The Top 100 DooWop Records Of All Time - Part One ©JCMarion
Stranded Love - Kingsmen (Neil)- An extremely soulful outing by a group of which next to nothing is known (not to be confused with the later Louie, Louie group from Portland ,Ore.). One thing of note is that this is one example of a R & B ballad in 3/4 (waltz) time. Very unique !
Love Is True - Chestnuts (Davis)- Ruby Whittaker gives a wonderful performance on lead and Rueben White rattles the woofers on bass as this New Haven group scores. Check out the coda.
Paradise Hill - Embers (Herald) - Another group shrouded in mystery over the years. Fine ensemble vocals in true dramatic fashion make this recording a memorable outing.
The Vow - Flamingos (Checker) - Once again the "voice of champagne" in the person of Nate Nelson shows the way. A lovely line from the tune "I believe that true love will never, ever die" is a big part of the showcase.
A Kiss From Your Lips - Flamingos (Checker) - Nate Nelson on lead with the Carey brothers and friends on a beautiful tune. The live version loses nothing in the performance. The recitation during the second bridge is super dramatic !
Love Is A Clown - Teenagers (Gee) - A strange sense of melancholy pervades the entire recording for some reason. It seems as though the boys knew that the breakup was imminent. Especially riveting is Jimmy Wright's sax break-it shows that he was indeed capable of an inventive, spirited instrumental chorus.
I Promise To Remember - Teenagers (Gee) - The best uptempo tune they ever did. For a real revelation listen to the live version with Alan Freed taken at a slower tempo than the Gee recording, and the background much better miked. What a group !
See You Next Year - Cleftones (Gee) - The boys from Jamaica High show that they had a way with ballads big time. Herb Cox and Berman Patterson trade lead verses in a great tune despite the strange lyrics (winter's over, spring will soon be here-so the school year is over ? ?). Great harmony by the guys.
I Still Care - Mellows (Jay Dee) - The group without equal. Why weren't they the great crossover act of all time ? A simply lovely tune done to perfection. No overstatement here especially in the usual excellence by Lillian Leach on lead vocal.
Smoke From Your Cigarette - Mellows (Jay Dee) - A tune without equal by the group without equal. Was there ever a more poigniant ode to unrequited love ? Why didn't this record sell ten million ?
Only Jim - Six Teens (Flip) - A totally unique group with three male backup voices, and three female voices that sometime sang lead. A beautiful tune about love lost and suddenly found again. Great lead singing by Trudy Williams.
Teenage Promise - Six Teens (Flip) - Trudy Williams out front of the girls and Ed Welles leading the guys in this tone poem to teenage love as it was in the Eisenhower 1950's. It wasn't so bad now was it ?
You Are So Beautiful - Five Notes (Josie) - An almost forgotten vocal group shows all of its talents on a lovely song from 1955. Great support by the Hamil-Tones on this Josie classic.
No Chance - Cadillacs (Josie) - The Cads rock on this up tempo gem. The two Earls and company show the way. The background really jumps.
Down The Road - Cadillacs (Josie) - Super harmony on this uptempo rocker. Lavern does his stuff on the second bridge. A tune that everyone sang back in 1955.
Love Will Make Tour Mind Go Wild - Penguins (Dootone) - Great piano (supposedly by Dootsie Williams himself) that predates the similar style on the Paragons Florence. Oddly structured song superbly handled by Cleve Duncan who was truly an original stylist. I recently read a book that called the Penguins a one hit wonder for Earth Angel. Nothing like reading retro rock history by someone born after Beatlemania !
Very Truly Yours - Evergreens (Chart) - Poingnant ballad in the classic style by another mystery group on a label based in Miami. What is interesting in the style of the group is a rare double bass vocal.
Tonight Kathleen - Valentines (Old Town) - The epitomy of vocal group singing near the end of the golden era. There's that classic piano intro again ! Rich Barrett on lead and a classic lead out and fade at the end that should be in the Smithsonian.
Don't Say Goodnight - Valentines (Rama) - Wonderfully orchestrated tune nicely sung by Carl Hogan and the group. Rich Barrett sings backup this time but adds a nice falsetto on the bridge. Only clinker is the heavy hand on the control board at the last note.
That's All - Casanovas (Apollo) - This group based in North Carolina does sweet justice to this ballad on this early 1955 release. Intro has an irresistable hook.
My Summer's Gone - Four Buddies (Savoy) - Not as well known as the other founding fathers of vocal group style R & B (Inkspots-Ravens-Orioles), but certainly blusier ( ballsier ? more soulful ? ) than the Delta Rhythm Boys, Charioteers, etc.). Fine handling of sentimental ballad classic.
Sweet Slumber - Four Buddies (Savoy) - This dynamite quartet does justice to this tune which was a monster hit a few years earlier for Lucky Millinder (voc. by Trevor Bacon). The vocal range of the guys is shown to great advantage in this arrangement.
I Wanted You - Jaguars (R-Dell) - Powerful performance in this heavy tempo ballad by a little remembered west coast combo. True mid fifties R & B style.
Hearts Of Stone - Jewels (R & B) - Forget the covers by the Charms and the Fontaine Sisters. This is absolutely the real deal. It is hard to describe the sound of this group and their version of this driving tune. The first time I heard this record I decided this was the music of the future, and in the ensuing 40+ years it has yet to be equalled. I still have the old well worn R & B label 78 and it still rocks !
Be Mine Or Be A Fool - Penguins (Mercury - The move from Dootone to major Mercury did not dilute the singular style of the group on this tune. Very much a worthy follow-up to Earth Angel (similar in style) and yet stands on its own. For the effect of mainstreaming the Penguins listen to their 1956 remake of "Angel" for Mercury.
Ghost Of A Chance - Solitaires (Old Town) - The old pop standard gets a heavy dose of R & B 'atmosphere' compliments of Milton Love, Buzzy Willis & co. Listen especially to the ensemble harmony on the last chorus.
The Angels Sang - Solitaires (Old Town) - Somehow the group seems to be a full chorus rather than five voices on this tune. I recall seeing them do the song in person and it lost nothing in their live performance.
My Faith - Fi-Tones (Rama) - Away from their usual label, Atlas, Gene Redd and the group deliver a heartfelt tribute to true love. As they say, they don't write them like this, etc.....etc....
A Beggar For Your Kisses - Diamonds (Atlantic) - Landmark recording by a little remembered vocal group originally called the Blue Diamonds. They had all the moves but just seemed to fade in the twilight.
All Righty Oh Sweetie - Clovers (Atlantic) - Widely overlooked in importance, this accomplished group kept the hits coming for a decade which is almost unheard of in R & B history. They were still into jump and blues with this record from 1954 which is seldom if ever played. Great swinging tune with the elusive catchy 'hook' that grabs you.
Bells Of St. Mary's - Drifters (Atlantic) - Somewhat overlooked because of the hit sides, the quintet's version of this pop chestnut is at times other-worldly. From the wordless intro, the big Hammond organ backup, and the almost spiritual McPhatter in the second chorus, well, what else is there to say ?
Soldier Of Fortune - Drifters (Atlantic) - The Drifters-phase two-is to me one of the more interesting groups ever. From the time Clyde left to go solo until the reformed Five Crowns with Ben E. King took over the name, there were many many definitive performances. This one with Johnny Moore on lead is such an example.
Henry Got Flat Feet-Midnighters (Federal) - Yeah, I know I'll get killed for this one. I can't help it, I love it ! ! The ultimate answer to the Annie / Henry saga of the early fifties, the humor is outrageous and the beat is contageous. Listen to the usual nastiest guitar riffs of the early fifties (by Alonzo Tucker) and the screaming sax break-it's party time !
Why Do You Have To Go - Dells (Vee Jay) - Follow up to "Oh What A Night" is as good if not better, and made a mighty one-two punch of solid hits even if they were made out of the stuff of soap operas.
Soldier Boy - Four Fellows (Glory) - Pop styled outing by the quartet led by Jim McGowan made everybody a fan in 1955. Should have been a huge national hit but in those days it was hard to get a major distributor to pick up on a small indie like Glory.
Most Of All - Moonglows (Chess) - Like most efforts by the group theres a lot going on at once. Lead by Bobby Lester, baritone by Harvey Fuqua, tenor by Alex Graves and the heavy (and I mean heavy !) bass by Pete Barnes all go their own way but fit together somehow. After Sincerely ran its course and I heard this for the first time, I sat almost unbelieving listening to the vocal work on the bridge of this tune. Still incredible !
In My Diary - Moonglows (Chess) - Further proof of the singular quality of this quartet. When they sing you know immediately who it is. There's no others who can duplicate this sound. Fine tune with a descending run-and no oohwah ending this time !
Starlight - Moonglows (Chess) - Seldom played 'glows classic from 1955 with an indescribable quick opening of four dramatic voices. Unique tune gets the full treartment of vocal effects from the group from Louisville. (By the way the fifth face in the group photos is guitar accompanist Billy "Bud" Johnson)
In My Lonely Room - Lee Andrews & The Hearts (Gotham) - Strong early effort by the Philly wonders Lee, the Calhoun brothers and friends. Heavy rhythmic feel on this tune unlike the smoother style of the later hits such as "Teardrops" and "Why Do I ?"
Lonely Nights - Hearts (Baton) - Now this is a 'girl group' of the take no prisoners style. Tough and uncompromising vocal treatment with the likes of Johnny Saunders (of Johnny & Joe) and Jeanette "Baby" Washington at the mike. Listen to the recitation in the middle and tell me you can't be concerned !
All My Love Belongs To You - Hearts (Baton) - The follow to "Lonely Nights" continues to impress. Still tough and uncompromising. These ain't the Pony Tails or the Dixie Cups !
I Almost Lost My Mind - Harptones (Bruce) - New York's finest featuring Willie Winfield in Ivory Joe Hunter's great tune. Great bluesy version is timeless.
Memories Of You - Harptones (Bruce) - Super ensemble singing led by Willie on this sentimental song with organ backup by the incomparable Raoul J. Cita (as always).
Sunday Kind Of Love - Harptones (Bruce) - The pop tune which was a big hit for Fran Warren in the late 40s gets the Willie Winfield treatment. The group is as always outstanding and set the standard for all New York groups to follow. Raoul Cita's organ intro is an identifiable landmark of musical history.
I Don't Believe In Tomorrow - Larks (King) - Transitional group and the contemporaries of the Orioles and the Four Buddies, the Larks with Allen Bunn on lead deliver the tune in pop blues fashion.
Don't Mention My Name - Ravens (National) - Joe Van Loan as successor to Maithe Marshall as tenor lead soars in this pop styled outing by the original 'bird' group.
I Cover The Waterfront - Orioles (Jubilee) - If the Inkspots were the originators, and the Ravens were the refiners, then the Orioles certainly were the perfecters of the R & B vocal group style. Nowhere is this more evident than in this version of the tune done years before by the Inkspots. All the O's features are here-smooth lead by Sonny Til, understated harmony by the group, and alternate lead by George Nelson.
Whispering Sorrows - Nutmegs (Herald) - The least known of the great Herald sides by the group, it is still an all time classic. The hard edge vocal style of the group is shown off to good advantage in this slightly odd tune.
Story Untold - Nutmegs (Herald) - A good example of the change in group styles from the laid back efforts of the Orioles and the early bird groups to this harder sound with the background voices much more in the forefront and the bass carrying the foundation. Leroy Griffin's distinctive lead singing carries this catchy song well.
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