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Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter. Issue #11.  Bringing the world of Doo Wop, R&B, Soul and Gospel Harmony to your Inbox.. 

Classic Urban Harmony
Newsletter #11

Welcome to Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter #11.  Summer should be vacation time but we at Classic Urban Harmony are as busy as ever!  We've got the great Philly acappella group Quiet Storm coming to the Franklin Township Public Library for a free concert on July 10.  If you haven't yet signed up you're a little late - even the waiting list is filled up!  Of course we have our quota of multimedia presentations coming up and it even looks like we'll be teaching a once-a-week for five weeks course on group harmony at the Raritan Valley Community College this Fall.  But the big news the number of gospel groups that are volunteering to sing at our September 28 gospel benefit concert in Asbury Park.  Just added to the line up is Frankie Davis, lead tenor of the Golden Gate Quartet (and former lead of the Soul Stirrers) backed by the Mighty Stars of Portsmouth VA.  Lots of other fabulous vocal groups - see the article below. 

We took a few days off from the music last week to relax in Cape May, NJ.  While we were there we went to see Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets (see story below) and thought they were fabulous!  Yes, we know we were supposed to be taking a break from music, but somehow it always finds us.  Lots of other group harmony events this summer.  Check the Events Calendar of www.classicurbanharmony.net for details.  Of course this issue brings news of the loss of more singers.  Just as we were finishing up this newsletter, we were stunned to learn of the passing of Lewis Lymon (see below).  But there's a lot here besides obits - we have some book and CD reviews and our Paul Ressler photo of the issue.  We just passed 85,000 visitors to our website.  Thanks so much for your support.

Classic Urban Harmony LLC promotes the legacy of Rhythm & Blues, Doo Wop, Soul and Gospel Vocal Group Harmony through multimedia presentations, historical research, interviews, magazine articles, museum displays, radio guest appearances, our website, www.classicurbanharmony.net, and this free newsletter.  Here you'll find news of important events relevant to our music as well as updates to our website and summaries of our Classic Urban Harmony activities and projects.  To read more about and see more photos from the articles in this newsletter, check the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.  We hope you'll enjoy this issue of the newsletter and again find it entertaining and informative.  Please continue passing the word on to others who might want to receive it.  They can sign up by sending their names and email addresses to CUH@att.net. - Charlie & Pam Horner - July 10, 2013

Frankie Davis, lead tenor for the world famous Golden Gate Quartet (and former lead of the Soul Stirrers) to sing on our Sept 28 Gospel Concert in Asbury Park, NJ 

Just when we thought our Sept 28 gospel concert in Asbury Park honoring the Missionary Jubilaires and benefiting the Asbury Park Historical Society couldn't get any better, we got a call from our friend Frankie Davis of the Golden Gate Quartet.  In addition to singing with the Paris based Golden Gate Quartet, Frankie previously sang lead for the Soul Stirrers in the 1990's.  Frankie volunteered to sing for us and even bring the Mighty Stars of Portsmouth VA to back him.  You can be sure Frank will be doing a few Sam Cooke numbers in Asbury Park.  Other stars will be King David's Harp from Portsmouth VA, the Spiritual Five from South Jersey, Quiet Storm doing an all acappella set, Brothers In Christ from South Jersey, Asbury Park's own Tyron McAllister and the Sons Of Thunder.  The concert will begin at 7 PM and will be held at the Asbury Park VFW (formerly the Armory) at 701 Lake Avenue (at Bond Street).  Tickets are being printed and will be available soon on the Asbury Park Historical Society website, www.aphistoricalsociety.org.  For more details visit www.classicurbanharmony.net.

Frank Torpey of the Contenders dies. Sang with many Philly Acappella Groups 

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend, Frank Torpey, who died Saturday June 22, 2013, of kidney failure.  Frank was an original member of the Contenders, a Philadelphia vocal group that had a local hit with the song, "The Clock," in 1966.  Click "The Clock" to listen to the song.   Prior to that Frank had sung and recorded with the acappella group, the Lytations.  Over the years, Frank Torpey continued singing acappella in Philly with numerous groups including Reverb, Neighbor's Complaint, Memory Lane, Acappella Gold, and Billy & the Essentials.  He had recently been singing with Doo Wop Depot.  [Thanks to Bob Bosco and to Eddie Natale for letting us know.]

Book Review: The Comedian Harmonists: The Last Great Jewish Performers in Nazi Germany" by Douglas E. Friedman 

The Comedian Harmonists were a German male sextet of the late 1920’s and 1930’s who vocally imitated musical instruments similar to the Mills Brothers while singing in close harmony.  There’s been prior research on this important vocal group, but until now it’s been mostly in the German language.  This book is the first compete and extremely detailed story of the Comedian Harmonists written in English and it tells of the group’s successes and tribulations.  While the Comedian Harmonists were extremely popular, they were persecuted with the rise in Nazism in Germany because three of their members were Jewish.  The book puts the group’s story in context with the politics, anti-Semitism and horrors of Nazi Germany.  This is a very well written, well researched book that will be of extreme interest to people who want to learn about the Comedian Harmonists and their struggles in Nazi Germany.  All profits from this book are being donated to the Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Education Center at Brookdale Community College.  For Pam's full review and a link to where you can purchase a copy, visit the Bookshelf Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.
 

 

Rare Photo from Paul Ressler's Archives:  Bobby Blue Bland & Band at the Apollo Theatre

In view of the passing of Bobby Blue Bland, we thought we'd pick an appropriate photo from Paul Ressler's collection for this newsletter.  These photo collages were taken by a local photographer and sold to the performers.  This one features photos of Bobby Blue Bland and his band performing at Harlem's Apollo Theatre during the week of February 16, 1962.  This part of the Ralph Cooper Show.  Cooper was an actor, dee jay and promoter who had made a name for himself at the Apollo but had not produced a show there in many years.  His return featured singer Bobby Blue Bland and his band, who were hot at the time with “Turn On Your Love Light”.  Also on the show were the Sensations, Corsairs, Angels, Crystals, Edsels, Al TNT Braggs and Aretha’s sister, Irma Franklin.  From the Apollo, Bobby Blue Bland, the Sensations, Corsairs and Crystals moved on to the Royal Theater in Baltimore and the Howard Theater in Washington.  Thanks for another great photo, Paul.  We'll be displaying more photos from Paul Ressler's collection in future newsletters. 

Artifacts from our Vaults

We didn't have to go too far for this newsletter's "Artifact from our Vaults".  We found it on the wall at Classic Urban Harmony Headquarters.  This issue's artifact is a framed numbered print from Kansas City artist, Cindy Alkire.  What makes this artwork so special to us is that it is a painting of the (5) Scamps, Kansas City's most famous R&B and jazz vocal and instrumental group.  We have many 78 RPM records by the Scamps on the Modern Music, Columbia and OKeh labels, but the group remained active for decades.  Our print is #14 of 300 made.

Copyright for Happy Birthday Song Tested in Court

Next time you want to sing "Happy Birthday To You" to someone in a public gathering, you'd better think twice!  At least for the time being anyway.  The song is as old as the hills and most of us assumed it was in public domain, but it isn't.  A class action lawsuit is asking a Federal Court to declare the song public domain and force Warner/Chappell Music, the publishing division of Warner Music group, to return millions of dollars of licensing fees it has collected for reproductions and public performances of the song.  The plaintiff, Good Morning To You Productions, wanted to produce a documentary about the song and faced a $150,000 fine if they failed to pay a $1500 licensing fee.
Songs published before 1923 are supposed to be in public domain and free for all to sing.  The music to "Happy Birthday To You" was first published in 1893 by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, but the lyrics were "Good Morning To You".   Shortly after that, the public started singing "Happy Birthday To You" with the same melody.  Warner/Chappell acquired the copyright in 1998 from a firm that traces its roots back to someone who purchased the copyright from the two sisters in 1893.  The real question is, when were the birthday lyrics copyrighted, if they were copyrighted at all.  Warner/Chappell is reportedly collecting $2 million annually in licensing fees from people wanting to sing "Happy Birthday" in public.  

Classic Urban Harmony Website Turns Five Years Old on August 1, 2013

"Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to..."  Oh!  We guess we'd better not sing that in view of the article above.  But we're proud to announce that www.classicurbanharmony.net turns five years old on August 1.  Many people thought we were crazy to retire from our day jobs and spend the rest of our days working to preserve the legacy of vocal group harmony.  Others said CUH would not last five weeks let alone five years.  But here we are, and our website just passed 85,000 visitors.  So if you want to sing happy birthday to us in the privacy of your own homes, feel free to do so.  Just don't sing too loud. - Charlie & Pam

Save the Dates: Future Classic Urban Harmony Multimedia Presentations Announced

While many of our multimedia presentations on doo wop music are given to private communities, we do a number of presentations each year at libraries and these are usually opened to and free to the public.  If you haven't yet been to our "Under The Street Lamp: Tales From the Doo Wop Era - Part 1" on Sunday October 27, 2013 at the Montville, NJ, Public Library.  We'll also be giving Part 2 at the Hillsborough NJ Public Library on Thursday, August 8, 2013.  Registration is not yet opened but we'll let you know when you can sign up.  Visit the Events Calendar of www.classicurbanharmony.net for the latest details. 

Coming This Fall: Classic Urban Harmony Course on Vocal Groups at Raritan Valley Community College

Could it be that that Classic Urban Harmony is moving into our institutions of higher learning?  Come September we will be giving a two-hour, once a week for five weeks course on the history of group harmony in American popular music.  We'll begin with vocal harmony's roots in spirituals and progress through the Mills Brothers, Golden Gate Quartet, Ink Spots, Ravens and Orioles.  We'll end up with soul harmony groups, but the main emphases will be on the golden age of R&B and Doo Wop - the 1950's.  The course is tentatively slated for Tuesday afternoons at the Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ and is part of the college's Lifelong Learning Institute.  All this is contingent of enough people registering for the course.  We'll have more details shortly. 

Alfonzo Delaney of the Rivileers dies.

Something that got by all of us, Alfonso Delaney, baritone of the Rivileers, passed away in Atlanta GA on March 12, 2013.  Alfonso was the writer and lead on songs like "Hey Chiquita," "Darling Farewell," Carolyn," and "I Want To See My Baby".  The Rivileers, from Queens NY, are best known for their 1953 song, "A Thousand Stars" (Baton label).  Delaney is seen at the far right on the photo above.
 

Past Issues of the CUH Newsletter Now viewable on line

Want to catch up on any past issues of this newsletter that you may have missed? Now you can. Just go to the top of this newsletter and click on "View it in your browser". Then you be able to click on "Past Issues" on the upper left of your screen.

Bill Haley Jr. leads the Comets in a spectacular rocking tribute to his father's music! 

Though we specialize in group harmony, we couldn't miss catching Bill Haley Jr. & the Comets during our recent stay in Cape May NJ.  We never had the opportunity to catch Bill Haley Sr. and the original Comets during their prime, though we have seen them in movies.  We can't imagine a performance of Comets material any closer to the real thing than what we witnessed on July 1, 2013.  The performance ran 90+ minutes, which was long considering the opening act (Jerry Spathis and his Rockabilly Band), ran a similar length.  However, we were mesmerized the entire time.  Bill Haley not only looked and sounded like his father but he took the time to give a detailed history of the Saddlemen and Comets and a brief story before each song.  The group performed just about all the Saddlemen and Comets songs (and sang and played them well) including early Essex label sides like "Real Rock Drive," "Crazy Man Crazy," Rock the Joint," and "Rocket 88".  About the only Decca side they didn't do was "ABC Boogie".  Of course they ended with "Rock Around The Clock" and came back for an encore with "Saints Rock & Roll".  Bill Haley's commentary was accurate, educational and fascinating.  Don't miss this group if you have a chance to see them.  Photo above, left to right:  Bobby Michaels (sax), Mike Denaro (guitar) and Bill Haley Jr. (in blue) watch Christopher Davis Shannon play while balanced on his upright bass.  For more great photos visit the link on the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.  Visit Bill Haley Jr.'s website at www.billhaleyjrandthecomets.com.

Fine New CD Out by the Vic Donna Group

If you are a regular visitor to our website, you know we are big fans of the Vic Donna Group.  Led by veteran recording star Vic Donna, this group amazes us with their talented voices and  intricate acappella harmonies.  A short while ago, the group made a singing appearance on Don K. Reed's Belmonts Internet Radio program.  That acappella performance is captured here, including many of the songs we associate with the Vic Donna Group including "My Heart Tells Me," ""Just For A Thrill," "Been So Long," "You," Don't Make It Too Late," "Rosemarie," "Don't Say Goodnight," "Big Night For Love," "The Gypsy" and "Walking My Baby Back Home".  In addition, the CD contains several bonus tracks like "Rock N Roll Kings," a song recorded back in the day with Vic Donna being backed by the Sparrows.  We're also glad that Vic included the previously unreleased "Let's Get Married In Maryland," a 1960's song that Vic recorded with the Compliments that is seeing the light of day for the first time.  Pick this one up and you won't be disappointed.  It's available on line by clicking CD Baby  where you can hear samples of each song before you decide to purchase. 
 
Quiet Storm's July 10, 2013, Free Concert at the Franklin Township Public Library all filled up.
If you were hoping to attend the July 10 free doo wop acappella concert by the great Philly vocal group, Quiet Storm at the Franklin Township Public Library, 485 DeMott Lane, Somerset, NJ, but did not yet register, you're most likely out of luck.  Space filled up rather quickly and now even the waiting list is filled.  Meanwhile, fans of Quiet Storm (and who isn't) can catch the group singing an all gospel acappella set at our September 28, 2013, benefit in Asbury Park, NJ.  Don't know what Quiet Storm sounds like singing gospel, you say?  Just click "The Last Mile Of The Way" by Quiet Storm.
 

Bobby Blue Bland dies.  Famous Blues and Soul Singer

Noted blues and soul singer, Bobby Blue Bland died on June 23 at his home in Germantown, TN.  He was 83.    Born Robert Calvin Brooks on January 27, 1930, in Rosemark, TN, Bobby took the name Bland from his stepfather.  Bland never went to school and thus never learned to read or write.  After moving to Memphis in 1947, he began singing with a local gospel group.  He soon started hanging out on Beale Street and fell in with the group of musicians called the Beale Streeters that also included B. B. King, Rosco Gordon, Junior Parker and Johnny Ace.  After several unsuccessful recordings, Bland had his first chart record with "Farther Up The Road" (Duke label). which hit #1 on the R&B Charts.  More hits followed including "I'll Take Care Of You," "I Pity The Fool," "Turn On Your Love Light," "Stormy Monday Blues" and "That's The Way Love Is".  Bland was inducted into the Blues hall of fame in 1981 and the Rock & Roll Hall of fame in 1992.  He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.  (Photo courtesy of Paul Ressler.)

Paul Giacalone of the Fireflies dies.

Paul Giacalone, bass singer and drummer of the Brooklyn based group, the Fireflies and writer of their hits, "You Were Mine" and "I Can't Say Goodbye" died Thursday June 27, 2013 in Long Island, New York.  Paul put together a new Fireflies group in the 1990's and continued to sing with them until recently.

Book Review: Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man (The Harold Battiste Autobiography)

"Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man” by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan is the autobiography of New Orleans born composer, producer and arranger Harold Battiste Jr.  Unless you’re deeply into music research as we are, you may not recognize the name but you surely remember such songs as “You Send Me” (Sam Cooke), “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” (Barbara George), “You Talk Too Much” (Joe Jones), “Ya Ya” (Lee Dorsey), “Lipstick Traces” (O’Jays), “It’s All Over Now” (Valentinos) and “I Got You Babe” (Sonny & Cher).  Harold Battiste arranged and/or produced all of them.  We picked up this book on our recent trip to New Orleans, mostly because we were interested in Battiste’s work with Specialty Records in Los Angeles and the AFO label (which he founded) in New Orleans.  [How often do you find a book with a photo of the Blenders on AFO?]  AFO was one of the country’s first African American musician owned and operated record labels.  There are fascinating discussions of the 1950’s New Orleans and Los Angeles music scenes, as well as great stories about the recording of “You Send Me,” Sonny Bono’s early career at Specialty Records and of course Barbara George’s “I Know”.  Much of the book deals with New Orleans jazz and Battiste’s work with Sonny & Cher and while my primary field is R&B and vocal group history, the book never-the-less held my interest from start to finish.  To read our full review and have a link to where you can purchase this book if you desire, visit the Bookshelf Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.

Teenchords' Lewis Lymon dies at age of 69

We are deeply saddened to report the passing of another great figure in our music's history.  Lewis Lymon, lead of the Teenchords died July 9, 2013 at his home in Las Vegas of prostrate cancer.  He was 69.  Lewis was the last of the Lymon brothers, four talented siblings the most famous of whom was Frankie Lymon.  Following in his brother's footsteps, Lewis Lymon became a major star in his own right, recording classic "kiddie lead" songs like "Honey Honey," "I'm So Happy," "Lydia," "Your Last Chance" and "Dance Girl".  The full story of Lewis Lymon can be found on www.classicurbanharmony.net.  Just scroll down the left hand side under "Articles By Us" and click on Richard Barrett Part 5 - Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords.  We'll be posting a tribute to Lewis on our website, with more photos, shortly.  [The photo of Lewis Lymon above was taken by Pam Horner at Cool Bobby B's Las Vegas Doo Wop Weekend in 2007].  [Thanks to Teenagers' Jimmy Merchant for passing on this sad news.]

Furman Haynes dies.  Member of the Deep Tones, Hi-Liters, Sandmen, Bill Langford Quartet, Langfordaires, Stereos

We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Furman Haynes, long time quartet singer with a number of both spiritual and R&B groups.  Furman began singing spirituals with the Deep Tones in NYC in the late 1940's.  The group moved to the Coral label in the early 1950's where they recorded "Just In Case You Change Your Mind" and "Castle Rock".  Furman left the group for a short time, singing with former Golden Gate Quartet member Bill Langford in the Bill Langford Quartet (Langfordaires) and then with the Sandmen, a group that produced Brook Benton.  Furman rejoined members of the Deep Tones when they changed their name to the Hi-Liters and recorded for the Celeste label.  By the late 1950's, the Hi-Liters moved to Oregon and started their own record label, HICO.  HICO produced records by the Hi-Liters and other artists.  For the full story of the HICO label including rare label scans on our website, click HICO LABEL.  The group evolved into the Stereos (Robin Nest label).  Thanks to music historian Bill Proctor for bringing Furman's passing to our attention.

Our Second Classic Urban Harmony Presentation at Leisure Knolls Active Adult Community in Manchester, NJ, Another Success 

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, we gave our "Under the Streetlamp: Tales of the Doo Wop Era - Part 2" multimedia presentation before another enthusiastic audience of close to a hundred residents of the Leisure Knolls community in Manchester, NJ.  This was our second talk there and the event was again sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus Council #10022 of Manchester.  We again had a great time!  Our sincere thanks to Mike Petrillo for arranging to have us give the presentation and to all those who came out to see us.  We hope to be back at Leisure Knolls in the future.  In central NJ, we'll be giving Part 2 at the Hillsborough Public Library on August 8.  See Our Events Calendar at www.classicurbanharmony.net for more details.   

Re-MemberThen excels as Featured Group at NJ Doo Wop Group Harmony Singers Club

The acappella group Re-MemberThen turned in another great performance as featured group at the NJ Doo Wop Group Harmony Singers Club at 6 Deerborn Blvd. in North Brunswick on Sunday, June 23, 2013.  Also appearing were the Coastliners and Still Around featuring guest singers Shelly Buchansky and Warren Tesoro.  As always, we had a great time.  The club meets once a month and is now open to singers, those who want to be singers and those who just want to listen and socialize.  For more photos, visit the link on the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.  For details on the next club get together email Stu Pushkin at doowopstu@hotmail.com.

Correction to the Sal Cuomo article.

In last issue's piece on the passing of Sal Cuomo of the Regents we reported that he was the group's first tenor.  Sal Donnarumma reports to us that Sal Cuomo was actually the regular lead of the group.  He did lead on most of the group's songs, with the exception of "Barbara Ann".  Hope this sets the record straight.

More Details and Photos from the Above Articles on our Website

There's just so much we can fit into one newsletter issue, but many of the articles here are repeated on our website with additional details and photos. To read more visit the "What's New Page" of www.classicurbanharmony.net. And while there, don't forget to visit our other pages, like Our Events Calendar Page, Our Bookshelf, or our section on Articles We've Written.
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