"Heaven And Paradise"
The Story of The Meadowlarks ©1999JCMarion
In January of 1954, the RPM Record Company of Los Angeles announced a new release by a vocal group known as The Meadowlarks. The tunes are "Love Only You"and "Real Pretty Mama"on #399. . The sides had enough appeal to be chosen as the pick hit of the week by noted L.A. R & B deejay Hunter Hancock. Unfortunately for the group, the record buying public did not follow suit and the record faded away into a few West Coast memories. In late March a second attempt by the group on RPM #406 was released - "Pass The Gin" and "The LFMST Blues" alluding not to the closely resembled trademark slogan of Lucky Strike ("Means Fine Tobacco") cigarettes, but to the singer's plea to "Lord Find My Sweet Theresa", or so the legend goes. This effort also met with little public acceptance. For the rest of 1954 the group was out of the public eye and mostly forgotten. However during the last days of the year 1954 Dootsie Williams announced the signing of the group to his Dootone Records label. The members were Don Julian on lead, Randolph Jones, Earl Jones, Ron Barrett, and Bill Pruitt. Before the first effort for their new label, the quartet paid their dues by doing a number of appearances in the L.A. area such as a February 1955 show at the Savoy with The Medallions, Marie Adams, and the band of Johnny Otis. The public it seemed, was ready for a new sound by The Meadowlarks. In June Dootone was ready to oblige.
Dootone #359 was released in early March of 1955 which featured two new songs - "Embarrasing Moments" and "Heaven And Paradise". Almost immediately the record breaks out with the "Heaven" side the one that most record buyers wanted. Within a month of its release the label was changed to read as by Don Julian & The Meadowlarks. In May the group stole the show at San Diego's Trianon Ballroom on a bill with Jessie Belvin, Marvin & Johnny, and Joe Houston's band. The record becomes part of a huge triple header on Dootone along with The Penguins "Earth Angel" and The Medallions"The Letter". In July Dootone releases #367 "I Got Tore Up" and another great ballad side "Always And Always". The second good seller for the group solidifies their hold as one of the biggest new vocal groups on the West Coast. In August at Chicago's Howard Miller Theater, one of the strangest bills of the mid fifties takes place with The Meadowlarks appearing with Pat Boone and Della Reese ! The talk of Los Angeles is the talented output coming from Fremont High School. First there was Etta James, then The Penguins, Meadowlarks, and Calvanes, with Dootsie Williams signing the three vocal groups to his label with much success.
In October of 1955 Dootone Records releases #372 by Don Julian & The Meadowlarks - "This Must Be Paradise" and "Mine All Mine". Once again the side does well in the L.A. area but the rest of the country does not follow along. Dootone also releases an EP on 45 rpm by the group featuring a great rendition of "Thrill Me Night And Day", as well as four songs on the landmark Dootone LP "The Best Vocal Groups" with The Penguins, Medallions, and Calvanes. The Meadowlarks continue to be well received in the Southern California area as one of their 'own' and the group remains popular there. In March of the following year Dootone #394 is the next record by The Meadowlarks and Don Julian. The songs are "Please Love A Fool" and "Oop Boopy Oop". In support of this new release the group does a long series of one nighters throughout the Southern California area. In October Dootone comes out with #405 - "I Am A Believer"and "Boogie Woogie Teenage". The 'A' side shows that the Meadowlarks still have a super way with a ballad. The next spring would provide the group with their final recording for Dootone after a run of two and a half years. Release #424 consisted of the old pop standard "Blue Moon" and a jump tune "Big Mama Wants To Rock".
For the next four years The Meadowlarks were still hanging in there as a vocal group, making sporadic appearances where their 'name' provided them with instant recognition even without current hit records to spur them on. There were two records for Art Laboe's Original Sound label with #03 - "Please Say You Love Me" and "Doing The Cha Cha Cha" and with #12 - "There's A Girl"and "Blue Mood". In 1962 The Meadowlarks recorded two sides for the Dynamite label - #1112 - "Heaven Only Knows", a throwback to their earlier efforts, and "Popeye". Dynamite #1114 was a two sided dance tune celebrating early sixties L.A. with "The Slauson Shuffle" parts one and two. A reformed group now known as The Larks made a number of records for the Money labelwhich were mostly uptempo dance songs such as "The Jerk"(#106), "Soul Jerk"(#110), "Can You Do The Duck" (#115), "The Philly Dog"(#122) and "The Skate"(#127), and also their own short lived label, the dance derived Jerk Records- "Philly Jerk"(#100) and "Shorty The Pimp" (#202). By the late sixties Don Julian and the remnants of the Meadowlarks faded from the public eye.
After wellmore than a decade, this was the end of the line for Don Julian & The Meadowlarks. They are remembered most fondly for the first three Dootone releases, especially "Heaven And Paradise" one of the greatest vocal group sides ever recorded and one that seemed to capture the time in history like few before it did. For this reason it is part of every comprehensive oldies package of fifties R & B and one that shows in two and a half minutes what the appeal of this music is all about.
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