The Excellents
excelents.jpg (44142 bytes)
The Excellents were but it didn't keep their career going when their label pulled a fast one.
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    John Kuse - lead
    Denny Kestenbaum
    Joel Feldman
    Phil Sanchez

Bronx sextet the Excellents originally formed as the Premiers in 1960, and with an original lineup of brothers John Kuse and George Kuse, plus Denis Kestenbaum, Phil Sanchez, Joel Feldman, and Chuck Epstein, quickly transformed into the Excellents. The group caught the ear of Vinny Catalano of Sinclair Records, who hustled the Excellents into the studio in 1961, where they recorded an uptempo version of Al Jolson's 1926 standard "Red Red Robin," which was eventually issued on Mermaid Records. The group also recorded a rocked-up cover of the Cleftones' "You Baby You," which came out in 1961 on Blast Records with a Catalanooriginal, "Coney Island Baby," on the B-side. A year later, DJs in the New York area began flipping the record and playing the B-side, and "Coney Island Baby" ended up cracking the Top 20 nationally in 1962. Unfortunately, not much else was heard from the Excellents, whose official final single, "I Hear a Rhapsody," released on Blast in 1963, was actually recorded by another group called the Ultimates. An unofficial last single ("Helene"/"Sunday Kind of Love") by the original Excellents appeared on Bobby Records a year later under the group name the Excellons. The enduring popularity of "Coney Island Baby," which has become an acknowledged doo wop classic, has led to a recent touring version of the Excellents. Now a quartet, and still featuring the lead vocals of original member John Kuse, the group also lists Mal Bronson, John Accardo, and Joe Noto as current members. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi

The Fiestas
fiestas.jpg (10208 bytes)
The Fiestas were important as on of the early soul groups to grow out of the '50s rhythm and doo wop
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Tommy Bullock - first tenor
    Eddie Morris - second tenor
    Sam Ingalls - baritone
    Preston Lane - bass

The Fiestas came from Newark, New Jersey all from the same neighborhood, and consisted of members Tom Bullock, Eddie Morris, Preston Lane, and Sam Ingalls. Early on, the group practiced their songs and hoped to convince a record label that they had the stuff to produce a hit record. They recorded a demo side for Jim Gribble (who became their manager) who took the recording to various labels in New York. After a time of trial and error, they were heard by Hy Weiss the owner of Old Town Records one of the top performing New York City independent labels. He liked what he heard obviously, and soon had the group in the recording studio.

They recorded a song written by Jesse Belvin years before called "So Fine" and also backed it with a ballad called "Last Night I Dreamed (Of You)" and Old Town released it on # 1062. The ballad originally was targeted as the 'A' side but soon radio airplay in the New York area flipped to the medium tempo rocker "So Fine" . Listeners were intrigued by the four part harmony throughoput the song rather than the standard lead and backup format that was the norm for the vocal group style. By February the group had a solid hit that was breaking out nationally. The four part lead throughout the song was certainly catching the ear of radio listeners and the group was now in demand as new hit makers always are.

By March the record was doing big business in the Midwest especially in Detroit and Chicago, and was breaking big on the pop music charts. In April The Fiestas began to make personal appearances throughout the Northeast. In April Bill "Hoss" Allen on WLAC in Nashville picks the record as the top pick of the week. In May Johnny Otis and his representatives filed a lawsuit over the record claiming that he was the true composer of the tune. Named in the suit were Old Town Records, Jim Gribble, and The Fiestas themselves. In June Eldorado Music wins the lawsuit for the interests of Johnny Otis and the matter is settled with Old Town paying a designated sum of money and legal costs.

In July The Fiestas get around to recording a followup record for Old Town. After a fabulous run of "So Fine", the group has "Our Anniversary" and "I'm Your Slave" on # 1069. In October Henry Glover after a time at King Records in Cincinnati moves to Old Town and produces a new side by The Fiestas called "That Was Me" and "Good News" on Old Town # 1074. In late October the group heads South for a series of one nighters. In late November The Fiestas play the Regal Theater in Chicago for an all star R & B show headlining Ray Charles, Nappy Brown and the Sarah McLawler-Richard Otto Combo.

Between 1960 and 1962 there were several changes in the group's line up with Bobby Moore from the "Four Most" (1960), Randall Stewart (1961), some of the recruited members of the group.  Now as the new decade was beginning the group moved to a more modernistic style combining elements of the blues and soul. They continued to turn out records for another five years for Old Town before calling it quits as an act. They got in at the tail end of the vocal group era and had one memorable hit record that has endured through all the passing years. The Fiestas had made their mark on the history of the music.

The Five Satins
satins.jpg (29730 bytes)
One of the greatest rhythm and blues ballads In the Still of the Night was actually only record by four Satins.
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Fred Parris - lead - replaced by Bill Baker on "To the Aisle" in 1957
    Al Denby - tenor
    Ed Martin - baritone
    Jim Freeman - bass
    Stanley Dortch

The Five Satins are best-known for the doo-wop classic "In the Still of the Night," a song that was popular enough to make the group one of the most famous doo-wop outfits, although they never had another hit of the same magnitude.

The origins of the Five Satins lie in the Scarlets, a New Haven, Connecticut doo-wop group led by Fred Parris. The Scarlets formed in 1953, while Parris was still in high school. The group had a local hit with "Dear One" the following year. In 1954, Parris formed the Five Satins with vocalists Al Denby, Ed Martin and Jim Freeman. Within the next year, Parris had the group record "In the Still of the Night," a song he had recently written, in the basement of a local church. The first single the group released was "In the Still of the Night." The single was released on Standard Records in the spring of 1956. By the end of the year, it had been leased to Ember and it became a huge hit, peaking at number three on the R&B charts and number 25 on the pop charts.

By the time "In the Still of the Night" scaled the charts, Parris had been drafted into the army. He was stationed in Japan when the song became a hit and he was still stationed in Japan when the group recorded the follow-up single, "To the Aisle." For that single, Bill Baker handled the lead vocals. "To the Aisle" became a Top Ten R&B hit (number 25 pop) in the summer of 1957. Parris returned from the army in 1958. Upon his return, he re-organized the group, adding Richie Freeman, Sylvester Hopkins, West Forbes, and Lou Peeples. This incarnation of the group had a minor hit in the fall of 1959 with "Shadows."

In 1960, "In Still of the Night" re-entered the pop charts thanks to its exposure on Art Laboe's first Oldies But Goodies compilation. The repeated success of the single sparked a another minor hit for the band in 1960 -- the group's cover of the standard "I'll Be Seeing You" scraped the bottom of the pop charts in the summer of that year. Early in 1961, "In the Still of the Night" entered the pop charts again. During the remainder of the '60s, Parris led various incarnations of the Five Satins through oldies revues in America and Europe; they also recorded occasionally during this time. In 1970, the group appeared in the film, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me; three years later, they appeared in Let the Good Times Roll.

In the early '70s, the Five Satins continued to play the oldies circuit under the direction of Fred Parris. In 1974, the group signed a contract with Kirsner Records and released a single, "Two Different Worlds." Two years later, they briefly changed their name to Black Satin and released a single called "Everybody Stand Up and Clap Your Hands (For the Entertainer)," which became a Top 50 R&B hit. Shortly afterward, the group reverted to the Five Satins name.

In 1982, the Five Satins had their last hit with a doo-wop medley entitled "Memories of Days Gone By." The single, which was released on Elektra Records, peaked at number 71 on the pop charts. For the remainder of the '80s and the '90s, Fred Parris led various lineups of the Five Satins and the group performed regularly at oldies shows in America and Europe. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide

The Flamingos
flamingos.jpg (26370 bytes)
The Flamingos, 1954. Clockwise from top left: Paul Wilson, Sollie McElroy, Zeke Carey, Johnny Carter and Jake Carey
Vocal group aficionados consider the Flamingos to be one of the best if not the best of their era
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Nathaniel Nelson - lead
    John Carter - second tenor - replaced by Tommy Hunt
    Terry Johnson - tenor
    Ezekial Carey - second tenor - not in group 1956-1958
    Paul Wilson - baritone
    Jacob Carey - bass
    Sollie McElroy - left 1954

Both prolific and seminal in their influence and impact, The Flamingos may have been the greatest harmonizing vocal ensemble ever, and were certainly among the premier units of the doo wop/R&B era. Cousins Jake and Zeke Carey moved to Chicago from Baltimore in 1950. They met Paul Wilson and Johnny Carter at the Church of God and Saints of Christ Congregation, a black Jewish church. They began singing in the choir, and the foursome met Earl Lewis (not The Channels' lead vocalist) through one of the members' sisters, who was his girlfriend at the time. They originally called themselves The Swallows, but had to change names when they found out that a Baltimore group already had the name. Carter suggested El Flamingos, which was changed to The Five Flamingos, and later The Flamingos. Ralph Leon of the King Booking Agency eventually became their manager. Sollie McElroy replaced Lewis as their lead singer in the early '50s, with Lewis joining The Five Echoes. They recorded with Chance in 1953, and "If I Can't Have You" attracted some attention and did well in the Midwest and on the East Coast. "That's My Desire" and "Golden Teardrops" were marvelously sung numbers, particularly "Golden Teardrops," with its sweeping harmonies on top and bottom framing McElroy's wondrous lead. But none of their great Chance recordings generated enough national attention to make the R&B charts, nor did the three numbers they recorded for Parrot. McElroy departed and was replaced by Nate Nelson. They enjoyed their first chart success with Checker in the late '50s, scoring a Top Ten R&B hit with speaker.gif (332 bytes)"I'll Be Home" in 1956. They temporarily disbanded in 1956 and regrouped in 1957 with Nelson, Jake Carey, Paul Wilson, and Tommy Hunt as the lineup, and the group now a quartet. Zeke Carey returned in 1958, and they signed with End late that year. "I Only Have Eyes for You" in 1959 was their biggest hit, peaking at number three R&B and number 11 pop. It was a cover of a song that had been a huge hit for Eddy Duchin in 1934, and was the start of a productive period that saw The Flamingos issue four albums for End and get two more R&B Top 30 singles, one the Sam Cooke composition "Nobody Loves Me like You" in 1960. Hunt left in 1961, and the group returned briefly to Checker in 1964. They later recorded for Phillips, Julman, and Polydor, but couldn't regain their former standing. They remained among the genre's most beloved groups, and anthologies of their material on Chance and Checker have been reissued. In 1993, The Flamingos Meet the Moonglows was reissued by Vee-Jay. ~ Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide

The Flamingos were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hame of Fame in 2011

The G-Clefs
g-clefs.jpg (57085 bytes)
The G-Clefs 1956
Clockwise from far left
Joe Jordan, Chris Scott, Teddy Scott, Tim Scott. Ray Gipson

The G-Clefs originally began as gospel singers
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

The group originally were gospels singersMembers:
    Chris Scott - baritone
    Teddy Scott - tenor
    Timmy Scott - tenor
    Joe Jordan - bass - replaced by Arnold Scott
    Ray Gibson - lead

Artist Biography by Joe Viglione

The G-Clefs is a highly flamboyant, well-choreographed pop/soul vocal group which has the distinction of having the first Boston area rock & roll record to chart nationally, their 1956 hit "Ka Ding Dong." Consisting of four brothers, Teddy Scott (b. February 29, 1936), Chris Scott (b. February 2, 1937), guitarist Tim "Payme" Scott (b. August 23, 1938), and Ilanga Scott (b. July 22, 1940), along with their friend and neighbor Ray Gibson (b. September 24, 1937), the band formed in Roxbury, MA, an area similar to New York's Harlem, thirty years before New Edition would bring Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun's music to the world, The G-Clefs were the original pioneers from New England's soon-to-be-important music scene.

The Scott's gang, "The Band of Angels", ruled in what was known to the police as "Scotty's Alley" with the warning "pass at your own risk", but the gang of "bad boys" had their giving side donating monies to charity. The Scott brothers' parents "adopted everyone" singer Teddy Scott told AMG in an August 2000 interview. Songs like the moody and intriguing "Zoom Gali Gali" and "Why Can't We All Get Along" on the Then & Now CD contain biographical bits, "Zoom" was written by Tim "Payme" Scott about when they were kids and their homes had fenced-off back yards with alleys. The band would hold little shows charging a penny for people to see, and with their sisters and friends, they would perform an Egyptian act.

The band's first "official" show was circa 1952/1953 at the Rollerway, a roller skating rink which converted to a dance hall on Fridays, located in Revere, MA. Revere Beach in the '50s and '60s was Boston's answer to Palisades Park, the group playing hundreds and hundreds of shows before they made it into the charts.

They recorded "Mary Lee" at Ace Recording Studios in Boston in the '50s, a cover of the tune recorded in 1955 by the Rainbows. That 45 was brought to the band by Ted's girlfriend Audrey Fortune. The G-Clefs then came up with "Ka Ding Dong" "in eight minutes!" according to Teddy.

Ted Scott considers Revere "home", and at a special show on May 18, 1996 with Moulty & the Barbarians and the Pixies Three at The Wonderland Ballroom, he reminisced about the early days. When contacted to perform at The Apollo Theater, he said the band couldn't sing for four days they were so frightened -- "for four days, swear to God." The band performed so well they played that Harlem theater over a dozen times. The group purchased The Peppermint Lounge in Revere and turned it into The Pied Piper. There were 20 or so clubs on the strip along with the rides and amusements, but the three performance venues were Hurley's, The Ebb Tide and, their own Pied Piper. A 1968 release on Spotlight Records, The G Clefs Live at the Ebb Tide, is a good document of the time. The group polished its flashy stage show doing five shows a night during the week, and ten on Sundays when they did matinees as well. In 1997, filmmaker Abby Freedman's Redhead Productions initiated a 90-minute documentary film titled Ka Ding Dong after the group's first hit record. Projected to be released in 2003, there is footage from shows taped at The Hatch Shell on Boston's Charles River and Symphony Hall, as well as rare 1963-1964 home movie footage from Hurley's nightclub on Revere Beach. Freedman told AMG that this is one of the few groups in the U.S. with the original five vocalists all still in the band, giving a "sense of continuous history". Backing musicians which include keyboards, guitar, sax, bass, and drums, have changed over the years, saxophonist Dick Lourie being the veteran -- having joined the group in 1992/1993, with guitarist Danny Gioioso joining circa 1998.

The Genies
genies.jpg (34320 bytes)
From the left: Roy Hammond
The Genies originated in 1956 on the boardwalk at Long Beach, Long Island.
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Roy Hammond - lead/first tenor
    Bill Gaines - second tenor
    Alexander "Buddy" Faison - baritone
    Fred Jones - bass
    Claude Johnson

The Genies Biography by Andrew Hamilton

genies-knockin.jpg (13726 bytes)

This short-term group from Long Beach, Long Island recording career lasted three years, and five singles; they broke up a year after they started recording in 1958, but Warwick Records issued canned material until 1961. The original members -- Roy Hammond, Bill Gains, Alexander Faison, and Fred Jones -- formed in 1956. They didn't record until Brooklynite Claude Johnson came aboard. Johnson, the only member not from the Long Beach area, named them the Genies; he had sung with a Brooklyn group that included Eugene Pitt, who never sang with the Genies. Bob Shad, the owner of Shad Records, saw them   singing on a beach and invited them to audition for his label. The result was "Who's That Knockin'," recorded in June 1958; but Shad didn't release it until March 1959, nearly a year later. It did well R&B but wallowed on the lower rungs of the pop chart at number 71.

Then without warning, second tenor Bill Gains ran off to Canada with a woman and hasn't been seen nor heard from since.  This occurred while the Genies were playing their first big engagement at New York's Apollo Theater; three days into the gig, and poof -- Gains vanished. The Genies answered their debut with "No More Knockin'" on Hollywood Records, then the Warwick label released three singles after the group became history: "There Goes That Train" b/w "Crazy Love," "Just Like the Bluebird" b/w "Twistin' Pneumonia," and the best "Crazy Feeling," in 1961. By the end of 1959, the Genies were a memory. Hammond cut a string of solo records as Roy C, his biggest was "Shotgun Wedding," a number 14 R&B hit. Claude hooked with Roland Trone and enjoyed a monster number seven pop hit with "What's Your Name" as Don & Juan. Johnson also be came a songwriter of note, composing the Genies' debut, the Don & Juan hit, and 57 other titles registered with B.M.I

The Harptones
harptones.jpg (144225 bytes)
Top: Willie Winfield
Center L to R: William " Dempsey" James, Nickey Clark,, William Brown, William "Dicey" Galloway
Bottom: Raoul Cita

A unique jazz influenced vocal group that enjoyed limited success in the 50s and early 60s. group
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Willie Winfield - lead
    William "Dempsey" Clark - second tenor
    William "Dicey" Galloway - baritone - replaced by Jim Beckum
    Bill Brown  - bass
    Nicky Clark - first tenor
    Raoul Cita - arranger

Despite not landing on the R&B or pop charts for their entire careers, the Harptones were a superb doo wop ensemble. They initially emerged from a 1953 union of members of the Harps and Skylarks. Willie Winfield and his brothers Jimmy and Clyde first teamed with Bill Galloway and Johnny Bronson as the Harps. When Galloway sought a pianist for the Harps, he found Raoul Cita in the Skylarks. Eventually a new group with Winfield and Galloway plus former Skylarks Cita, Curtis Cherebin, and Bill Dempsey became the new Harps. Unlike most doo wop and R&B units, the Harptones (who took that name in 1953 after Bruce Records executives Morty Craft and Monte Bruce informed them there was already a group on Savoy called Little David Baughn and the Harps) were more jazz-oriented in their harmonies and arrangements, thanks to Cita. But they weren't so sophisticated that they lacked earthiness or grit, thanks to Winfield. "I Want a Sunday Kind of Love" featured Winfield's silky vocals and the group's magnificent harmonies. It was a big regional success, but never got national attention. That was the story for virtually every Harptones single.Though they were popular enough to be included in the historic 1955 Rock and Roll Ball at St. Nicholas Arena in New York alongside the Drifters, Clovers, Fats Domino, Moonglows, and Big Joe Turner, they never scored a national hit. They recorded for Essex, Old Town, Rama, Tip Top, Gee, Warwick, Coed, Cub, Comp, and Raven, among others, besides Bruce. The Harptones cut an LP, Love Needs the Harptones, for Ambient Sound in 1981. They continued playing clubs and oldies shows into the '90s. -- Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide

Lee Andrews and the Hearts
andrews_ and_the_hearts.jpg (104975 bytes)
(L to R) Ted Weems, Butch Curry, Lee Andrews, Roy Cal;houn, Wendell Calhoun
While singing ar various local functions the Hearts were discovered by Barry Goldner, an executive at Mainline Records.
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    Lee Andrews - lead
    Roy Calhoun - first tenor
    Tammery Curry - second tenor
    Ted Weems - baritone
    Wendall Calhoun - bass

They first got together in high school, and for a group of young black kids from 49th & Woodland in  Southwest Philadelphia, music was a way out of a life of poverty. All born and raised in Philadelphia, except for South Carolina native Lee Andrews, they were neighborhood friends singing in gospel groups before uniting as The Dreams. 

It was their legendary harmony and extraordinary talent that led Rory Calhoun, Wendell Calhoun, Ted Weems, Butch Curry, and Lee Andrews in 1954 to an audition with WHAT-AM DJ Kae Williams, and in turn to rainbow Records. the wife of Rainbow's owner discovered a plastic heart on her desk, and accidentally found the name that would take them to the top and change their lives.

Specializing in smooth ballads, this Philadelphia R&B vocal quintet notched three hits in 1957-1958. Andrews formed The Hearts in 1953, and they debuted the next year on the Rainbow label. Chess picked up their first big seller, Long Lonely Nights," from the tiny Mainline label in 1957. Mainline also originally issued their biggest hit for Chess, "Teardrops." Moving to United Artists, the group charted for the last time in 1958 with the typically polished "Try the Impossible." Andrews and a shifting lineup of Hearts continued to record through the '60s. ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide

The Heartbeats
heartbeats.jpg (28299 bytes)
L to R: Robbie Brown, Wally Rocker James Sheppard, Vernon Seaver Albert Crump
The Hearbeats were one of the premier voacl groups of the 50s
bar.gif (3285 bytes)

    James "Shep" Sheppard - lead
    Wally Roker
    Vernon Seavers
    Robbie Brown
    Albert Crump

Lead singer James "Shep" Sheppard co-wrote a series of velvety doo-wop ballads for The Heartbeats during the mid 50s; one entry, "A Thousand Miles Away," was a huge R&B seller in 1956. The Queens, NY, quintet began their string of street-corner classics with "Crazy for You" and "Darling How Long," culminating with "A Thousand Miles Away." The Heartbeats recorded for Hull, Rama, Roulette, Gee, and Guyden before packing it in. In 1961 the lead singer formed a new trio, Shep & The Limelites, and scored on the charts with a heartwarming sequel to his first hit, "Daddy's Home," for Hull. "Our Anniversary" also sold well for the trio the next year, but they broke up soon thereafter. Sheppard was found dead in his auto on the Long Island Expressway in 1970. ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide

next2.gif (2927 bytes)