Our Dueling Doo-Wops series is aimed at bringing you some
of the best seldom heard group harmony recordings of the 1950s and 60s. Dell Rat Ron Shearer joins us again with platters aplenty and I brought along my own boss batch!
Ron, if you don't mind,
I'd like first serve.
It's important to remember that some of the greatest
doo-wop was made by singers who were teenage or even younger. My first Pick to Click is an excellent example.
THE SIX TEENS
The Six Teens were not six teens, at least not in 1956 when they started making records. The Los Angeles based group consisted of five teenagers plus 12 year old Trudy Williams.
As the story goes, little Trudy merely tagged along to the studio to watch her older sister and the others make a record. She wound up being appointed lead singer of the group! (I can just hear Jay & the Americans singing "Only in America, land of opportunity.") Originally calling themselves The Sweet Teens, the group released a single that failed to chart. Later that year they released a second record using The Six Teens as their name and scored a hit. "A Casual Look" went top 50 on the Billboard pop chart, top 40 on the Cash Box survey, and cracked the top 10 on the R&B chart. Young Trudy's voice was pure and virtuous and even though "A Casual Look" culminates with a girl becoming a teenage bride it is, by modern standards, a sweet, innocent record -
a far cry from today's sly, slick and wicked gutter sludge.
"A Casual Look" - The Six Teens (August 1956, highest
chart position #48 Hot 100, #38 Cash Box, #7 R&B)
THE FIVE KEYS
They're the R&B vocal group that recorded "Close Your Eyes," The Mother of All Dell Songs and the #1 record on my list of the 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell. The Five Keys from Newport News, Virginia, were already seasoned veterans in 1955 when they waxed that hit for Capitol Records. In 1951, recording for Aladdin, the group achieved a #1 R&B hit with their version of "Glory of Love," a 1936 chart topper by Benny Goodman. For some reason all 18 of their other Aladdin singles sold poorly. As you'll realize when you listen to the beautiful ballad "Teardrops in Your Eyes," the Five Keys' spotty success had absolutely nothing to do with quality.
"Teardrops in Your Eyes" - The Five Keys (1953, uncharted)
The Five Keys' follow-up release makes my eyes roll back
in my head. It's one of the finest R&B love songs of the 50s - passionate pleading, crying, sweating, feeling... it's all here
in "My Saddest Hour."
"My Saddest Hour" - The Five Keys (1953, uncharted)
Shady, when I heard the
Safaris sing "Image of a
Girl" back in Volume 1
of Dueling Doo-Wops,
I flashed on a song by
the G-Clefs that was on
the charts a year later.
It had been more than
five years (1956) since
the Roxbury, Mass
doo-wop group achieved
a minor hit with a jumper
entitled "Ka-Ding Dong."
The group returned to the
charts in 1961 with the
bigger hit "I Understand
(Just How You Feel)," a song that had been recorded in
1954 and made into a hit by The Four Tunes and June Valli.
The G-Clefs went top ten with their cover and England's
Freddie & the Dreamers cracked the top 40 with their
rendition in 1965. "I Understand" is sung to the familiar
melody of "Auld Lang Syne" and the G-Clefs record,
released in September 1961, remained popular all the way
through the Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year holidays.
"I Understand (Just How You Feel)" - The G-Clefs
(December 1961, highest chart position #9)
As you know, Shady, the original O'Jays were favorites in
the York-Lancaster-Harrisburg area, their records covered
by the Delchords and many other groups. They also played
on the same bills as the Magnificent Men and the Soul Clinic
as well as were backed up by those bands. Here is one of
their most popular songs from those days. Unfortunately,
very few of these classic O'Jay songs are included in any
collections except imports, high-priced and not remastered.
"You're On Top" - O'Jays (July 1964, uncharted)
Ron, the juice
is on the loose!
As long as we're sampling the O'Jays I'd like to spin another record by the veteran soul group. It's a genuine lost relic, one that predates the O'Jays' first Imperial classic "Lonely Drifter." It's "Crack Up Laughing," the killer bee on the back of "That's the Way I Feel," a record originally released in 1961 on King Records when the group was known as the Mascots and reissued in 1963 on both the Little Star and Imperial labels. Enjoy the very early sound of the O'Jays!
"Crack Up Laughing" - The O'Jays (July 1963, uncharted)
Singer, songwriter, producer and composer Barry De Vorzon was another of those behind the scenes guys responsible for hit records released by other artists. Barry composed the 1960 hit "Dreamin'" for singer Johnny Burnette along with the delicate "Nadia's Theme," the Grammy Award winning theme from the daytime drama The Young and the Restless.
Barry De Vorzon also founded Valiant Records, the label that signed the Association. He wrote "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" (an entirely different song from the Boyce and Hart composition) and offered it to a group called the Cascades. When they turned down the song, Barry adopted a d.i.y. mindset, formed his own West Coast trio called Barry and the Tamerlanes, and recorded it himself. The result was a cool, up tempo doo-wop record that entered the Billboard top 30 the day after the assassination of President Kennedy.
"I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" - Barry and the
Tamerlanes (December 1963, highest chart position #21)
"Popsicles and Icicles," a song written by David Gates who later formed and fronted the group Bread, began its chart run that same dark day, November 23rd, 1963, on its way to a top 5 finish in the winter of '64. The Murmaids were a trio of Los Angeles teenagers made up of the Fischer sisters, Carol and Terry, along with their neighborhood friend Sally Gordon. The Murmaids' dreamy girl group ballad, written and recorded before the tragic events unfolded in Dallas, serves as a grim reminder of the innocence America lost that day and never regained.
"Popsicles and Icicles" - Murmaids (January 1964, highest
chart position #3)
Shady, you and I both remember Pittsburgh native
Tommy Hunt, formerly of the Flamingos, singing his hit
song "Human" at the Dell night after night. Jerre ranked
"Human" as his #1 Dell song. Ironically, Scepter Records
released "Human" as the B side of that Tommy Hunt single.
I used to listen to "The Parade of Broken Hearts" never
knowing it was the A-side. (Not at my house, it wasn't.)
"The Parade of Broken Hearts" - Tommy Hunt
(October 1961, A side of "Human")
As much as I love Tommy Hunt's "Human", there is one
other song of his I love just as much. I recall that it was
the second record released after "Human." The song,
"I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," was
written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Soul diva
Dionne Warwick recorded it later (1966) and had a top
30 hit, but I thought it mediocre compared to this one.
"I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" - Tommy Hunt
(August 1964, highest chart position #119)
Speaking of Tommy Hunt's group, the Flamingos, Ron, did you ever hear the story behind the making of "Lovers Never Say Goodbye," one of their best known hits? Have a CMP on the house while I play this next clip.
The Flamingos reinvented themselves in the mid 60s with the Dell smash "The Boogaloo Party" but they are best known for their doo-wop output during the 50s. Here's the story of how the group came up with the title of their first pop hit.
"Lovers Never Say Goodbye" - Flamingos (March 1959,
highest chart position #52 Hot 100, #25 R&B)
Here's a genuine doo-wop doublesider for you! Best known for the up tempo side of their lone hit record, the Cellos' artistry with the ballad might be doo-wop's best kept secret. The New York R&B group made a decent dent in the Billboard pop chart (#62) with their jitterbug beat version of "I'm the Japanese Sandman," a frequently covered song written in 1920. Legal issues required Apollo Records to change the song title to "Rang Tang Ding Dong (I Am the Japanese Sandman)" thereby hampering record sales because fans searched in vain for the original "Japanese Sandman" title. Listen to an excellent example of a black doo-wop group
with an updated sound that appealed to the rock and roll generation.
"Rang Tang Ding Dong (I Am the Japanese Sandman)"
- The Cellos (June 1957, highest chart position #62)
A perfect complement to "Sandman" is the dreamy flip side, "You Took My Love."
"You Took My Love" - The Cellos (June 1957, uncharted
B side of "Rang Tang Ding Dong"
Central Pennsylvania had its Magnificent Men. Chicago had its Magnificents. In 1956 the vocal group lead by tenor Johnny Keyes scored a top 10 R&B hit with the jump side
"Don't Leave Me" - The Magnificents (1958, uncharted)
for playing Dueling Doo-Wops
again today and for making
every spinner a winner!
See you soon in Volume 7!