The Sevilles were a vocal group from Los Angeles and Charlena was their first, biggest and only hit. Released in November 1960, it had climbed up the charts to #84 by February, but that’s as high as it got. With an off-beat, shuffling rhythm, Charlena almost sounds like Ska. A very rough version is played by Lou Diamond Phillips and his mates in the ’80s Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba. Thankfully, Los Lobos covered it nicely for the soundtrack.
This perfect record is my favourite of right now. From Los Angeles, The Six Teens were pretty much just that, six teens. But they were six teens with a tonne of talent. Lead singer Trudy Williams, the youngest of all, was only twelve when they formed in 1956. As you’ll hear on this Flip label stormer penned by teen Ed Wells in ’58, Williams’s voice is simply incredible. Her sweet vocals, together with the deep bass of Daryl Lewis, lush group harmonies and a hot backing band make repeat listening an easy prospect. This urge to hear it again and again is amplified by the fact that Love’s A Funny That Way comes into your life and then leaves before two minutes have even passed.
As a teaser for the Halloween party I’m planning, here’s a doo-wop song about zombies. The Monotones were a vocal group from Newark, New Jersey who were riding high on the back of their #5 pop smash The Book Of Love in 1958 when they released Zombi on Argo (mines a Canadian pressing on Reo). Still several years before The Monster Mash broke all conceptions about what a novelty horror record could achieve, this was a brave move. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t set the charts on fire but over half a century later, around the end of October, I’m sure it still gets a good spin at spooky themed events all over the western world.
The Delcos – Arabia
Here’s a slightly exotic sounding tune from a group who named themselves after a battery. The Delcos met as high school students in Indiana and even though Arabia is a relatively obscure record, it was their biggest success. An early recording of it was released in 1962 on Ebony Records and started selling well. Too well for that new label, so a deal was struck with Monument Records. The Delcos travelled to Nashville to re-record Arabia with the Boots Randolph’s band featuring Bill Justis. That version was released in 1963 on the Monument subsidiary, Showcase. Although the original Arabia became a local hit, The Delcos never made-it on a national level. If it’s any consolation to them, and it probably isn’t, Arabia became a big spin on the Stafford Northern Soul scene some 20 years later. Also, according to my ears, it’s possible they inspired another magnificent party record from ’63, The Ideals’ The Gorilla.
Starlites – Way Up In The Sky
To wind up the Bobby Robinson inspired series of posts, here’s one from Fire’s sister label, Fury.Way Up In The Sky was the flip to Valarie, which I posted back in 2010. Although Valarie stands out as a unique recording, due to the outlandish weeping of lead singer Jackie LaRue, lately I’ve been more inclined to spin the more straight doo-wop of the b-side.
The Shirelles – I Met Him On A Sunday
This is the first girl-group’s first record. The Shirelles began as four New Jersey teenagers. Known as The Poquellos at the time, they sang today’s doo-wopping offering at their high school talent show. It was a performance that really impressed their classmate, who convinced her mother that I Met Him On A Sunday should be the first release on her newly formed record label. Despite the picture above, I Met Him On A Sunday was originally released on Florence Greenberg’s Tiara Records. It was an instant local success, so Decca bought the rights and distributed it nationally. It reached a respectable top fifty chart spot in 1958. With the Decca money, Greenberg went on to start Scepter Records, which released The Shirelles 1960 #1 smash hit Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.
Tony Allen – Nite Owl
I watched today’s 45 for a long time before finally committing to buying. It’s a slow doo-wopper, not exactly dancefloor dynamite, but there’s something quite comforting about this recording. Could it be the owl sounds? Tony Allen was born in New Orleans and grew up near Fats Domino’s house in the Ninth Ward. As a boy he moved to live with his Aunt in Los Angeles, where he cut his first record at 14. Then he wrote I’m A Mojo Man for Larry Bright (which I will get around to posting one day) and sang with Big Jay McNeely. Still a teenager, he recorded his biggest hit for Specialty Records in 1955. Nite Owl was Allen’s Aunt’s pet name for him, which possibly contributed to the tune’s inherent sweetness. The background vocals come courtesy of The Chimes, who were billed as The Champs for one reason or another. Although it didn’t chart, Nite Owl was popular enough on the West Coast to keep Allen making records on various labels into the ‘60s. Tony Allen humbly tells his own story here.
The Mints – Night Air
At a time when most vocal groups were black, four white fellas from Texas, The Mints, were releasing records with an authentic rockin’ doo wop sound. Night Air was the b-side to future televangelist Ken Copeland’s 1957 hit, Pledge Of Love. The charts overlooked this cool jiver with a sweet sax break, but you don’t have to.
The Chords – Sh-Boom
Here’s the original version of the sweet doo-wop tune, Sh-Boom. Released in 1954 by The Chords, a vocal group from the Bronx, it shot up the charts cracking the top ten of both the pop and the R&B. The song was quickly covered by Canadian group The Crew Cuts, whose cleaner and, frankly, whiter, version also was a hit. The version I present for you today, with its killer sax break, is one I’ve been seeking on 45 for a while. Although my copy isn’t quite the VG+ (vinyl nerd speak for just the occasional crackle) it was supposed to be, I’m glad to finally own it. Both versions feature in my latest ‘nonsensical song title’ themed Diddy Wah radio show.
An Aquarium Drunkard
Be Bop Wino
The B Side
Carlos Rene's Scene64
Derek's Daily 45
The Devil's Music
Flea Market Funk
Frankie Bundle's Mazzetta78
Home Of The Groove
Jester Wild Show
Kogar's Jungle Juice
La Dimension De Trastos
Liam Large's Rekkids
Mean Mojo Mathias
Night Beat Records
So Many Records, So Little Time
You Got Good Taste