The Doo-Wop Groups

Bop Chords

Harlem's Bop Chords formed in 1955 in the same building where the Ladders, Channels and Willows got their start. Lead vocalist Ernest Harrison, William Dailey, Ken Hamilton, Leon Ivey, and Morris Smarr had all sung with other neighborhood groups, and Hamilton had recorded with the Five Wings earlier in the year on a tribute to Johnny Ace that was issued by King. The Bop Chords recorded for Holiday in 1956, and the midtempo "Castle In The Sky" was a local and regional hit. Their second single, "When I Woke Up This Morning," also did well on the East Coast, but internal clashes over song content and wardrobe soon caused lineup defections and changes. Dailey and Smarr left and were replaced by Skip Boyd and Peggy Jones, their first female vocalist. They recorded "Why" in 1957, then disbanded. Harrison did background vocals for Shep and the Limelites and recorded "We Need Love" for Asnes in 1962 as Ernie Johnson. A new edition of the Bop Chords resurfaced in 1971, with lead vocalist Johnson, Hamilton, Boyd and Ivey. They never recorded, but were a popular attraction at various New York locations and oldies shows in the '70s. ~ Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide

The Cadillacs
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Equally adept at polished ballads or torrid rockers, the Cadillacs were one of New York's top doo-wop groups.  The Harlem quintet signed with Josie in 1954 and debuted with the beautiful speaker.gif (332 bytes)"Gloria," but with Earl Carroll's (b. Nov 2, 1937) prominent energetic lead vocals, the Cadillacs became known for humorous jump material and hot choreography after speaker.gif (332 bytes)"Speedoo" hit big for them in 1956. Tapping into the novelty R&B market pioneered by the Coasters, the Cadillacs cut a load of great rockers during the late 50s, such as "Peek-A-Boo" and "Please, Mr. Johnson," and performed in the quickie flick Go, Johnny, Go! in 1959.

Carroll left to join the Coasters in 1958 but the group persevered, eventually signing with Mercury. Carroll has re-formed the Cadillacs in recent years. ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide

The Capris
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The only major Capris hit, the romantic "There's a Moon Out Tonight," is a New York street-corner harmony classic. Doo-wop was back in fashion by 1961, and it was no longer limited to R&B aggregations. Led by Nick Santo (born Nick Santamaria in 1941), the Capris named themselves after the Isle of Capri in Italy. The Queens, NY, natives originally cut "There's a Moon Out Tonight" for the obscure Planet imprint in 1958, but when the song was reissued on Lost Nite (and eventually on Old Town) it became a national smash its second time around in early 1961. After many moons out of the spotlight, the Capris came back triumphantly in 1981 with an album on Ambient Sound and an appearance on the PBS-TV series "Soundstage." ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide

The Cellos
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This five-man group formed in 1955 in Manhattan, influenced by local high school stars (the Kodoks, the Crests, the Schoolboys, and the Keynotes). After school harmonizing led to the Cellos making a $4 demo, which in true Hollywood movie tradition got them a recording contract! Though their moment in the spotlight was relatively brief, hitting the charts with their first single -- "Rang Tang Ding Dong (I Am the Japanese Sandman)" -- their street-corner sound nonetheless exemplifies New York doo-wop in its earliest stages. ~ Cub Koda, All-Music Guide

The Channels
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While never having a run of hits, the Channels were among the most popular East Coast doo wop ensembles. Larry Hampden, Billy Morris, and Edward Doulphin were charter members of the Channels, who formed in 1955. They started with two part-time members, but then absorbed lead vocalist Earl Michael Lewis and Clifton Wright from the Lotharios. Lewis became their principal songwriter and he penned their best-known hit, "The Closer You Are." The Channels also brought a fresh style to doo wop singing with their practice of opening a verse in five-part harmony, then having Lewis sing lead in the bridge. Later releases like "The Gleam in Your Eye" and "I Really Love You" were superbly performed, but never got the push needed for national recognition. They later recorded for Gone, Fury, Port, Hit, Enjoy, and Groove with numerous personnel changes. ~ Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide

The Charms
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A Cincinnati vocal group who landed a number-one R&B hit for almost ten weeks in 1954 with "Hearts of Stone," a song that remains among the most enduring doo wop anthems. Otis Williams, Richard Parker, Donald Peak, Joe Penn, and Rolland Bradley first recorded for Rockin' in 1953, but did "Hearts of Stone" for Deluxe the next year. They had several other hits, among them "Ling, Ting, Tong," "Two Hearts," "Ivory Tower," and "United," all of which made the Top Ten on the R&B charts between 1955 and 1957. Their songs were issued as Otis Williams and His Charms in 1956 and 1957. Williams later tried his hand at country. -- Ron Wynn, All-Music Guide

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