on Vee-Jay by the Delegates, a tossed together group fronted by Dee Clark. Backing the De’Bonairs was a combo led by future avant guard pianist Andrew Hill, with Von Freeman on tenor sax. Hill made two jazz records of his own for Ping, which was a memory before the year was out. Club 51’s other group was the King’s Men. We only know of two members, Theodore Twiggs and Eugene Smith, composers of “Don’t Say You’re Sorry.” Label owner Jimmy Davis never recorded them again. Also on the Teenage label, the Demens: Eddie Jones, Jimmy Caines, Thomas and Frankie Cook, recorded Eddie’s “Take Me As I Am,” a terrific song later revived by the Duprees. One small problem: whereas Eddie’s name is on the Demens’ version, the Duprees’ sports the names of two guys from their group, J. Canzano and J. Santollo. Eddie went on to become a vocal coach on Broadway and I last saw him in the 1990s, conducting for the Cadillacs. From the South Jamaica Projects in Queens came Carol and Thelma Stansbury, Shirley Taylor, Barbara Lee and lead Barb Thompson, collectively called the Deltairs. Carol wrote their semi-hit, “Lullabye Of The Bells.” Bandleader Al Browne took them to Stan Feldman and Ed Portnoy at 1697 Broadway, above the Ed Sullivan (now David Letterman) Theater. The two were starting a label, Ivy Records and took on the girls, with Browne’s band backing them. They made another record for Felsted after which it was bye-bye until the early 70s oldies revival. One night in 1957, Alan Freed’s sidekick, Paul Sherman, who called himself “The Crown Prince of Rock ’n’ Roll,” to differentiate himself from Alan the King, was subbing for an under-the-weather Freed. I’ll never forget Sherman introducing “the new record by the Drifters, ‘Fools Fall In Love.’” A killer intro by a clicking guitar led to a really cool side. One problem: it wasn’t the Drifters. For fifteen years I tried to find out the title of the record, until a collector named Steve Flam told me he was listening that same night and the record was “So Good” by the Playboys. Next time I saw it on an auction, I bid and won it. I never discovered who the Playboys were, but the label, Tetra was owned by Monte Bruce and his wife, Toni. Google tells us Monte’s real name is Montgomery Bruce Eisenkrantz of Brooklyn. Record salesman Jerry Winston sold Latin music on his Mardi Gras label and formed a rock’n’roll subsidiary, Onyx Records. His first group was Brooklyn’s Velours: Jerome “Romeo” Ramos, John Cheatdom, Donald Haywoode, Kenneth Walker and Marvin Holland. Winston hired former Erskine Hawkins arranger, Sammy Lowe to do the charts, so his records sounded more professional than most doo-wop records. The Velours’ second record, “Romeo,” is for some reason by far their rarest. Luckily, they scored with “Can I Come Over Tonight,” thanks in part the their new bass, Charles Moffitt, who was astounding, sounding as if he had rubber lips. Their next, “This Could Be The Night” should’ve been as big, but no. Neither was “Remember,” but they kept recording, for various labels with diminishing results. The Dell-Vikings’ “Come Go With Me” was all over the radio in 1957. The group, formed by five servicemen in Pittsburgh, were hot, and also free agents, so they signed with Mercury, while Kripp Johnson stayed with Dot and formed another group. With a slight spelling change to the Del Vikings, group founder Clarence Quick, David Lerchey, Gus Backus, Norman Wright and William Blakely scored with “Cool Shake” and made an album, containing an uptempo version of “A Sunday Kind Of Love,” already a ballad doo-wop classic as by the Harptones. Slim thought he could peddle a few 45s, so he convinced Mercury to release it on their “Celebrity Series,” selling a bunch at the store. The Mystics copied their version on Laurie, but it did nothing. Sounding like it was recorded in a bathroom, “Did It” by the Laddins was popular at Times Square Records. The Harlem group: David “Pinky” Coleman, Ernest “Mickey” Goody, Early & John Marcus and Bobby Jay soon got more professional and had a local hit with “Yes Oh Baby Yes,” on Alan Freed’s Grey Cliff label, named after his estate on the Long Island Sound in Stamford, Connecticut. Freed was riding high in 1957. The Laddins continued to record, making a nice Drifters-styled side, “I’ll Kiss Your Teardrops Away.” Bobby Jay went on to become a disc jockey with his deep bass voice. The home of Swing, Kansas City, wasn’t known for doo-wop, but one group from that city came up with a wonderful song, “Blueberry Sweet,” by the Chandeliers, named after the hanging light fixture in a member’s parents’ dining room. Tommy Robinson, owner of the Atlas/Angletone labels in New York, was visiting town and heard the guys, deciding to record them at a local studio. William & Jesse Watson, Sandy Johnson, George Chambers and lead Luther Rice had their one moment in the sun. Guys would argue over the unintelligible lyrics to the Elchords’ “Peppermint Stick,” some insisting that 11-year-old Little Butchie Saunders was saying something very dirty, but I heard merely, “Peppermint stick will you be my chick,” not the naughty wishful thinking of my friends. He also recorded as Little Butchie & his Buddies on Herald and Little Butchie & the Vells on Angletone. The Unique Teens made one record for Ivy, “Jeannie.” We know little about them, other than that they were from the Bronx, although their style reminds me of the East Harlem style of the Channels, the Schoolboys and the Desires, where the song is sung by the group with the lead singer answering. The lead is Carl Petress. The record was purchased by Hanover, a label in which TV host Steve Allen had a financial interest. Bobby Robinson was done with Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords, so he sold two of his unissued Fury masters to George Goldner, who released them on his Juanita label. “Dance Girl,” written by Les Cooper, was recorded by Lymon first, but not released until long after the more familiar version by Cooper’s group, the Charts. Lewis was, of course, the younger brother of the legendary Frankie, and passed away this past year, outliving his brother by decades. He worked up until the end, loved by all who knew him. Many Italian neighborhoods bordered on black areas, so the Italian kids developed a taste for black music. Antonio Aiello, Vinnie Drago, Tony Delesio, Ralph Branco and Tony Imbimbo formed the Ebb-Tides to sing the music they loved. Their first record, for Bill Miller’s Acme label, was the self-penned “Franny Franny,” a slice of uptempo rock’n’roll. Their manager, Murray Jacobs, formed Recorte Records for them and they made several records as Nino & the Ebbtides, including the locally popular “Puppy Love.” Next was Larry Utal’s Madison, where they hit with their East Coast cover of Little Caesar & the Romans’ “Those Oldies But Goodies” and “Juke Box Saturday Night.” Another Italian group, this one from New Haven, was Nicky & the Nobles: Dickie Bernardo, Joey Kakulis, Sal Tramache, Pat Cosenza, Mario Gaimo and Nicky Delano. These guys used to come to the Country House, the club where we were the house band from 1963-67. Those New Haven boys were a rough bunch, some thinking it was 1927 and they were Al Capone. One night there was a little shoot out in the club with their enemies from Bridgeport. The Nobles’ “Poor Rock’n’Roll” was inspired by the infamous riot at an Alan Freed show in Boston that caused him to be banned from that city. “School Bells” was written by Jimmy Krondes, whose claim to fame was Earl Grant’s hit, “The End.” The trouble with being a child star is, what happens when your voice changes? This was starting to affect Schoolboys lead Leslie Martin when the group made “Angel Of Love” for Goldner’s Juanita label, their final record. They’d only made three prior, the first of which was a double sided hit, “Shirley”/”Please Say You Want Me” on OKeh. Roger Hayes went to the Collegians and Renaldo Gamble to the Kodoks. We don’t know what happened to James McKay. Speaking of kiddie lead groups, one of the best I’ve ever heard is this double-sided monster I bought for two bucks in 1972 from a collector who’d decided to sell his collection and become a hippie. I’ve been offered a few thousand for it. The Delrays from Pennsylvania were James & Tommy Keith, Levester “Buster” Lockman and Ron Brown. They later recorded as the Teen Kings on Bee. Vocal groups were known for their short-lived careers, a record or two then back to bagging groceries at the supermarket. Dino & the Diplomats were another of these. For Laurie, they cut two nice sides. Here’s “My Dream,” a tribute to Rafael “Dino” Cedeno’s beloved Caribbbean island homeland, composed by himself with his fellow group members, Charles Humber, Woody Carter, J. J. Jones and Richard Morgan. Their next stop was the Vida label, where they cut the sweet “Soft Wind.” Stamford, Connecticut’s Fabulons also hung out at the Country House. Their revival of the Mellows’ “Smoke From Your Cigarette” is a fine version. They also made “This Is The End” for Benson-Rico. The guys were Bert Person, Louis Sileo, John Hickey, Ron Russo and Tony Rizzi. Philly’s Dreamlovers first recorded for V-Tone and backed Chubby Checker on “The Twist” and “Pony Time.” When Chubby’s label, Cameo/Parkway showed no interest in recording the group, they went across town to Heritage and Jerry Ross for a hit, penned by lead singer Don Hogan, “When We Get Married.” Their third for the label was this exciting revival of the Collegians’ “Zoom Zoom Zoom.” A couple years later, on End, they charted again with “If I Should Lose You,” before turning to soul in the 60s. The other members were Morris Gardner, James & Clifton Dunn, Tommy Ricks and Cleveland Hammock. Little Jimmy & the Tops were Jimmy & Vernon Rivers, Moses Groves, Eddie Bonelli and Sylvia Peterson, whose next step on the show biz ladder was with the Chiffons. Ronnie Mack, who wrote “He’s So Fine,” also wrote the Tops’ “Puppy Love.” Ronnie died of cancer, even as the Chiffons were climbing the charts to #1. Jerry Blavat, the Geeter with the Heater, played the hell out of “Puppy Love” on his radio show and at his record hops, causing Swan Records to purchase the master and reissue it. The Corvairs: Joe Shepard, Nelson Shields, Prince McKnight, Ronald Judge and Billy Falson, made only one record to my knowledge, but a cool one: “True True Love,” crammed full of all the doo-wop trickery that 1962 fans demanded. Our final selection is the Camelots’ revival of the Heartbeats’ legendary “Your Way.” True to the group’s Coney Island roots, they do it up in classic Brooklyn street corner style. The Camelots were: David Nichols, Joe Mercede, Milton Pratt, Elijah Summers and Julius Williams. They also recorded as the Harps on Laurie. There are several records and groups on this set we know nothing about, but hey, these are rare records, obscurities one and all. If you’re a long time collector, you’ve just heard a few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of first class doo-wop. If you’re a novice, listen more than once, this hard core stuff doesn’t grab everybody the first time. But, as promised, this is the real shit: Rare and Great. —Billy Vera