The Vocal Groups

The Mills Brothers
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The Mills Brothers were a popular middle of the road vocal group in the 1930s. Billed as "Four Boys and a Guitar," they were experts at imitating instruments including trumpet, trombone, tuba and string bass. With the backing of just a guitar, they simulated a full band and amazed listeners. The Mills Brothers (Herbert, Harry, Donald and John Jr.) started out singing in vaudeville and tent shows, were featured on a radio show for ten months in Cincinnati, arrived in New York and by the end of 1931 were an instant hit. They recorded frequently throughout the decade, made appearances in many films (including 1932's Big Broadcast) and recorded with Bing Crosby, the Boswell Sisters and Duke Ellington. John Jr.'s death in 1935 was a tragic loss although John Sr. effectively took his place. However by 1942 with their hit "Paper Doll," the old sound gave way to a more conventional pop setting.

The Ink Spots

The original group was formed in Indianapolis, Indiana in the late twenties when Jerry Daniels, Orville Jones, Charles Fuqua and and Ivory Matson met in Indianapolis. After moving to New York in the early thirties they changed their name from from, King, Jack and the Jesters to The Ink Spots. Soon after signing with Decca Records in 1935 Billy Kenny replaced the groups lead singer who had left.  Kenny's   quavering high tenor presaged street corner leads that were to come and  was backed by flawless sweet harmonies. In 1939 the group released "If I Didn't Care" their first million selling record. Other hits were "My Prayer," "We Three," "Maybe," "Whispering Grass," "To Each His Own," and speaker.gif (332 bytes)"I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire." The last Ink Spots   hit was  1948s "To Each His Own".

The Ink Spots were one of the most successful black acts of the 1940sand inspired younger groups that took their sound into a R&B direction.The Ink Spots were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989  in the early influences category

The Ravens
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The popularity of the Ravens spanned more than two decades
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The Ravens formed in New York in 1945 were an early R&B vocal group that sang a wide range of material.There were one of the first groups to feature a bass voice as a lead, probably the first to feature a lead falsetto and the first to choreograph their act. With a smooth harmony like the Mills Brothers recorded  for Hub Records "My Sugar Is So Refined" in 1946. Shortly thereafter, Maithe Marshall, whose lead falsetto became the group's trademark joined The Ravens. Their first big hits "write Me A letter and "Write Me A Letter" were recorded in 1947. "White Christmas" was a major hit in 1948. The groups next hit was "I Don't Have To Ride No More" in 1950. "Count Every Star" of the same year,with full range vocal backing highlighted by wordless vocal bass lines and high falsetto constitute the virtual definition of doo wop. 1952 to saw their last hit "Rock Me All Night".

Marv Goldberg's - The Ravens

The Orioles

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(top l-r Alexander Sharp, George Nelson and Sonny Till)
(bottom l-r Tommy Gaither and Johnny Reed)

The Orioles formed in Baltimore Maryland in 1946 are cited by many as the first R&B vocal group and the precursor of the doo wop sound. As teens they were known as the Vibranaires and were manage by Deborah Chessler a local songwriter who would write many of their hits.. Chessler got them a spot on Arthur Godfrey's talent scouts. Though they didn't win they became regulars on the show.

In 1948 they joined It's A Natural Records and changed their name to The Orioles after recording "It's Too Soon To Know" which went to #1 R&B chart and #13  Pop chart. It was the first black sounding  record to place that high on the Pop chart. Other hits included  "Lonely Christmas' and "Tell Me SO" in 1949.   "Tell Me So" was important because it  use a wordless falsetto doing a kind of obbligato to the lead vocal.. This would become a staple of the doo wop style. Other hits were "A Kiss And A Rose", "Forgive And Forget", and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve."

In 1953 the group recorded "Crying In The Chapel" feature a unmistakably back sound, with emotional singing, wordless falsetto and other vocal backings that reflected a trend toward  a gospel style that other groups were using.  It was one of the first R&B songs to crossover to the Pop market. 1954's "In The Mission Of St. Augustine" was the groups last hit.

The Orioles were inducted in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Marv Goldberg's - The Orioles

The  Dominoes
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Billy Ward and His Dominoes were the first black male vocal group to master the smooth style of older groups such as the Ravens and the hard rocking rhythm and blues.
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The Group was founded in New York in 1950. Clyde McPhatter joined as lead tenor in 1950. In 1951 the group had three top ten R&B singles: "Do Something For Me", "I Am With You", and "Sixty Minute Man". Sixty-Minute Man   with it's sexual innuendoes was  both a R&B and pop hit. It was on of the first, if not the first, record by a black group to make the pop charts. They had several hits such as "The Bells", "I'd Be Satisfied",  and "These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You" before McPhatter left to form The Drifters. Jackie Wilson replaced McPhatter and sang lead on "Rags To Riches". A switch to Decca Records brought the group its biggest hit "St. Therese of the Roses".

Marvin Goldberg's - The Dominoes

The Clovers
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Considered one of the first rhythm and blues groups to cross over into rock and roll, the Clovers were certainly central in forming both styles of music. Their easily identifiable was sound was based on a combination of blues and gospel. The Clovers did not follow the "pop" singing style of the Mills Brothers or the Ink Spots and sounded distinctly different from the Orioles and the Larks, rhythm and blue's first role models.

The Clovers started as a trio of Armstrong High School students in 1946 all from the same neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The leader of the group Harold "Hal" Lucas, sang baritone. From 1946 through 1949 the group went through many personal changes as they performed in several of the area's small nightclubs. In 1950, they were heard by Lou Kreftz, a local music dealer, while performing at the Rose Club. He got them a recording contract with Rainbow Records, a small New York label, but only one record was released in 1950. In February 1951 they signed with Atlantic Records, where they stayed for seven years. Their first Atlantic release was "Don't You Know That I Love You So," which sold a quarter million copies.The follow up, "Fool, Fool, Fool" did even better selling a half million copies and "One Mint Julip" almost went gold. Of their first nine records at Atlantic, three were number one rhythm and blues hits, three reached number two and two went to number three.

In 1952 the group consisted of John "Buddy" Bailey (first tenor), Mathew McQuarter (2nd tenor), Harold Jerome Winley (bass), and Bill Harris (guitar). In September 1952 Bailey was drafted, and was replaced first by John Phillip and then Charlie White, who had been an original member of the Dominoes and the Checkers. In 1953 Billy Mitchell, who had been a solo artist at Atlantic, became the lead tenor. When Bailey returned from Korea in May, 1954  he alternated with Mitchell and the group expanded to six members.

Their peak year was 1952 with five songs in the national rhythm and blues top ten, but had hits for Atlantic until 1957. Their last hit was "Love Potion #9" for United Artist in 1959. By the early 1960s the group had disbanded with two new groups of Clovers, one led by Bailey and one led by Lucas, touring the country. The Lucas group continued to perform in clubs into the 1970s.

The Clover's sound was heavy on the bottom. Both the vocal group and and the instrumental backing employed an accentuated bass line. No distinctive lead tenor carried the group; rather, it was a blending of all the voices over a varied mixture of drums, saxophone, and piano that gave the recordings by the group the warm feel of warmth even on the up-tempo numbers.

Few rhythm and blues groups in this period  could claim the popularity and longevity of the Clovers. While the Dominoes and the Orioles opted for the "better" clubs and hotels, the Clovers stayed within the Black community, becoming "their" vocal group more than any other at this time.

Marv Goldberg's - The Clovers

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