Whispering Bells : The Del-Vikings ©2006JCMarion


The genesis of the Del-Vikings came at the U.S. Air Force enlisted men's club located in a corner of the Pittsburgh airport. The originator of the group was Clarence Quick who had some experience singing in a group back in Brooklyn, New York. The other members of the group were Corinthian Johnson (known as "Kripp"), Sam Patterson, Bernard Robertson, and Donald Jackson. It was Quick who coined the name of the group, which had a different sound than most of the other vocal groups at the time. The five soon honed their talent and entered a talent contest held at the base called the "Tops In Blue Revue". The Del-Vikings were the clear cut winners of the contest and soon took on all comers in the All Air Force National Talent Winners Contest. The quintet worked on a song written by Quick called "Come Go With Me". Because of the success of the group they were put in contact with two local music entrepreneurs, Barry Kaye and Joe Averback.

They were invited to a session to cut some vocal demos, but it was at this time that Patterson and Robertson were transferred to a USAF facility in Germany. Their places were taken by Norman Wright and Dave Lerchey. The group recorded some songs for Averback which were then released to Luniverse Records which up to that time was the vehicle for Buchanan & Goodman's break-in novelty "Flying Saucer" records. Soon Averback added some music and rhythm to the sides and released them on his own local Fee-Bee Records on # 205. The version of "Come Go With Me" soon began to get heavy local airplay and was soon leased to Dot Records for national distribution (#15538) with "How Can I Find True Love?" on the flip side. The first recording was a huge national success, one of the biggest vocal group up tempo hits ever. Soon after the record began to hit the charts Donald jackson was transferred to Europe and his spot was taken by Gus Backus giving the group two White members making them one of the very few interracial lineups, and certainly the most productive up to that time. The group made an appearance at the Chicago Opera House with dj Sam Adams. In late March L.A. radio jock Al Jarvis proclaims "Come Go With Me" as the number one record in all of pop music in Southern California. In April the group appears on stage with Alan Freed at the Brooklyn Paramount with the Easter Jubilee Of Stars show. Alan Freed sets up plans for his new television show on the ABC network on May 4. On that very first show will be The Del-Vikings. Dot Records reports the sales total for "Come Go" now tops 850,000 as of late April. Looking for a follow to their big hit, "Down In Bermuda" / "Maggie" was released on Fee-Bee #206. It went nowhere to be followed by "What Made Maggie Run" / "Down By The Stream" on Fee-Bee #210. Confusion came next as there were two other versions also on Fee-Bee #210 with different flip side. Dot finally took over on # 15571 with "Little Billy Boy" on the flip side. "Maggie" got limited airplay but with its confusing history it never had a chance. The Del-Vikings now tried again this time with a bit more discipline with another tune by Clarence Quick called "Whispering Bells". This time the lead singing chores were taken by Kripp Johnson. The original release was on Fee-Bee # 214. Soon the action on the tune led to its release on Dot # 15592.

The sax and guitar intro on the fast paced "Bells" led into bass and backup riffs and then a good reading on the lead vocal by Johnson. It soon proved to be another winner for the group. After two big national hits for the Del-Vikings, things began to unravel. Their new manager Al Berman determined that the contract the group had signed with Averback and Fee-Bee records was null and void because except for Kripp Johnson, all of the members had been minors. That freed the four remaining members of the group to sign on with Mercury Records in mid May and leaving Johnson with Fee-Bee. On Mercury the group once again became a quintet with the addition of Brooklynite Will Blakely. They did a session for Mercury that resulted in "Cool Shake" and "Jitterbug Mary" on # 71132. In June the group plays the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California with Earl McDaniel radio personality on KPOP. So in the summer of 1957 both "Whispering Bells" and "Cool Shake" were on the charts as by two competing versions of The Del-Vikings. Kripp Johnson was teamed up with Arthur Budd, Ed Everette, Chuck Jackson, and original member Donald Jackson.
Soon during the summer of 1957 the Kripp Johnson group recorded "I Want To Marry You" / "Willette" on Fee-Bee # 221. Also at about this time an LP album by the group showed up on Luniverse (originally planned to be released on Eldorado) called "Come Go With The Del-Vikings" and a single release of the tunes "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Hey Senorita" on # 107. A try to get lightening to strike twice was attempted by Mercury with the release of "Come Along With Me" ("What 'Cha Gotta Lose" on the flip) on Mercury # 71180. The group does some filming in Hollywood for the picture "The Big Beat" for Universal-International.

Into the mix came the Kripp Johnson group on Dot with "When I Come Home" a solo effort by Johnson, and "I'm Spinning" by the whole group although the first printing of the release read as by Kripp Johnson. In September the group returns with Alan Freed at the Brooklyn Paramount for the Labor Day week show. By the end of 1957 Mercury Records went the full legal route and ended the confusion by gaining the sole record company with rights to the Del-Vikings name. The remaining sides for Fee-Bee were issued as by The Versatiles, among them "Tell Me" / "Finger Poppin Woman" on # 227, and "True Love" / "Baby Let Me Be" on # 902.
Kripp Johnson goes on tour with The Fantabulous Rock 'n Roll Show headlined by Ray Charles, Joe Turner, and The Moonglows. In 1958 Kripp Johnson was freed from his legal obligations at Fee-Bee and the second group was disbanded. Chuck Jackson became a big soul and R & B hit maker in the 60s, while Johnson rejoined the original group at Mercury. In January of 1958 the Del-Vikings return to their Air Force roots by doing a show for the USAF in Schenectady, N.Y. on radio station WRGB. They are also booked for an appearance on the Patti Page TV show on Jan 15. Doing work for the premiere of "The Big Beat" motion picture in Detroit on Washington's Birthday, the group makes appearances in the motor city. They recorded some sides for Mercury in the late fifties that were not very successful - "Your Book Of Life" / "Snowbound" on # 71241, "Voodoo Man" / "Can't Wait" on # 71266, "Pretty Little Things Called Girls" / "You Cheated" on # 71345, and "How Could You?" / "Flat Tire" on # 71390.
Into the nineteen sixties the Del-Vikings recorded a number of sides for ABC-Paramount but again the spotlight eluded the group that had showed so much promise during their big year of 1957. In that one year the group had two monumental hits that will always be played as long as the sounds of the fifties live on. The Del-Vikings were the true sound of an era.

There are CDs available that chronicle the career of the Del-Vikings. The "20th Century Millenium Collection" for Geffen has all the recognizable hits on 12 tracks. For a more complete retrospective of the group there is "The Best Of . . . The Dot / ABC Paramount Recordings" for Hip-O containing 16 tracks, "The Best Of . . . . The Mercury Recordings" for Polygram featuring 22 tracks, and "The Del-Vikings Volume 2" for Flyright with 16 tracks of odd and obscure tunes done by the group.

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