You're The Reason : The Charts©2004JCMarion


In May of 1957 a new vocal group sound started showing up on New York City radio playlists. It took something special in those days to stand out from the crowd because of the proliferation of vocal groups that were recording for many of the small R & B independent labels based in the city. The name of the group that seemed to break through was called The Charts (as in the hit record list), and they had been formed in Harlem during the summer of 1956. The members were Joe Grier on lead, leroy Binns and Steven Brown tenors, Glenmore Jackson on baritone, and bass singer Ross Buford. After some initial failures they were put in touch with Les Cooper, former vocal group member who somehow saw the promise of this group of hopeful teenagers. He became their manager and in a short time had introduced them to Danny Robinson who was starting his own label to be called Everlast Records.

In the spring of 1957 they went into the studio and recorded a song Grier had put together called "Desirie" along with a bouncy uptempo tune called "Zoop" which was released on Everlast #5001 . Grier was not the most polished lead singer, his voice devoid of smooth vibrato or effortless interchange between chords, and also possessed of a rough edged falsetto. But it had a certain something that caught the listeners ear with its honest projection of the lyric. The song which was constructed of three choruses without a connecting bridge between verses two and three as is the standard ballad mold was part of the record's uniqueness. The piano with three ascending notes leads into the wordless falsetto intro, then with the group harmony sets the stage for the main body of the song. The full piano triplets give the song its hard New York sound and one thing on the recording to pay attention to is the lovely tenor sax work throughout especially the counterpoint to the falsetto on the wordless verses. This was one of those records from the fifties that everybody had to own, and every would be vocal group lead singer tried out his falsetto riffs on the tune. That is what makes a classic and this record was one in every sense of the word.

In late June the Apollo Theater hosts Dr. Jive's big July 4th show which will star Roy Brown, The Jesters, Heartbeats, Velours, Sensations, Charlie & Ray, Ann Cole, Donnie Elbert, and Harlem's newest hitmakers, The Charts. By late July the record is breaking big in the entire Northeast region. It is the song of the summer in the urban areas, and it stays in everyone's mind. Everlast records and Danny Robinson seemed a bit unprepared for a hit of this magnitude right off the bat but they stick to it and persevere. Ads are taken out in the trade press pushing their hit and spreading the word. In mid-August the record hits in Chicago and Detroit and now begins to enter the rarified world of the national pop charts. Danny Robinson heads to the mid-Atlantic states and Florida pushing the record for his little label that could. Through the early fall "Desirie" enters the high end of the national pop charts and cements its position as one of the top vocal group records ever made. Not too shabby for a group of teenagers without much professional polish, but it shows the power of having the right sound at the right time.

In mid October The Charts release their follow up recording to their breakthrough hit with "Why Do You Cry", another great ballad side, and the uptempo "Dance Girl" on Everlast #5002. The ballad shows the great solid harmony this group was capable of. The bridge is interesting with Grier jumping from falsetto to natural voice and back again to give the song a memorable sound. Once again New York City responds, but this time the rest of the country does not follow suit and the record does not become a big seller. In the spring of 1958 The Charts record again for Everlast Records and release "You're The Reason" and "I've Been Wondering" on #5006. "Reason" is another fine ballad side by the group but as with their previous record, it does not excite the public. They still get plenty of requests for personal appearances and club dates on the strength of "Desiree" but their later sides do not sell as well as their first effort.

In 1958 The Charts recorded two more sides for Everlast Records. The first was "All Because Of Love" / "I Told You So" on #5008, and the last record for the label was "Baby Be Mine" and "My Diane" on Everlast #5010. Both met the same fate as the previous release and so The Charts seemingly were to be identified with the identity of "one hit wonders". There was one more try for the original members of The Charts with "For The Birds" and "Ooba Gooba" which was released on Philadelphia based Guyden Records #2021 in the spring of 1959. That was the swan song for the group although Leroy Binns joined three new members and recorded as The Charts in the mid sixties for the Wand label. Two quickly forgotten sides were released including a remake of "Desirie" b/w "I Fell In Love With You Baby" on Wand #1112, and "Livin The Nightlife" and "Nobody Made You Love Me" on #1124.

That is the story of The Charts, a neighborhood group from Harlem who beat the odds and recorded a most memorable song that will always be a part of the nineteen fifties, an important ingredient in the soundtrack of all of our yesterdays.

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