of Detroit's pioneer groups, the Diablos were formed at Central High School in
1950. The original group consisted of lead tenor, Nolan Strong, and classmates:
Juan Guitierriez, tenor; Willie Hunter, baritone; Quentin Eubanks, bass; and Bob
"Chico" Edwards, guitar. Strong was inspired by Clyde McPhatter of the
Dominoes, and the Diablos started out emulating the style of this group. Another
inspiration was the Royals, a local Detroit group, who later met great success
when they became the Midnighters and added Hank Ballard to the group.
being able to obtain a recording contract from regional R&B labels,
Chess‑King or United, the Diablos cut a demo for a local Detroit newly
formed label, Fortune. Devora Brown, owner of this label, recognizing the
group's talent, and signed them to a contract immediately. "Adios My Desert
Love" and "(1 Want) An Old Fashioned Girl", written by Brown with
musical accompanist by Joe Weaver and his Blue Note Orchestra, was the first
Diablos release. Their second, "The Wind", in 1954, written by the
group, became the Diablos trademark. In 1960, the Jesters, another UGHA Hall Of
Fame Group, had a NYC hit with this composition. Due to poor distribution, a
major problem for small labels, "The Wind" never became a national
1955, bass Quentin Eubanks was replaced by George Scott and tenor Juan
Guitierriez was replace by Nolan's brother, "Big Jim" Strong.
"The Way You Dog Me Around", the Diablo's fifth release brought them
some national recognition. This Nolan Strong composition became one of the
"most played by R&B disc jockeys" on the Jan 28, 1956 charts.
Strong was drafted into the army in late 1956, and discharged in 1958. During
this period, his brother Jimmy took over the lead chores. During the early 60's,
Nolan started appearing and recording as a solo artist. His last hit record,
"Mind Over Matter", had potent regional sales in the Midwest in late
1962. Nolan died a month after his 43rd birthday, in Feb. of 1977. His brother
Jim died a few years later.
Strong's influence prepared the way for the success of Motown most evident in
the style of Smokey Robinson. Nolan Strong and the Diablos, the original Motown
sound. Nolan Strong and the Diablos, long revered by R&B group harmony
collectors and enthusiasts. UGHA proudly enters Nolan Strong and the Diablos
into their Hall
Four Vagabonds were one of the most unique sounding and most popular of the
pioneer quartets. Formed in St. Louis' Vashon High School in 1933, the
original Four Vagabonds consisted of John Jordan (lead), Norval Taborn
(baritone), Robert O'Neal (first tenor) and Ray Grant, Jr. (bass and
guitarist). The Vagabonds wre heavily influenced by the Mills Brothers' vocal
imitation of instruments and they soon found themselves mastering this
technique. Throughout the early and mid 1930's, the Four Vagabonds broadcast
their harmonies to the population of St. Louis through their own radio
program: first on WEW (University of St. Louis), and then on WIL. They also
replaced the Mills Brothers on a network show for KSD. By 1936, the Four
had moved to Chicago where they became regulars on the nationally heard Don
McNeil's Breakfast Club. They also acquired the services of arranger Spencer
the radio, the group's popularity soared. Being on the air three times a week,
the Vagabonds had to keep learning new material. At one point, they had a
repertoire of over 1500 songs. In 1938 the group also began daily appearances
on the nationally heard Club Matinee. Besides touring, the group also became
one of the first to appear on television. In the late 1930's they did some
1942, the Four Vagabonds were also cutting records for RCA Victor's Bluebird
subsidiary. The quartet scored biggest with their patriotic war songs like
"Rosie The Riveter", "Rose Ann Of Charing Cross", "Comin'
In On A Wing And A Prayer" and "A G.I. Wish". The group fared
well during the musicians' strike since they were able to imitate their
instruments vocally on record. Duringthis time, Spencer Odom left to join the
Southernaires. He was replaced by another great arranger, Bill Sanford.
the War, the Four Vagabonds moved to the newly formed Mercuty label for one
record and then to Apollo. There they continued their recording career with
such memorable sides as "The Pleasure's All Mine", "Do You Know
What It Means To Miss New Orleans", and P.S. I Love You". In mid
1945, Ray Grant began to lose his eyesight, and by the end of that year, he
was totally blind. The group rehearsed their entrances and exits from
eachstage, and the audiences never knew. Some of the group's finest material
was recorded during this period, but Ray's illness finally took its toll on
the group and they disbanded at the end of 1947.
May 1949, the Chicago Defender reported that Ray Grant had miraculously
regained his eyesight and the Four Vagabonds were singing again. The group
immediately was given its own TV show, Happy Pappy, which featured Ray Grant
as MC and an all‑black cast. Naturally, the Four Vagabonds provided the
background vocals. The show on WENR-TV was short‑lived and Ray Grant
soon left the group. His singing part was taken over by arranger Bill Sanford.
(Ray Grant did appear with his own group, called the Vagabonds, who backed up
Memphis Slim on one record for Premium.) When Bill Sanford left to become the
Ravens' arranger in 1950, he in turn was replaced by Frank Houston. After a
six month stint on the Johnny Desmond Show, the original Four Vagabonds called
it quits in 1952.
Four Vagabonds' story doesn't end there, though. While living in Chicago in
1980, lead John Jordan decided to restart the group. He put together a new
Four Vagabonds consisting of himself, Leonard Murray, Sam McDaoniels and Billy
Shelton. Billy Shelton is known to Spainels fans as a member of Pookie
Hudson's first group, the Three Bees as well as the Spaniels. The Four
Vagabonds of the 1980's performed but did not record.
of the original Four Vagabonds have now passed on. To keep the group's memory
alive, Billy Shelton has again reformed the Four Vagabonds, recreating their
intricate harmonies. The new Four Vagabonds consist of Al Brown (top tenor),
Mike Thomas (second tenor), Craig McKinley (baritone), and Billy Shelton
group harmony owes much to the Four Vagabonds. Break down any R&B quartet
song from the 1950's and you'll find each voice based on the part of a musical
instrument. While the Mills Brothers may have been the first to popularize the
vocal imitation of instruments, the Four Vagabonds gave this art their own
interpretation and carried it into the 1950's. just listen to any Four Vagabonds
record and marvel at Taborn's vocal trumpet, Jordan and O'Neal's vocal trombones
and Grant's vocal bass fiddle. You'll understand why the Four Vagabonds belond
in UGHA's Hall of Fame.
by Ronnie I
second California Pioneer RnB vocal group to enter the U.G.H.A. Hall of Fame,
and deservedly so! The first was the Robins. The Flams originated in 1949 when a
group of teenagers met at the Largo Theatre in Watts (Los Angeles) at a talent
show. Several groups were formed from various High Schools in Los Angeles.
Byrd (later known as Bobby Day) met tenor, David Ford, and second tenor, Willie
Ray Rockwell, at that talent show. After Byrd called his friend Curly Dinkins,
who sang baritone and bass, the quartet was established. The group received
their fundamental education on vocal harmony and entertaining at Johnny Otis's
Barrel House Club while earning a few dollars in the process.
group's first release, as the Flames, ws for the Selective record label in
January of 1950. The lead on most of the early releases was Bobby Byrd, who was
able to sing lead, tenor, baritone or bass. As the Flames, 4 Flames, Hollywood 4
Flames adn Jets, this talented quartet had classic type RnB recordings for
various L.A. labels from 1950 through 1953. Those labels included Unique,
Fidelity, Specialty, Recorded in Hollywood, Spin, Aladdin, and 7-11.
complicated history of the legendary Flames continued with numerous personnel
changes as well as group name ones. Leon Hughes replaced Willie Ray Rockwell,
who left to sing with the Lamplighters and Gaynell Hodge, who had been an
original Platter joined the Flames. Recordings followed with David Ford and
Gaynell Hodge now doing most of the lead chores. This period, 1953 through 1955,
produced the Flames finest material. "Let's Talk It Over" backed with
"I know" on Swingtime as the Hollywood Flames. "One Night With A
Fool" and "Peggy" on Lucky as the Hollywood Flames. "Tabarin"
and "Remember Me" on Decca as the Tangiers with Jesse Belvin as part
of the background vocals.
name changes for the Flames and recording labels, the Sounds and Modern, Bobby
Byrd and Birds on Cash, Turks on Cash and Bobby Day & Satellites on Class.
The Class label recordings produced hits and achieved success and fame for Bobby
(Day) Byrd. "Little Bitty Pretty One," "Rockin' Robin" and
"Over And Over" were huge hits for Day.
the same time, 1957/1958, the group was recording as the Satellites behind Bobby
Day on Class, they were also recording as the Hollywood Flames on Ebb. A major
hit, "Buzz Buzz Buzz", with new lead singer Earl Nelson of Bob and
Earl fame, was released on Ebb in September of 1957. Ebb contributed nine
releases in all by the Hollywood Flames.
Hollywood Flames, with many more personnel changes, continued through 1966.
Although I haven't thoroughly covered the Flames' story, which will never
completely enfold, I will quit while I'm ahead by bestowing my highest praise to
this group who deserve to be mentioned when you speak of the RnB pioneer greats!
welcome from L.A. and Phoenix three of the important initial members of the
Flames tonight. Congratulations to Gaynell Hodge, Curlee Dinkins and Leon Hughes
as they enter the U.G.H.A. Hall of Fame.
Anthony & The Imperials
Gourdine was brought up in the Fort Green Projects of Brooklyn and formed his
first group, the Duponts, at Boys High School in 1954. After almost 2 years of
attempting to find a record label to sign to, the group was discovered by Paul
Winley. The first release on Winley's newly reformed Winley label was two of his
own compositions, "You"/"Must Be Falling In Love" by the
Duponts. In 1958, after the Duponts/Imperials had reached success, Winley sold
the rights to these tunes to Savoy Records. Savoy released them as Little
Anthony & the Duponts. Having reach only limited success on Winley with the
Duponts, Anthony decided to form another group from his neighborhood. The
Duponts remained together for a couple of years after and had a release on
Roulette in 1958, "Screamin' Ball At Dracula Hall."
new group, the Chesters, consisted of Tracy Lord (tenor), Ernest Wright (2nd
tenor), Clarence Collins (baritone), and Gloster "Nate" Rogers (bass).
After taking a bike ride to Jamaica, Queens, the group was introduced to a
member of the Cellos, who were on the charts with "The Japanese
Sandman" on Apollo. This led to an audition with Charles Mehrenstein of
Apollo Records. Two of Anthony's compositions were recorded on Apollo, "The
Fires Burn No More' and "Lift Up Your Head." The "Fires"
received some national attention. It became and remains a N.Y.C. classic
rumor has it, Richard Barrett took the Chesters over to George Goldner after
paying Apollo Records owner, Bess Berman, $75 to release the group from their
contract. Barrett had already reached huge success with the first two teenage
groups he brought to Goldner, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers and the Chantels.
The group's first release for Goldner's End label, "Tears On My
Pillow"/"Two People In The World," ultimately sold in excess of a
million copies. The Chesters name was changed to the Imperials by Lou Gallup, A
& R man for the End label. Soon after its release, Alan Freed introduced
"'rears" on his radio show as a new record making a lot of noise by
Little Anthony & The Imperials, Very quickly the label copy on
"Tears" was changed to credit Little Anthony & The Imperials.
next release by the group on End was a Richard Barrett composition, "So
Much," followed by their third, "The Diary," a Neil Sedaka
composition. Over a dozen 45's were released on End plus two albums by the
1960, Anthony broke away from the Imperials. The group reformed and recorded for
several labels, Carlton, Capitol and Newtime. The Newtime releases credit
Anthony & The Imperials which was untrue, for George Kerr, former lead of
the Serenaders was now the Imperials lead. Anthony, in the meantime, had two
releases for Morris Levy's Roulette label as Little Anthony & The Imperials
(a studio group).
Anthony & The Imperials were reformed in late 1963 with Anthony, original
members Ernest Wright and Clarence Collins, plus Sammy Strain, formerly of the
Chips and Fantastics from Brooklyn. This same tandem reunited a few years ago
and have been the "biggest star group" on the oldies scene since!
Ernie Martinelli, the group's manager in 1963, and still managing today,
succeeded in holding a meeting with Teddy Randazzo. Randazzo, former lead singer
of the 3 Chuckles and star of Alan Freed movies, was the writer, producer and
A&R man for DCP Records. Little Anthony & The Imperials were signed to
DCP Records and proceeded to have three major hits on DCP, all Randazzo
compositions. The first was "I'm On The Outside Looking In," second
and biggest, "Going Out Of My Head" and third, "Hurt So
Bad." The group continued recording for DCP which later changed to Veep
without having any major hits. Other labels featuring Anthony & The
Imperials recordings in the late 60's and early 70's were, United Artists, Janus
welcomes Little Anthony & The Imperials into their Hall of Fame. In
attendance tonight are two original members, Tracy Lord and Gloster "Nate"
Rogers. UGHA hopes to have Anthony and the rest of the guys at a UGHA function,
when their busy schedule permits them to accept their plaques.
original Paragons, another classic Brooklyn group were: Julius McMichael, later
known as Mack Starr, BenFrazier, Al Brown, Donald Travis and Ricky Jackson. The
group was formed while still teenagers in high school.
Winley, brother of the famed bass of the Clovers, Harold, started his Winley
record label in1956. The first release on Winley was by Little Anthony Gourdine
and the Duponts. The second release, Winley's biggest, was the Paragon's first,
"Florence". Released in the winter of 1957, "Florence"
took off so fast locally, that Winley had to turn it over to a major company for
Paragons had seven releases in all for Winley plus the legendary street corner
rumble album, "The Paragons Meet The Jesters." Other Winley classic
Paragon's ballads include: "Let's Start All Over Again," "Two
Hearts Are Better Than One," "Twilight" and "The Vows OF
the early 60's near the end of the Paragon's Winley years, the group started
shifting personnel. Mack Starr left, he joined the Olympics of "Western
Movies" fame in 1965. Starr met a tragic death in Los Angeles in the
early 1980's when he was run over by an out of control automobile while on his
Paragons had releases in the early 60's for the Tap, Musicraft and Music Clef
labels. Bill Witt, lead of the Rocketones on Melba, was a member of the Paragons
in the 60's. Witt now sings with the Velours.
brought the reformation of the Paragons with Nathaniel "Butch" Epps as
the new lead singer. Epps had been a member of the Chips on Josie and Capitols
on Pet, two Brooklyn 1950's street corner type groups. Other members of the
reformed Paragons, Theodore Olds, Raymond Saunders and Jimmy McDonald. Stoney
Bernard replaced Olds a few years ago, and the group also added a guitarist and
musical director, Steve Duke.
U.G.H.A. honors the Paragons and their music, for many of us, a pleasant part of
Valentines were one of the most, dynamic R&B vocal groups ever, both on
record and on stage. Their story really began around 1952 when four young men
in New York City, Sugarhill to be exact, began singing as the Dreamers.
Initially the group consisted of Raymond "Pop" Briggs (first tenor),
Carl Hogan (second tenor), Mickey Francis (baritone), and Ronnie Bright
(bass). They were assisted early on by vocal coach extraordinaire and
Harptones' mentor, Raoul Cita. Cita helped the group with their harmonies.
Dreamers played house parties and talent shows until they connected with a
talented young lead singer and songwriter named Richard Barrett. Barrett began
singing with a group from his home town of Philadelphia called the Royal
Angels. That group had traveld to New York and won the weekly talent contest
at the famed Apollo Theater. Richard made a second trip to New York with
fellow Royal Angel, Tommy Wicks, to follow up leads for singing engagements.
As happens so often in entertainers' lean years, the leads did not pan out.
Times were tough for the two singers in the "Big Apple". Tired of
scrounging for food and a place to stay, Tommy Wicks quickly became
discouraged and returned to Philadelphia. Back home, Tommy rejoined some
singing buddies and started the Sensations. Richard Barrett decided to 11gut
it out" and stay in New York. He took a non-entertainment related job to
support himself while he pursued his singing career.
Cita hooked the group up with Bruce Records, but aside from cutting a demo,
nothing happened. Disappointed, the quintet began looking for another record
company. Carl Hogan left and was replaced by Donald Razor of the Velvets. The
Valentines then visited Old Town Records where they soon had their first
release, "Tonight Kathleen" b/w "Summer Love". Both sides
were pened by Richard Barrett who also sang lead. The Old Town release did
little nationally, but quickly established the group's reputation in Harlem.
after the record for Old Town, Donald Razor was drafted. His replacement was
Eddie Edgehill. Eddie Edgehill was born in New York, raised in Philadelphia
and moved back to New York when he was sixteen. There he started singing in a
group called the ValTones. When the ValTones competed in one of the Apollo's
amateur contests, the Valentines were in the audience. While looking for a new
second tenor, the Valentines were impressed with Eddie Edgehill's singing. But
what impressed them even more was Eddie's dancing. Eddie had always been a
great dancer and Richard Barrett knew that if the Valentines could combines
talented singing with outstanding stage presence, they'd have the formula for
success! RonnieBright and Eddie Edgehill knew each other since both lived on
151st Street. Eddie was given a copy of "Tonight Kathleen" and asked
to learn it for the Valentine'snext rehearsal. The ValTones broke up but
eventually reformed without Eddie and recorded for Gee Records.
Valentine's next stop was George Goldner's RamalGee Records. The group's first
Rama release was the catchy jump tune, "Lily Maybell", released in
Septenber 1955. The most well known Valentines' personnel of Barrett, Francis,
Edgehill, Briggs and Bright was now in full force. They could do it all. The
sharply dressed quintet could handle up tempo and balled songs with equal ease.
But the energetic jump tunes really showed off their carefully choreographyed
dance steps. Before long they were one of the hottest groups on the East Coast.
Richard Barrett began applying his many talents on the other side of the
microphone as well. After hearing some young Valentines admirers serenade him
from under his apartment window, Barrett took the group, Frankie Lymon & the
Teenagers, to George Goldner. They were soon on the top of the charts with
"Why Do Fools Fall In Love". Richard Barrett's activities in song
writing, producing, and managing have made him a paramount figure in the
development of Rhythm & Blues/Rock & Roll. Without Richard's involvement
we would never have all those fabulous recordings by the Teenagers, Little
Anthony & the Imperials, Chantels, Three Degrees and countless others.
of the Valentines most popular songs was "Woo Woo Train", released in
1956. The sight of the group bounding onto the stage dressed in white suits with
red hearts on their front pockets and imitating a locomotive to the beat of
Jimmy Wright's band was a sure crowd pleaser.
hits followed the group jump tunes like "I Love You Darling" and
ballads like "Christmas Prayer" and "Twenty Minutes".
the summer of 1956, Raymond Briggs left the group and was replaced by David
Clowney, Clowney would later have success as an instrumentalist with a tune
called "The Happy Organ", under the name of Dave "Baby"
Cortez. With Clowney, the Valentines recorded "Nature's Creation" *
in 1957 Eddie Edgehill left the Valentines and returned to Philly due to an
illness in his family. He later sang with the Del‑Knights. Eddie's part
was taken by Carl Hogan, who rejoined the group. The Valentines' last recording
was "Don't Say Goodnight" in 195 7.
the Valentines existed only a few short years, their impact on R&B is great.
It is only right that they take their place next to the other legendary groups
in UGHA's Hall of Fame.
Records was formed in June of 1956, with their first release, "My Love Come
Back" by a young Brooklyn based group, the Velours. The original Velours
consisted of Jerome "Romey" Ramos as lead; John Cheatdom,1st tenor;
Donald Haywoode, 2nd tenor; John Person, baritone. Calvin McClean, piano
accompanist, and a soon to be forgotten bass, Charles Moffitt, with his unique
bass voice and styling, joined the group at the time of the recording of their
3rd release and closest to a national hit, "Can I Come Over Tonight".
Winston's Onyx record label released five exceptional records by the Velours
before terminating the label and selling the group's contract to MGM, for their
Orbit and Cub Records subsidiaries. In August of 1958, with a sixth member, Troy
Keyes, "Crazy Love"/"I'll Never Smile Again" was issued on
Cub. A second Cub release, "Blue Velvet", featured Keith Williams on
lead. Williams replaced Keyes.
Velours remained together after the MGM contract expired in late 1959. Next stop
was Studio Records and a little known recording, "I Promise"/
"Little Sweetheart", both sides featuring Keith Williams. They
recorded for George Goldner's Goldise label, "Sweet Sixteen" in 1960
and for the End label, "Lover Come Back" in 1961. Right after the End
recording, Moffitt. Person, and Williams left the group. Ramos, Haywoode, and
Cheatdom added a fourth voice, Alfred Pitts, to continue the group for a final
release as the Velours, for MGM once again, "Don't Pity Me" . One more
release followed on MGM in 1961, with a name change, the Fantastics, as the
group was now into soul. Releases followed on various labels, Deram, Bell, and
Polydor, with the group Fantastics leaving the US and setting up residence in
England. Ramos "came back" after a few years. Haywoode and Cheatdom
still live in England, singing with touring European groups all these years.
1980, Charles Moffitt and Jerome Ramos, along with Brooklyn neighborhood friend.
Eulis Mason, reformed the Velours. Ramos soon dropped out, leaving Mason as the
lead singer. Mason had previously recorded with a group called the Martels,
while in service during the early 60's. The Velours recorded once again in the
mid 80's, including their classic recording of "C'cst La Vie" on
Clifton in 1985.
Moffitt met a tragic death in Dec. of 1986. The group continued as Charles
Moffitt's Velours, with a couple of recordings and many concert appearances. The
United In Group Harmony Association named an award after him, which is given out
to the UGHA Classic Performing Groups chosen by the membership annually.
the Velours consist of Eulis Mason, Dennis Pendarvis, Billy Witt, Raymond
Saunders and Fred Warner.
we honor this legendary mid 50's Brooklyn group, who have long been considered
one of the best of the NY groups in that era.
of the original members are in attendance: Jerome Ramos, John Person, Donald
Haywoode, John Cheatdom and Calvin McClean. We thank them for those precious
recordings, especially the Onyx ones with Romey on lead: "My Love Come
Back", "Romeo", "Can I Come Over Tonight", "This
Could Be The Night", "Hands Across The Table",
"Remember" and "Can I Walk You Home" All treasures!
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