The Ad Libs were one of the few '60s group with a female lead and male
back-up and their sound prefigured the jazz-styled doo wop of several later groups like
The Manhattan Transfer.
Hugh Harris - lead
Norman Donnegan - tenor
Mary Ann Thomas - lead
Dave Watt - bass
John Taylor was a saxophone player who had worked with various big band groups as far back as the 30s. By the early '60s he had quit playing and had a career as a teacher. It was during this time that he came across the Creators, a Hudson County, New Jersey streetcorner quintet. The Creators consisted of Hugh Harris, James Wright, John Alan, Danny Harris, and Chris Coles. By mid 1963 the Creators had released their first record on TR label without any chart success. A single "I'll Stay Home" a year later on Phillips met the same fate.
In 1964 the Creators re-formed in Newark, New Jersey with Harris and Austin teaming up with Norman Donegan and Dave Watt. They added Mary Ann Thomas and renamed themselves the Ad Libs.
Taylor's jazz and big band flavored songwriting along with the Ad Libs' natural harmonic sound and modified boogie woogie rhythm created "The Boy From New York City."
Taylor took the demo tape to Red Bird Records' owners Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Ad Libs were signed to their Blue Cat affiliate and "The Boy From New York City" was released in December, 1964 and by March 1965 had reached #8 on the Pop chart and #6 on the R&B charts. In May 1965 the follow-up "He Ain't No Angel" barely made the Pop 100. The next single "On the Corner" saw little activity, and after one more unsuccessful release the group was dropped by Blue Cat.
Three labels and three singles later, the Ad Libs signed with Share Records of New York and recorded "Giving It Up" (34 R&B) which was their last chart record.
Various group changes were made over the next twenty years and a few more releases, but none with the success of "The Boy From New York City." In 1984 Taylor started Passion Records, to record the Ad Libs, and in the fall of 1988 he came up with the Johnny-Boy label for their "I Stayed Home (New Years Eve)." In 1989 they released another seasonal 45 on Johnny-Boy "Santas on His Way."