Clockwise from top: Joe Vershcharen, Jimmy Beaumont, Janet Vogel, Jack Taylor, Wally Lester
Put together the harmonies of the best 50s R&B groups and mix them with the Four Freshman, the result would be the Skyliners
Jimmy Beaumont - lead
Janet Vogel - first tenor
Wally Lester - second tenor
Joe Verscharen - baritone
Joe Taylor - bass
This Pittsburgh vocal group made a magnificent heartache ballad in 1959, "Since I Don't Have You." It remains among R&B's ultimate agonizing triumphs, and Chuck Jackson later did an equally gripping version. Jimmy Beaumont was the lead vocalist, with Janet Vogel, Wally Lester, Joe VerScharen, And Jackie Taylor. Beaumont, Taylor, and Lester had been in The Crescents, while Vogel and VerScharen were alumni of The El Rios. Their follow-up, "This I Swear," was a creditable effort that peaked at number 20 on the R&B charts, but few remember it. Oddly, "Since I Don't Have You" only reached number three on the R&B side and number 12 on the pop charts. But it's certainly one song for whom the numbers really don't come close to telling the story. The Skyliners had two chart singles on Callico and then had one other song reach the R&B Top 40 in 1965, "The Loser," for Jubilee. ~ Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide
Janet Vogel committed suicide February 21, 1980, she was 37.
Joe Verscharen died of cancer November 2 2007, he was 67.
Wally Lester died of pancreatic cancer April 21, 2015, he was 73.
Jimmy Beaumont died October 7, 2017, he was 76.
Shep and the Limelites
From the top: Charles Baskerville, Clarence Bassett, James "Shep" Shepard
After singing lead with the Heartbeats from 1956 until around 1958,Sheppard decided tp form another group in 1961.
The group had a unique sound as they didn't have a bass singer but instead relied on two-part harmony and blending of voices.
James "Shep" Sheppard - lead
Clarence Bassett - first tenor
Charles Baskerville - second tenor
Artist Biography by Andrew Hamilton
Shep & the Limelites' name will forever be etched in rock & roll
history for recording the endearing "Daddy's Home," a tender ballad about
returning from war that soared to number two on the pop charts in May 1961. James
Sheppard's career began with the Heartbeats, a band from Jamaica, Queens, NY. (They were
the Hearts until a female group from Harlem with the same name scored a minor hit called
"Lonely Nights" in early 1955.) The Hearts would mimic songs by the Orioles, the
Ravens, Five Keys, the Moonglows, the Larks, the Flamingos, and others. When not
rehearsing, they competed with wannabes in parks and under street corner lamps. During one
encounter they battled a group led by James Sheppard; impressed, the Hearts asked Sheppard
to be their new lead.
The acquisition of Sheppard helped the Hearts twofold: not only could he blow, he also wrote gorgeous ballads. Shortly after he joined the Hearts, they became the Heartbeat Quintet and started playing clubs, weddings, graduations, ceremonies, and basement parties. Jazz saxophonist Illinois Jacquet befriended them and let them rehearse in his basement. Jacquet's brother arranged their first recording opportunity. "Tormented," a ballad written by Sheppard, was released on Network Records in Philadelphia, but lack of promotion killed any chance of success. After shortening their name to the Heartbeats, they came to the attention of William Miller, who worked for Hull Records. He introduced the quintet to owner Bea Caslin, who was impressed by their tight harmonies and Sheppard's songwriting skills; the group was soon signed to the label. Three initial releases sold well, particularly the magnificent "Your Way"; all were ballads written by Sheppard.
The minor successes of the recordings encouraged Hull Records to invest in professional choreography to tighten the band's stage presentation. Appearances at premier New York venues like the Brooklyn Fox and the Apollo had become common. To the surprise of Hull Records, fans called radio stations in record numbers demanding to hear the flip of "Baby Don't Go," the exquisite "A Thousand Miles Away." Sheppard's craving for an ex-girlfriend who moved to Texas had inspired "A Thousand." Not only did the song do well locally and regionally, it started selling nationwide. Bookings poured in, providing appearances with luminaries like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and the Flamingos. Touring, however, didn't prove lucrative, as they experienced an inordinate share of misfortunes including vehicle breakdowns and promoters leaving with the proceeds. "Daddy's Home" would be the Heartbeats' final Hull Record release.
Bea Caslin then sold the Heartbeats' contract and the publishing rights to the Roulette Record conglomerate. "I Won't Be the Fool Anymore" came out on Rama Records in 1957; after another Rama release, Roulette switched them to Gee Records, and eventually to Roulette itself. "500 Miles to Go" and "After New Year's Eve" were the most successful commercially, while "Down on My Knees" was the most notable artistically.
Problems within the group began to show: the last straw came when Sheppard passed out at the microphone in Philadelphia, and bandmate Al Crump sang the lyrics until Sheppard was able to continue. The group wanted to breakup after this embarrassment but had commitments, so the group sang on gigs as a quartet doing standards, and Sheppard appeared afterward to sing the Heartbeat hits. They did their last gig in 1959 at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., and Sheppard opened a restaurant in Jamaica, Queens, singing solo on the side.
Two years after the the Heartbeats' demise, Sheppard met some old friends -- Clarence Bassett and Charles Baskerville of the Videos -- and formed Shep & the Limelites. Bassett had also warbled with the Five Sharps. After two flops on Apt. Records, Shep returned to Hull Records and Caslin signed them on the spot. "Daddy's Home" was Shep & the Limelites' first Hull release and it nearly aced the pop chart, stopping at number two. (Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man" kept it from the top spot.) Hull released 12 Shep & the Limelites singles between 1961 and 1965. "Our Anniversary" went to number seven R&B in 1962 and was their only other chart success. Personal differences caused the Limelites to disband by 1966. Baskervlle joined the Players, and Bassett sang with the Flamingos and later Creative Funk. Sheppard reunited with the Limelites in 1970 to perform on the oldie revival circuit, but this quickly ended when Sheppard was found on January 24,
1970, shot to death in his car on the Long Island expressway.
Clarence Bassett died January 25, 2005, he was 68.
Charles Baskerville died January 18, 1995, he was 69.
Leroy King (lead)
Dorsey Porter (First Tenor)
Roy Ford (Second Tenor)
John Bolden (Baritone)
Richard Johnson (Bass)
Ralph Byrd (Guitar)
The Students were a vocal group from Cincinnati, Ohio. Their
recordings were backed by the Jimmy Coe band which included guitar great, Wes Montgomery.
The groups hits, "I'm So Young" and "Every Day Of The Week" were
written by William H. Prez Tyus. He gave the songs to a local group
called the DItalians. They were signed by Chess Records and changed their name
to The Students.
On May 29, 1961 The Students charted their only national hit record, "I'm So Young" on Argo Records. The single became a big R&B hit on the Billboard R&B singles chart, as it reached #26. The flip side of the single is another great doo-wop favorite "Every Day Of The Week", it failed to chart but became a favorite with their fans and radio DJs of the day. Then back on the road. In 1961 their single was re-released, through the efforts of legendary Slim Rose, owner of Times Square Records, one of the most famous record shops in the world.
Later in 1962 the group re-released another single record, "My Vow To You" "That's How I Feel" but neither side charted and following that The Students disbanded. In 1964 Roy Ford one of the original Students met Johnny Mannino while in the military. They re-formed the group, performing in many top venues across the country.
and the Teenchords
(top l to r) Lyndon Harold, Rossilio Rocca, David Little
(second row center) Ralph Vaughan
(front) Lewis Lymon
Lewis Lymon was Frankie's little brother, who with neighborhood friends started singing in 1956
Lewis Lymon - lead
Ralph Vaughan - first tenor
Rossilio Rocca - second tenor
Lyndon Harold - baritone
David Little - bass
Artist Biography by Jim Dunn
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, the legendary Frankie Lymon, Lewis Lymon also made an attempt at rock & roll stardom. And though his group, the Teenchords, never enjoyed the level of success achieved by Frankie's Teenagers, they still carved out a significant niche for themselves in the ranks of 1950s rock & roll vocal groups.
The Lymon family was a musical one, with the father, Howard Lymon singing in a local gospel group, the Harlemaires. Lewis had previously sung with the Harlemaires Juniors along with brothers Frankie and Howard Jr.. And in 1956, with the success the Teenagers were having, it was not surprising that Lewis wanted to take a stab at it too. The Harlem-based Teenchords even had a similar-sounding name to the pace-setting Teenagers. The group consisted of Lewis Lymon (lead), Ralph Vaughan (first tenor), Rossilio Rocca (second tenor), Lyndon Harold (baritone), and David Little (bass).
The Teenchords didn't even have to leave Harlem to be discovered and recorded. On a visit to the Apollo to hear the Teenagers, Lewis and his group were tipped off that local entrepreneur Bobby Robinson was looking for new talent. Robinson owned a record store in Harlem and was also a record producer who had already started two record labels, Red Robin and Whirlin' Disc. The fledgling Teenchords group went to Robinson's shop and introduced themselves. When Robinson learned that Frankie Lymon's brother, Lewis, was in the group, he was quite receptive to an on-the-spot audition. The Teenchords performed "Who Can Explain," a Teenagers song. Convinced that the young lads could sing, and with the Lymon name to go along with it, Robinson signed the Teenchords on the spot.
For their first recording, Robinson tried to come up with something that would be catchy and appealing to a teenage audience. First he came up with a vocal riff. He had the group keep singing ad nauseum, until finally he came up with suitable lyrics to go with it. And so "I'm So Happy" was born. The flip side, "Lydia," was penned by Lymon and relates to a girl he knew from his neighborhood. The tunes were issued on Robinson's newly formed Fury label and released in late 1956. The record never charted nationally, but had respectable East Coast sales. In a January 1957 trade ad, Robinson boasted the disc had sold 40,000 copies in its first ten days in the New York, Philadelphia, and Boston markets. In fact, four years later, in 1961, a young record producer named Phil Spector would cover the record with a group called the Ducanes. The Teenchords' second record, and perhaps their best two-sider, was released in March of 1957. It paired the up-tempo "Honey, Honey" with a nice ballad, "Please Tell the Angels."
The Teenchords maintained an active performance schedule. They returned to the Apollo, but this time as performers rather than fans, and also appeared at the Paramount on an Alan Freed extravaganza. A June 1957 press release announced that the Teenchords would be featured in a new film, "The Hit Record," along with a bevy of other rock & roll acts. When the film made it to the screen, the title had been changed to Jamboree. The group's last Fury release, also in 1957, was "I'm Not Too Young to Fall in Love" backed with "Falling in Love."
Apparently the Teenchords had fallen out of love with Bobby Robinson. They had supposedly been signed to a two-year contract with Robinson, but by September 1957 George Goldner was announcing that he had signed the Teenchords to his End label, although it appears that there was never an official contract signed. The label move came on the heels of a tour the Teenchords had made in the British West Indies with the Bullmoose Jackson Orchestra. Their first End waxing of "Too Young" paired with "Your Last Chance" received excellent ratings from Billboard. You can see the Teenchords perform "Your Last Chance" in the Jamboree motion picture. But, like their Fury recordings, their End releases would also not chart nationally. Their second and last End recording matched "Tell Me Love" with "I Found Out Why," which was a lackluster answer song to the Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Both sides received very good ratings from Billboard. Spurred by a demand for "oldies" in the early '60s, Goldner reissued "Too Young," this time paired with "I Found Out Why" in 1962.
When two of the Teenchords, Little and Harold, were discovered in a stolen automobile, the fate of the group was all but sealed. Mrs. Lymon would not allow her son to continue singing with the contingent. Some personnel changes were made, but shortly thereafter the group had disbanded. As the group's swan song, Goldner released a single on his Juanita label. "Dance Girl" backed with "Them There Eyes" came out in 1958 with little fanfare. Although the Teenchords were the first to record the Les Cooper-authored "Dance Girl," it had also been given to another group, the Charts. The Charts' version on Everlast beat the Teenchords to market and garnered most of the sales. Les Cooper & the Soul Rockers would have a hit in 1962 with the instrumental "Wiggle Wobble," and his Soul Rockers group included former Charts member Joe Grier on sax.
Following the breakup of the Teenchords, Lewis Lymon went on to record one more record as part of the Townsmen. Issued in 1961 on the PJ label, "I Can't Go On" had Lewis on lead. The flip side, "That's All I'll Ever Need," had Louis Vasquez handling the lead vocal chores. The other members of the Townsmen were Ralph Ramos and McDuffy Swaggart. The record became an instant obscurity. A tour of duty in the armed forces in the early to mid-'60s removed Lewis from the music scene. By the time of his return, America had experienced the British Invasion and the shape of teenage rock & roll had changed dramatically from the heyday of doo wop.
In the early '70s, when another "oldies" revival was sweeping the Northeast, Lewis re-formed the Teenchords and played at a number of venues. In the years since then, he has at times performed with other aggregations of the Teenchords. In 2003, he performed as a member of Frankie Lymon's Teenagers with original members Jimmy Merchant and Herman Santiago. Louie Lymon & the Teenchords' End and Fury recordings are available on a CD issued by Relic Record
|Members - Linc-Tones
|Members - Tokens/Tradewinds
Hank Medress - 2nd tenor -bass and piano
Jay Siegal - guitar
Michael Margo - 2nd tenor - piano and drums
Philip Margo - baritone - piano, drums, guitar
In 1955, Neil Sedaka was sitting in his math class at Lincoln High School
when he heard Jay Siegel singing Falsetto. They decided to form a group and recruited
three members of Mrs. Eisen's Choral (Hank Medress, Cynthia Zolotin and Eddie Rabkin), the
Linc-Tones Was Born. Piano prodigy Sedaka decided The Tokens sounded better as a name;
Rabkin left the following year and was replaced by Siegel. Cynthia's family had
connections in the city at the Brill Building, which opened
doors for her and Neil.
The quartet auditioned for Morty Craft, owner of the Willows' label, Melba, and recorded "I Love My Baby" (with a lead vocal by Rabkin) backed with "While I Dream" (lead by Sedaka), both written by Neil and another Lincoln High student, Howard Greenfield. This led to an appearance on Ted Steele's Teen Bandstand show on WOR-TV, though the single didn't catch on outside the N.Y. area. The group gradually separated and in '58 Hank and Jay ventured forth with Warren Schwartz and Fred Kalkstein as the oddly-named Darrell and the Oxfords; two 1959 singles on Roulette included the ballad "Picture in My Wallet." Late in the year another shake-up occurred when Hank and Jay began singing with younger Lincoln High student Phil Margo, who played piano, and his 12-year-old brother Mitch. They came up with another strange name, Those Guys, then in 1960 Joe Venneri joined and the group functioned as a quintet for several years. Craft signed them again, this time for the Warwick label, insisting they ditch that "Those Guys" misnomer. Reviving the Tokens name, they hit the top 20 in the spring of '61 with a catchy 'doo-be-doo-be-dum...' tune penned by Margo and Medress, "Tonight I Fell in Love."
The Tokens are an American male doo-wop-style vocal group and record
production company group from Brooklyn, New York. They are known best for their
chart-topping 1961 single, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
The group was formed in 1955 at Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School, and was known first as The Linc-Tones. Originally featuring members Neil Sedaka, Hank Medress, Eddie Rabkin, and Cynthia Zolotin, Rabkin was replaced by Jay Siegel in 1956, and the band recorded its first single, "While I Dream" that same year. In 1957 Sedaka and Zolotin left the band, leaving only Siegel and Medress, who would recruit two additional band members and record the single "Picture in My Wallet" as Darrell & the Oxfords. Finally establishing its most famous name and crew, the band became known as the Tokens in 1960 after they recruited the 13-year-old multi-instrumentalist and first tenor Mitch Margo and his baritone brother Phil Margo.
In early 1961, the Tokens released a single for Warwick Records titled "Tonight I Fell In Love," which scored No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned the group an opportunity to perform on the television program American Bandstand. The popularity that the band garnered as a result of this performance brought it new recording opportunities, culminating in its cover of Solomon Linda's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for RCA Victor Records. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it remained for three weeks. The same track peaked at No. 11 in the UK Singles Chart. Both "Tonight I Fell in Love" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" sold more than 1 million copies, and were awarded gold discs.
From 1962 to 1970, the group released nine more songs that scored the Top 100. Jay Siegel was the lead vocalist on all the Tokens' hits including "I Hear Trumpets Blow" (1966) and "Portrait of My Love" (1967). Beginning in 1963, The Tokens also began serving as record producers for other artists, such as the Chiffons, Randy & the Rainbows and the Happenings. Their production company was called Bright Tunes and they also created their own record company, B.T. (Bright Tunes) Puppy Records. In 1972, Jay Siegel did background vocals for a re-recording of Lion Sleeps Tonight with Robert John as the lead vocalist. This version hit #3 on the charts, and was awarded a Gold disc.
In 1970, Hank Medress began producing an act for Bell Records, Dawn, which featured the former teen-idol Tony Orlando. It was as a favor to Medress that Orlando sang the lead on the first record, "Candida", which became a Top 3 hit.
In 1973, Medress ended his relationship with the group and Siegel teamed with the Margo Brothers to form the group Cross Country, which would have some success with its cover version of "In the Midnight Hour." The Tokens reunited during 1975 for occasional weeks as singing regulars on the Adam Wade hosted game show Musical Chairs and in 1978 recorded a song for ABC's Schoolhouse Rock named "A Victim of Gravity".
Brothers Mitch and Philip Margo continue to perform with new members Jay Leslie, Mike Johnson and Noah Margo (one of Margo's sons) playing drums. Mitch Margo's sons, Damien Margo and Ari Margo, also make occasional guest performances with the band, exemplifying Phil Margo's saying that "If you hang around long enough you can grow your own band."
Siegel continues to perform with his own version of The Tokens as well, featuring bass singer Bill Reid and, more recently, John "Jay" Traynor, the original lead singer (before Jay Black) of Jay & the Americans and the Mystics. Siegel's son is also part of the group as keyboardist and occasional vocalist. (John "Jay" Traynor died January 2, 2014, of liver cancer at a hospital in Tampa, Florida.
Jay Siegel's Tokens and the Margo brothers reunited in 2000 to perform on the PBS special, Doo Wop 51. At the time, Siegel's Tokens were Siegel, Reid and Eddy Rezzonico; Rezzonico had replaced Richie Grasso during the 1990s.
Hank Medress died of lung cancer June 18, 2007, he was 68.
Jay Traynor died January 2, 2004 of liver cancer, he was 70.
Mitch Margo died of natural causes November 24, 2017 at the age of 70.
Phil Margo died of a stroke November 13, 2021, he was 79.
Top: Andrew Jones
Botom L to R: Charlie Williams, Matthew Platt, Al Banks
The Turbans turned a mambo rhythm into a rock and roll standard
Al Banks - lead
Matthew Platt - tenor
Charlie Williams - baritone
Andrew Jones - bass
Decked out in their trademark headgear, The Turbans scorched the R&B charts in 1955 with "When You Dance." This teenage quartet from Philadelphia signed with Al Silver's Herald imprint. They debuted with the Latin-beat classic "When You Dance," with Al Banks's (b Jul 26, 1937) high-flying falsetto prominent. "Sister Sookey" was a worthy upbeat follow-up for the group in early 1956 but failed to chart, and three more fine 1956-1958 outings on Herald met the same undeserved fate. The Turbans went on to record for Imperial and Roulette, with no tangible results. Banks later worked with one of the leading groups of Drifters populating the 70s lounge circuit before his death. ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide
Al Banks died July, 1977.
Andrew Jones died June 25, 1998.
(l - r) Mickey Francis, Eddie Edgehill, Ronnie Bright, Raymond Briggs, Richard Barrett
The group never had a national hit yet it is known among lovers of 50s rhythm and blues
|Members: - Dreamers - 1952-1953
Carl Hogan - lead
Mickey Francis - baritone
Ray Briggs - 1st tenor
Ronnie Bright - bass
Richard Barrett -lead
|Members - Valentines
Richard Barrett - lead
Mickey Francis - 1st tenor
Eddy Edgehill - 2nd tenor replaced by Carl Hogan in 1957
Ray Briggs - relaced by David Clowney in 1956
Artist Biography by Bryan Thomas
The Valentines never really had any R&B or pop hits on the national charts to speak of, but are probably best known for serving as a launching pad for a few important careers, especially that of Richard Barrett, one of the greatest A&R men of all-time.
Barrett originally started out as a performer for the Philadelphia-based group the Angels (not to be confused with the group who had the 1963 number one hit, "My Boyfriend's Back"). The group broke up before they had a chance to record. He later moved to Harlem, and in 1952, met Raymond "Pop" Briggs (tenor), Carl Hogan (second tenor), Mickey Francis (first tenor and lead), and Ronnie Bright (bass). They were a young black vocal group calling themselves the Dreamers at the time and could be found on the street corners in the Sugarhill section of town (aka Washington Heights) or at the park across from the Polo Grounds.
Barrett took the lead vocals on some of their material, including his own composition, "Summer Love." They decided to change the name of their group to the Valentines, which came courtesy of Francis' fondness for "My Funny Valentine." Soon they had developed a sound that was musically similar to what the Cadillacs, the Solitaires, and the Flamingos were doing.
Raoul Cita, pianist for the Harptones, liked what he heard and introduced them to Bruce Monte of Bruce Records, who recorded demos but failed to release anything. By 1954, however, the Valentines were beating local acts in vocal competitions and performing at the Apollo Theatre's Amateur Night contest. Donald Razor (the Velvets) came in to replace Eddie Hogan next and this lineup paid a visit to Hy Weiss, who ran Old Town Records out of the cloakroom of the Triboro Theatre on 125th Street and 3rd Avenue in Harlem. Weiss signed them and issued Barrett's "Summer Love" in December 1954. Unfortunately, the single went unnoticed at the time.
Eddie Edgehill soon came aboard as second tenor. They next auditioned for George Goldner's Rama label (which he'd formed a few years earlier). Goldner told Barrett he wasn't one-hundred percent sold on them, but encouraged Barrett to keep in touch and inform him about other groups. As it turned out, Barrett had a a natural knack for discovering talent; in the spring of 1955, Barrett brought him the "teenie" group led by 12-year-old Frankie Lymon. The group soon had a massive hit on their hands with Barrett's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" under their original name: Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers.
Soon, the Valentines' Barrett was approaching Goldner about releasing a song by his own group, "Lily Maebelle," which was issued on the Rama imprint in September 1955, becoming an East Coast favorite and earning them a spot on the bill of a few of Alan Freed's shows at the Academy of Music and Brooklyn Paramount. The Valentines had, by this time, developed into debonair dancers and appeared nattily dressed on stage in their matching white jackets with red valentines on the pockets, red shirts, black shoes, and pink bowties. Their sold-out shows at Paramount, Apollo Theater, Howard Theater, and Royal Theaters, some hosted by disc jockeys Hal Jackson and Jocko Henderson, became the talk of the town.
The Valentines' "Christmas Prayer" was issued next, but failed to arouse much interest. Meanwhile, Barrett began working with the Cleftones, five friends from Jamaica High School in Queens. Their next two singles were huge hits. Barrett's Valentines, unfortunately, didn't have the same Midas touch; their next single, "Woo Woo Train," quickly became a favorite of Alan Freed's, but didn't chart.
Sometime during 1956, the Valentines went through another personnel change. David Clowney (the Pearls) replaced Briggs and Carl Hogan -- who had been singing with the Miracles (the original group on Fury; this was a year before Smokey Robinson's group recorded under this name) -- rejoined for what turned out to be their final recording session for Rama. The Valentines also sang with the Wrens on "C'est La Vie" and recorded a radio promotional song for Boston disc jockey Joe Smith, who later went on to become head of Warner Bros. Records.
Barrett continued working with Goldner's Rama and Gee labels, becoming the creative force behind many of the groups signed by Goldner during the mid- to late '50s (including the Chantels, one of the very first R&B girl groups to have nationwide success). Barrett eventually decided to devote his full attention to the Chantels and dissolved the Valentines during the summer of 1957, after one final appearance at the Apollo. He later worked with Little Anthony & the Imperials and even re-formed the Chantels in 1959, taking over lead vocal duties. Their re-recording of "Summer's Love" later charted at number 93 pop and number 29 R&B and subsequent singles also charted high on the charts. In 1960, Barrett left Goldner's empire and started his own label, signing the Veneers.
In 1963, Barrett returned to his native Philadelphia and began his long association with the Three Degrees, a local vocal girl group who later had huge R&B hits in the '70s with songs written by Barrett. He later got them short-term deals with Warner Bros., Metromedia, and Philadelphia's Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Neptune label and they scored again after doing the vocals for TV's "Soul Train" theme song, "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by MFSB featuring the Three Degrees, hitting number one R&B and number one pop in 1974. This lead to other hits and TV appearances
Clockwise from top left: John Thomas Steele, Ralph Martin, Richie Davis, Joe Martin, Tony Middleton 1953
The Willows from Harlem were idols and inspirations to many from the neighborhood that followed like The Harptones, The Fire Crowns and The Bop Chords
Tony Middleton - lead
Richie Davis - first tenor
Ralph Martin - second tenor
Joe Martin - baritone
John Steele - bass
Artist Biography by Andrew Hamilton The Willows bloomed in 1950 from
Harlem as the Dovers: Richie Davis, John Steele, Ralph Martin, Joe Martin (twins), and
Bobby Robinson. Tony Middleton replaced Robinson who left in 1952 to open a record shop on
125th Street that became Fury Records.
The Dovers built a reputation battling other groups; they often practiced with Gloria Lynne's group, the Delltones; Lynne later recorded on Premium with the Wheels before going solo. Pete and Goldie Doraine became their managers and financed the groups' 1953 debut, "Love Bells," on their own Pee Dee label, as the Five Willows. Three singles followed on Allen Records in 1953 that balm egos but did nothing for their bank accounts.
After two flops on Herald in 1954, they hit as the Willows (dropping the "Five" for booking purposes) on Melba in 1956 with "Church Bells May Ring," featuring Neil Sedaka on chimes. It blasted to number 11 R&B but died at number 62 pop due to the Diamonds' number 14 pop cover. The Cadets and Sunny Gale also played the cover game.
They didn't have any more hits but hung tough until 1965. Platters on Eldorado and Gone in 1957-1958 credited to Tony Middleton & the Willows went unnoticed; ditto for singles as the Willows on Club and Warwick Records. The Martin twins, Freddie Donovan, and Dotty Martin (Joe's wife) were the Willows for two nonstarters on Heidi Records in 1964. And a lineup featuring Tony Middleton and Richie Davis appeared in the '70s to work the doo-wop revivals; but by the '90s, the Willows wept no more.
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs
Maurice Williams - lead
Earl Gainey - tenor
William Massey - tenor/baritone
Willie Jones - baritone
Norman Wade - bass
The group first got together while in high school and would later find work singing on a Saturday morning radio show.
Williams contacted Excello Records in Nashville and got the group an audition. Excello liked them, signed them a named them the Gladiolas. A self-contained group the, both singing and playing instruments.
When the group left Excello, they agreed not to use their name again and changed it to the Zodiacs before signing with Herald Records.
Although Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs only had one big hit, the song became one of the classic singles in the history of rock & roll and R&B. The song, "Stay," was a number one hit upon its release in 1960. Williams and the Zodiacs' career didn't prove to be as popular as the song itself. They only had two more minor pop hits before they disappeared from the charts, but over the course of the next three decades "Stay" remained one of the most popular songs of the era and it was played constantly on oldies radio station. "Stay" was covered by numerous other artists and has enjoyed a few revivals in mass popularity, most notably when it was featured in the hit 1987 film, Dirty Dancing. All-Music Guide