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The Calvanes

By Bobby Adams

In 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.

In 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.

The 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.

 "They 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.

The "Calvanes" broke up in 1957, after a dispute with Dootsie Williams.

In 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.

 After 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.

In 1961, Fred Willis was drafted into the Army. Adams, Pruitt and Crunk recruited Sidney Dunbar and recorded for RCA as the "Nuggets".

By 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.

Fred 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.

In 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.

In 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."

The 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.

During 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".

In 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.

Tonight 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!

 The Crests

By Todd R. Baptista

During 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 genre.

Brooklyn 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.

In 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."

One 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."

The 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'."

A 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.

"No 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."

Working 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

Signing 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.

 After 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.

Patricia 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.

Despite 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

By Charlie Homer

Branches 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 harmony.

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.

Jim 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 singer.

The 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".

A 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.

 Some 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.

By 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.

Late 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 through 1957.

By 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 1958.

When 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.

Tonight we welcome this great vocal quartet , the Four Tunes into the UGHA Hall of Fame.


 The Rivileers

By Tom Luciani & Steve Flam

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 bucks richer.

Gene 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 collectors claim.

Not 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 along.

Milton 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".

"A 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.

 Alfonso 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.

 The 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 Watson's book 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.

In 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.

Update: 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 Vocaleers).

It is indeed with pleasure and pride that tonight at our 10th Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that we enter these NYC legends, The Rivileers.

Note:  Sadly, Gene Pearson died just days before the Hall of Fame ceremony.


 The Royals / Midnighters

By Todd R. Baptista

During 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.

The 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 city.

In 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Working 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 charts.

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.

Subsequently, "Work With Me Annie", "Sexy Ways" and "Annie Had A Baby" were banned by many radio stations.

The 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.

The 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.

Hank 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.

"Finger 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 meeting.

By 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.

With 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.

In 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.

Many 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.


The Turbans

Al 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.

A 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"."

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

On 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.

Herman 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."

Chet 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.

The 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.

The 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 this session.

 "A 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.

According 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.

The 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.

Since 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.


The Wanderers

A 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.

By 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 Find Happiness."

In 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."

Lee 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.

In 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.

MGM 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 exceptions.

By 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."

On 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".

Their 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.

The 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, New Jersey.