Forgotten Sessions - part three ©1999JCMarion
This is the story of two little remembered music producers and the record labels they ran in the nineteen fifties. Between the two of them they managed one hit record, and that one deserves an asterisk because it was a "freak" pop music tune which will be described below. They stuck to their guns long after most would have thrown in the towel, and even then never attained the powerful success of so many of their peers in the industry such as the Erteguns, Lubinsky, Nathan, Rupe, the Chess Brothers, the Biharis, and Lew Chudd to name a few. But, onward they charged looking for the brass ring that never came their way, and the longevity of their attempts should not go undocumented. So here are the stories of Peter Doraine and Chris Forde.
Abbey Records - This little label based in New York City was the creation of Peter Doraine, and was his attempt to become a major player in the world of the Rhythm & Blues independent record companies during the late 1940s. The first releases for the label came out in 1949 and without making a big splash on the scene with their initial entries, Doraine looked for something different to get his label publicity and sales. In late 1949, the vocal group The Cabineers recorded "Whirlpool" for Abbey #3003, which got initial interest, and then the Ben Smith Quartet recorded "Don't Worry About Me" and "I Ain't Fattening Frogs For Snakes" an established R & B standard for Abbey #3008. The label signed Bobby Marshall to its roster in February. In March of that year, Doraine and his label found what they were looking for in terms of publicity, credibility, and success, and it came from a surprising source. Abbey #15003 (note the drastic change in label numbering), was by Lawrence Cook and The Jim Dandies and was titled "The Old Piano Roll Blues" bw "Why Do They Always Say No". The amazing thing about this record is that it is actually a pianola playing a QRS piano roll, which was certainly a throwback to earlier times. If you study the trends in American popular music, you will find that at this exact moment in history, memories and reminiscences of an earlier simpler time were the biggest sellers ("Cruising Down The River", "When You Were Sweet Sixteen", "I Never See Maggie Alone", etc.). So, whether it was by design or merely by chance, "The Old Piano Roll Blues" was a huge success. Quite a departure for the new R & B label in town ! The tune by Lawrence (now nicknamed "Piano Roll") Cook, was everywhere. But - Doraine continued on his R & B quest. The Masterkeys released "Don't Talk Darling" / "It's Time To Kiss Goodnight" on Abbey #3011, and the Ben Smith Quartet returned with #3012 - "You Are Closer To My Heart" with vocal by Art Long and "Blues Got Me Walkin',Talkin' To Myself". Bobby Marshall with the Ray Parker Combo recorded #3014 - "Just One More Time" and "Call Me Darling". Later on during the year, the label enlisted Rudy Toombs as its chief A & R person for the R & B records on the label. (Toombs would go on to great success as a writer-arranger with Atlantic). The label closed out 1950 with a pair of recordings by Bobby Marshall - "It's A Great Pleasure" / "I'm Going To Live For Today" with the Ray Parker Combo on #3018, and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" (the old Inkspots tune soon to be made famous by Elvis) and "I Shouldn't Love You But I Do" with the Eddie Wilcox Orchestra on #3019.
After a period of re-organization, the label moves into the year 1951 with Doraine acquiring a new partner Gene Novello. In early 1951 the Abbey label releases #3021 by the Eddie Wilcox Orchestra : "If You Were Only Mine" with vocal by Billy Matthews, and "How About That" with vocal on this side by Elmer Crumbley. Johnny Felton records "You're Spending My Money Too Fast" / "One Note" on #3022 and returns on #3023 with vocalist Jewyl Lang for "Oh Yes He Does" and "Barber Jim". The following release for the label was by The Radars with the Conrad Fredrick Orchestra - "You Belong To Me" and "I Need You All The Time". In late July the label made two new signings - singer Nellie Hill and Sister Dorothy Rivers and Her Gospel Singers. In the fall Nellie Hill records her first for the label : "When I'm In The Mood" and "I'm Gonna Copyright Your Kisses" on Abbey #3027. Joan Shaw records for the label with the Billy Ford Orchestra on #3030 - "Lonesome For My Baby" and "Rock My Soul". At the end of the year the label signs singer Elaine Brent. During 1952 there is very little activity for the label, and the one release that gets some airplay in the East is by the King Odom Four - "Lucky" and "Don't Trade Your Love For Gold". The end of the Abbey label comes as Peter Doraine moves over to Allen Records in the capacity of the A & R (Artists and Repertoire) head and will produce the Five Willows for that label. (Doraine releases one record by The Five Willows on his PeeDee label - "Love Bells" / "Please Baby" on #290 in 1953). Little more is heard from Peter Doraine and Abbey, but that is not the end of this story. In May of 1955, it is announced that former New York record producer Doraine, now located in Birmingham, Alabama, will begin a new R & B label called Vulcan Records. The first of only two known releases for the label is "Pleading To You" / "I Like Moonshine" by The Five Owls on Vulcan #1025. The Abbey label made no great inroads into the public consciousness with their R & B offerings, but once again the mere presence of the recording effort by this little remembered company is proof of the determined effort to promote this music and make it into the dominant force it has become. For this, individuals like Peter Doraine should be remembered.
Tuxedo Records - In October of 1951 the Tuxedo Records Company is formed by Chris Forde. It is located in New York City and will specialize in Rhythm and Blues. However the first outing for the label is a pop music release by Frank Gilston called "Why Did I Surrender". The initial talent signed by the label for their R & B records are Dorine Bryan, Debbie Morris, and the Al Lyles Combo. The second record release for the label is #881 by Debbie Morris with the Al Lyles Combo - "Rock-A-Bye Broken Heart" / "Aint He Sweet". In March of 1952 established rhythm singer Phyllis Branch signs with the label and in a few weeks Tuxedo #882 by Branch is released pairing "Think Of Me In Your Spare Time" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". In June the label adds the Kings Of Harmony and singer Millie Daniels to its roster. That month under number 2500, Tuxedo releases "Little Old Bible Of Mine" and "Angel of Patience" by Phyllis Branch and the Kings of Harmony. The Kings of Harmony gospel group appears with Mahalia Jackson at a gospel music show held at New York's Carnegie Hall. Tuxedo #888 comes out late in the year and is "Someday, Somewhere" and "Rushing In" by Phyllis Branch and the Kings of Harmony. The record is re-released in March of 1953 as by just the Kings on #2507. Another gospel recording does well for the label - "In The Wilderness" and "Leaning On The Everlasting Arm Of God" by The GloryTone Singers on #2502. In March of 1953 the label signs singer and radio d.j. Woody Smith. Another act signed to Tuxedo are The Charioteers still carrying on three years after lead singer Billy Williams left. They produce #891 - "I'm A Stranger Here" / "Thanks For Yesterday". At the close of the year the label signs Lloyd Trotman formerly with Johnny Hodges and his orchestra.
The Charioteers open up 1954 by recording "Sleepy River Moon" and "Forget If You Can" on #892. Phyllis Branch appears at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to coincide with her new release of "El Cubanchero". Prof. Charles Taylor records the gospel tune "He Is A Wonder". Later in the year Taylor returns with "I'm Going Home" / "He Is A Light In The Darkness" on #897. "Old Time Religion" and "I Woke Up This Morning" by Prof. Taylor is #898, and late that year the vocal-instrumental combo The Street Singers record "Caldonia's Mambo" and "Tonight Was Like A Dream". Most of 1955 is devoted to gospel releases such as Prof. Charles Taylor's "God's Got A TV" (interesting title) and "I Can't Turn Around" on #901, and the Imperial Gospel Singers "He's The Same Jesus" and "I Want To Live" on #902. The label signs another gospel group late in the year, The Capitol City Stars from Philadelphia, and blues singer Lee Christy. Phyllis Branch records "Be Still My Heart" and "Low Down Mood" on #906. In January of 1956 Vicki Evans records "Speed My Man Home". Lee Christy makes his label debut with "What Did I Do" and "My Heart Goes Diddly Bum" on #907. By the mid fifties it is clear that the chances of Tuxedo records coming up with a big hit record are slim due to the changing tastes of the music and the teenage population of the country now acknowledged as the driving force in record sales. However, Forde and Tuxedo Records carry on. Further releases for the label follow : #911 by the Capitol City Stars - "Happy Am I" / "Let Jesus Lead You"; #912 - the Imperial Gospel Singers "I Found Him" / "Just As I Am"; #913 - "Teenage Holiday" and "Stop Stealing My man" by Vicki Evans and #914 by Don Bruce and The Four Beats : "Love Leads A Fool" and "Let's Start All Over Again" (a recent hit for Nolan Lewis with the Buddy Johnson Orchestra on Mercury). The Mighty Gospel Giants recorded "You've Got To Pray" and "He Died On Calvary" on #916. Blues singer James Carter is featured with The Twilights on Tuxedo #917 - "Wild Hog" / "I'm Falling For You" and in January of 1957 Eddie Powell records "Darling My Darling" and "Music Maestro Please" on record #918. Phyllis Branch with The Twilights record "Calypso Fever" and "Babalu" on #919. James Carter and The Sentimentals sing "I Know" later that year on #922. Ann Nichols and The Sentimentals record #926 "Lover I'm Waiting For You" and "I'm Sixteen". Amazingly the label keeps on into late 1959, the last listed release is #932 by James Carter & The Twilights - ""Get Hep Little Girl" and "Wild Hog Baby" (although supposedly there is a #938 by The Sleepers (aka The Tuxedo Sleepers) "I Want To Love You", and #943 being a re-release of the Sentimentals record #922). A subsidiary label called Mint issues a few releases during late 1957 and into 1958 almost all by the vocal group The Sentimentals(#801-#808), and in early 1958 renews his contract with the group. Gospel music releases are the main product of the label including "On My Knees A-Praying" by The Gospel Starlets and "Everybody Should Serve The Lord" by The Silver Crown Gospel Singers. Forde will try a pop / R & B combination with new artist Ann Nichols, but that too is slated not to succeed.
Just think about the fact that the Tuxedo label was in most accounts a failure. Their biggest sellers were the gospel sides they released, and on these and the R & B records from the label, there were no big "names", no "chartbusters" in sales, and no memorable music memories that were forthcoming. Yet, from the fall of 1951 until the end of 1959, they were a musical producer, a company that kept the records coming for more than eight years. It has to be some kind of record for determination (or maybe futility for that matter) to keep at it with no favorable results for that long a period of time. This sketchy history stands as a document to the memory of Chris Forde (certainly as unremarkable a name as Tuxedo Records in the Rhythm and Blues annals) and his efforts to bring to the public the musical talents and personalities of those who changed the face of music for all time. To me that is the definition of an R & B hero.
to next page . . . . .
back to title page . . .