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Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter. Issue #19.  Bringing the world of Doo Wop, R&B, Soul and Gospel Harmony to your Inbox..

Classic Urban Harmony
Newsletter #19
 

Welcome once again to our Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter issue (#19).  It's been a little while since our last newsletter, but we told you we'd send out newsletters only when we had something to say.  We believe you'll really enjoy this issue.  It's got something for everyone - Doo Wop, R&B, Gospel, Soul and even Blues!  It's our biggest issue yet. 

Quote of the month:  "Doo Wop is special music to me because it's so straight forward and melody-driven and captures emotions." - Bruno Mars

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, lectures, college courses, concert production and emceeing, vocal group bookings, 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 - March 12, 2014.

Poor condition copy of the Moonglows' "219 Train" sells for $1580.

Who says collecting original label vinyl 45's of R&B vocal groups is dead?  Now, we know that "219 Train" by the Moonglows on the legendary Chance label has always been one of the most sought after R&B singles, commanding as much as $5000 a copy (if you could find one).  Chance released the record in late 1954, just as the Moonglows were leaving the label to record "Sincerely" for their new company, Chess Records.  In fact, the only copies we've ever seen are promotional (radio station) copies on the black and white labels.  The record apparently never made it into the record stores.  But about fifteen bidders recently pushed the final EBay auction price over $1500 for a copy in "poor" condition (see photo above).  We must say, we admire the dedication of a record collector that would bid so high for copy in less than optimal condition.  We guess that after 60 years, all the copies of this record that are going to turn up, already have.  Who knows when a better copy will become available. 

Robert "Big Murph" Murphy of Philly doo wop acappella group, Neighbors Complaint dies.

Robert “Big Murph" Murphy, founder and lead of the great Philly doo wop acappella group, Neighbors Complaint, passed away on February 27, 2014 at the age of 73.  While recuperating from a stroke, he suffered a second stroke. Bob Murphy and Neighbors Complaint were closely associated with Charlie Horner’s radio show in the 1980’s.  There was a time in the early 1980’s when Neighbors Complaint was the hottest club group in Philadelphia.  Their successes served as an inspiration for many of the later acappella groups in Philly.  In 2010 a doo wop mural was unveiled in Germantown, honoring Neighbors Complaint and the Tymes.  The full story of Robert Murphy and Neighbors Complaint is told on our website, through the eyes of Classic Urban Harmony’s Charlie Horner, whose close ties to the group made him an honorary non-singing member of Neighbors Complaint.  To read about Murph and the group and see many previously unpublished photos, flyers plus listen to Neighbors Complaint recordings on YouTube, visit the link on the What’s New Page of  www.classicurbanharmony.net,  [The photo above is of the original Neighbors Complaint in 1980.  Left to right: John Jones, Bob "Bobski" Riley, Harry "Golden Voice Schmitt, Bob Murphy]
 

 

B. B. King's Birthplace Marker Stolen!

What is this world coming to?   The Associated Press has reported that the Mississippi Blues Trail Marker commemorating the birthplace of blues singer B. B. King near Berclair, MS, has been stolen.  The marker, part of a state-wide, self guided, tour of Mississippi's blues legacy, was located in front of a small cluster of trees at the dusty intersection of County Roads 305 and 513.  Now it is gone.  All that is left is a small aluminum base post that it was on.  The marker will cost $8000 to replace.  Stealing the marker was no easy feat.  It weighed 85 pounds and was too large and bulky to fit into most cars.  It's not like the thief could auction it on EBay without being caught, so we must assume it now hangs on some blues collector's wall.  (Group harmony collectors would never stoop to such lowly acts.)  Reports are that the marker will be replaced soon.

 

Fred Parris & Five Satins subject of recent New Haven newspaper article.

It's good to see living icons of our music getting recognition in their home towns.  Fred Parris & the Five Satins were the subject of a recent (March 3, 2014) newspaper article by Mark Zaretsky in the New Haven (CT) Register.  The article is well written and tells the story of the group's biggest hit, "In The Still Of The Night"  To take a look, click "Five Satins".

Soul singer, Percy Sledge, hospitalized with liver cancer but prognosis looks good.

Soul singer Percy Sledge was hospitalized in January 2014 with liver cancer.  The 73 year old Sledge, known for soul hits like "When A Man Loves a Woman," canceled his scheduled participation in the U.K.'s  Legends Of Soul Tour beginning in mid-February.  A spokesman for Percy said that while a cancerous polyp was removed from the singer's liver, Sledge is not dying and expects to resume his singing appearances shortly.

 

New video gives a short tour of Val Shively's legendary R&B Records store in Upper Darby, PA

Anyone who's serious about collecting vocal group records is well familiar with our friend Val Shively's R&B Records in Upper Darby, PA.  Val's been selling records since 1966 and has been a major influence on my [Charlie's] musical tastes.  The Upper Darby store/warehouse has more than 4 million 45's in stock.  Val rarely gives guided tours of his facilities so it's always interesting when a video of R&B Records surfaces.  This one runs two and a half minutes and was produced by Julia Wilkinson.  To watch the video on YouTube, click Val Shively's R&B Records. .Also, check out Val's amazing website, www.valshively.com, from where the above photo was taken.

Anna Gordy dies.  Sister of Berry Gordy, wife of Marvin Gaye.  Owned the Anna label.

Anna Gordy, older sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and wife of Marvin Gaye, die January 31, 2014 at the age of 92.  Anna Gordy, along with her sister Gwen, founded the Anna record label in 1959, that featured such artists as Ty Hunter & the Voice Masters, the Falcons, Joe Tex, a young David Ruffin (before he joined the Temptations) and future Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier (under the name Lamont Anthony).  The label's biggest hit was "Money" by Barrett Strong.  Anna Records also hired a young Marvin Gaye as session drummer.  Gaye, a later member of the Moonglows, was brought to Detroit by Moonglows' lead Harvey Fuqua.  Gaye would later marry Anna Gordy. 

 

Musical benefit being planned for Joel Katz

Joel Katz has sung with more vocal harmony groups than we can count, including the Autumns, the Wizards, the Platinums, the Connotations, Twilight, the Cliftonaires, the Del Satins, Brooklyn Bridge, the Dymensions, the Emotions, the Five Discs, and many more.  He also runs his own recording studio in Fairlawn NJ and has been responsible for numerous group harmony recordings over the past 35 years.  A summary of Joel's career can be seen on his website (click Joel Katz).  Recently, Joel underwent two costly operations for throat cancer and hasn't been able to work for the last three months.  Hal Keshner is working on a musical benefit for Joel.  The date, location and line up has yet to be determined.  Anyone wishing to help should contact Hal at halkmusic@yahoo.com.  Follow the Events Calendar of www.classicurbanharmony.net for more details as we receive them.

 

From Paul Ressler's Archives - Moonglows photo from film "Mr. Rock & Roll"

Each newsletter we try to feature a rare photo from our friend Paul Ressler's extensive archives.  This issue we've chosen a still (photo) of the Moonglows appearing in the 1957 motion picture, Mr. Rock & Roll.  The film starred Alan Freed and featured singing appearances by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, the Moonglows and others.  The Moonglows sang "Barcelona Rock" in the movie.  Thanks, Paul for another great photo!
 

New 3rd Edition Hayes & Laughton Gospel Discography a massive work.  "Must-have" acquisition for serious black gospel research!

We've depended on Cedric Hayes and Bob Laughton's gospel discographies for years now, having purchased Editions 1 and 2 in the past.  Hayes & Laughton are by far the definitive authorities on black post-war gospel artists and we expected this newly published 3rd edition would be monumental.  But it far exceeded even our wildest expectations!  The newly revised and expanded edition is nearly three times larger than the last one.  It comes in two volumes of 8.5X11" two-column small print listings totaling 1500 pages.  Listed alphabetically by artist, each entry includes (when known), singers and musicians names, song titles, matrix numbers, recording dates, label numbers, reissue info and more.  Each entry is cross indexed in a song index, artist index, musician index, singles index (by label), and album index (LP, CD, cassette).  The indexes along take up more than 400 pages!  Now ,we know the two volumes are expensive, but we believe them to be worth every penny and then some.  This incredible two-volume discography is available from Eyeball Productions, Inc.  Click Gospel Discography to be taken to their website.

 

Latest issue of Echoes of the Past magazine (#107) now out.  Includes our article on Tony Talent & the Coalitions, much more!

The latest issue (#107) of Echoes of the Past magazine is now out and it's another great one.  It includes our article on Tony Talent & the Coalitions (hear a YouTube of their soul classic, "Instead How Are You"), plus articles about the Volcanos, the Majestics on the Jordan label, Kitty La Nier, and a lot more.  It's available through subscription only (only $16.99 for 4 issues).  Email Bob Belniak at echoes.past@yahoo.com for details.
 

Take 6 outstanding at Princeton's McCarter Theatre, Febuary 22

Take 6’s innovative blend of intricate harmonies and jazz influenced rhythms have made them one of the most important vocal groups of our time.  They mix gospel, jazz, R&B, doo wop and pop acappella using syncopated rhythms while their harmony is at the forefront.  A gospel group that has had a major influence on the development of hip hop harmony, Take 6 is the most awarded vocal group in history (10 Grammy Awards, 10 Dove Awards, a Soul Train Award, and more) as they continue to celebrate their 25th Anniversary!  The group appeared at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ on February 22 and Classic Urban Harmony was there.  In addition to their familiar gospel selections, a portion of their program was devoted to their roots.  They sang a parody of songs by artists they grew up listening to.  They harmonized songs by Earth Wind and Fire, The Bee Gees, The Doobie Brothers, Ben E. King, and Michael Jackson.  An impression of Michael Jackson including a moonwalk was a lighthearted surprise.  The sextet’s repertoire also included Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”, “Stand by Me”, “Mary Don’t You Weep”, and “Spread Love”.  A doo wop version of “Smile” was pure ecstasy to these harmony fans..  If you're open to all kinds of harmony, give Take 6 a try.  You won’t be disappointed. 
 

Chico Leverett of Satintones dies

Charles "Chico" Leverett, soul recording artist and member of the early Motown doo wop group, the Satintones, died  December 5, 2013, of a stroke at the age of 79.  Leverett first recorded "Solid Sender" for Tamla Records backed by the Rayber Voices in April 1959, prior to the Satintones recordings.  He stayed with the Satintones only through the beginning of 1961 and was not on the last couple records of the group.  Leverett later recorded "Work Work" for the Bethlehem label.

Franny Beecher of Bill Haley's Comets dies

Francis "Franny" Beecher, best known as lead guitarist for Bill Haley's Comets from 1954 to 1962, died February 24, 2014 at the age of 92.  Born in Norristown, PA, on September 29, 1921, Beecher began playing guitar at the age of 17.  He played guitar and recorded with Buddy Greco and then Benny Goodman before joining the Comets.  Beecher first worked with the Comets as a session musician in the Fall of 1954, replacing Danny Cedrone who tragically had been killed in a fall.  It was Cedrone, not Beecher, who played the famous guitar break in the recording of "Rock Around The Clock".  However, when the record later took off, Beecher was the guitarist most people saw and then associated with the record.  Beecher's falsetto voice can be heard introducing "See You Later Alligator".  Beecher also recorded with the Merri-Men on the Apt label.
 

The Pinewood Project: Classic Urban Harmony interviews George Hale of the Southern Hummingbirds and Sister Mattie Wood

If you follow Classic Urban Harmony's newsletter and website, you know we are actively trying to document the history of all the great gospel singers that recorded for Norfolk VA's Pinewood label during the 1960's and 1970's.  While in Portsmouth VA for Rev. Brenda Boone's recent gospel concert, we had the pleasure of interviewing two Pinewood recording artists: George Hale (last surviving member of the gospel group, the Southern Hummingbirds) and Sister Mattie Wood.  We hope to begin a web page on our research soon.  The above photo is of Sister Mattie Wood (front) and Charlie & Pam Horner and Rev. Brenda Boone ( back row).
 

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.

Classic Urban Harmony Website tops 95,000 Visitors

Thanks to all of you who frequent our website, www.classicurbanharmony.net, we have now passed 95,000 visitors on our way to our first 100,000.  Our website count is how we demonstrate to people that vocal harmony still has a sizable following.  Please take the time to visit our site when you can.  We greatly appreciate the support. - Charlie & Pam

Ellise Pauling dies at 82.  Inspiration for song, "Dedicated To The One I Love"

Here's one from the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal that slipped by us a few months back.  Ellise Pauling, wife of the late Lowman Pauling and inspiration for the Five Royales (and later the Shirelles) song, "Dedicated To The One I Love," died on September 24, 2013, at the age of 82.  Ellise met Lowman Pauling at Winston-Salem's Macedonia Holiness Church in 1948 and the two were married three years later.  Lowman was then singing with the Royal Sons Quintet, a gospel group that would evolve into the R&B group, the Five Royales.  .With the Five Royales on the road for most of their career, Ellise was left at home to care for their young son, Darryl.  Feeling the strain of being separated from his wife, Lowman Pauling wrote the words, "While I'm Away From You My Baby, I Know It's Hard For You My Baby, Because It's Hard For Me My Baby, And The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn".  The Five Royales recorded the song for King Records in 1957.  The Shirelles heard the song while sharing the stage with the Five Royales at Philadelphia's Uptown Theatre in 1959, and had an even bigger hit with it in 1961.  "Dedicated..." also was a hit for the Mamas & Papas. To hear the Five Royales recording on YouTube, click "Dedicated".   Lowman Pauling died in 1973.
2014 Portsmouth VA Gospel Concert a Foot-Stomping, Hand-clapping Event!
Rev. Brenda Boone's annual February gospel concerts have become "must attend events" for a growing number of vocal harmony fans.  This year was no exception, as Portsmouth VA's Willet Hall exploded with the non-stop sounds of great gospel harmony for nearly six hours.  Headliners were Luther Barnes & the Sunset Jubilaires, the Jackson Southernaires and Rev. Thomas Rhyant of the Fantastic Violinaires.  But there were plenty of our favorite area vocal groups, too, like Frankie Davis & the Mighty All Stars, King David's Harp, the Gospel Travelers of Garysburg NC, Min. Paul Boone & the Templeaires, Elder Ron Harper & the Harmonizing Echoes (seen in the photo above), the Gospel Disciples, the Word Singers, Elder Doris Pittman & the People Of Praise and of course Rev. Brenda Boone's Higher Praise Community Choir of Hampton Roads featuring Sister Mattie Wood.  There were some nice soloists too.  What a great time.  To read our review and see a few dozen photos from the concert, visit the link on the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.    

Stephen Propes' new book, "Old School: 77 Years of Southern California R&B & Vocal Group Harmony Records 1934 - 2011" a must-have resource.

Stephen Propes knows more about the Southern California R&B & vocal harmony group scene than anyone we know.  It looks like the sum total of his decades of dedicated research and interviews with hundreds of singers has been included in his new book called “Old School:  77 Years of Southern California R&B & Vocal Group Harmony Records 1934 – 2011”.  In 481 pages, the author chronicles over 1400 R&B and vocal group records out of Southern California by more than 850 groups and solo artists.  Each entry, starting with 1934 and running to 2011, contains the group members and musicians, titles, original labels, local and national radio, record store and industry chart positions, and fascinating stories about the records and their artists, taken from the author’s own interviews.  For record collectors, info on the records' scarcity are included.  This massive work is a must have research resource for both music historians and anyone who has an interest in R&B and vocal group music.  We've reviewed this book on the Bookshelf Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net along with a link to Amazon where you can purchase a copy if you wish.  Propes’ last book, “Los Angeles R&B Vocal Groups,” is out of print now and is selling for $200 (well more than its original price).  Grab this one while it’s still available.    
 

USPS plans more stamps commemorating music icons

According to the Washington Post, the USPS is planning on issuing more stamps commemorating icons of popular music.  The 1993 Elvis Presley stamp (seen above)was by far the post office's best selling stamp of all time.  However, the 29 cent denomination has now rendered it all but useless.  There are plans to either reissue the Elvis stamp as a "forever" stamp or redesign a new Elvis stamp for 2015.  Already, a Jimi Hendrix stamp is scheduled for 2014 and a James Brown stamp is scheduled for 2015.  On the drawing board for future years are stamps commemorating Sam Cooke, Willie Dixon, Fats Waller, Freddy Fender, Roy Orbison and Sarah Vaughn.  Of course, if we had any say, there'd be stamps for some of the great vocal groups like the Mills Brothers, Ink Spots, Ravens, Orioles, Five Keys, Johnny Maestro & the Crests, etc.  But then, nobody asked us.
 

 

Legendary Pittsburgh Radio personality, Porky Chedwick dies

     Legendary radio pioneer, Porky Chedwick, died March 2, 2014.  He was 96.  Porky was one of the first white radio disc jockeys to play black popular music (R&B and gospel) to mixed white and black audiences, back in 1948.  He predated Alan Freed by three years.  Chedwick played records from his own collection, and over the years continued playing R&B and doo wop records regardless of when they came out or what the current industry charts reported.  He would turn records over and play the flip sides.  In many ways, he may have been the first "oldies" radio dee jay.  Chedwick was born February 4, 1918 in Homestead, PA.  He began his radio career on August 1, 1948 on WHOD (later to become WAMO).  As R&B became more popular among white teenagers in the 1950's, Chedwick became recognized by the independent record labels who started flooding him with new R&B and R&R releases.  Chedwick was responsible for breaking many classic R&R records.  He also was the first to give exposure to records by many Pittsburgh groups like the Skyliners, Marcels, etc.  It has been reported that he never took payola, though the practice was common with other radio dee jays.
     "While I never met Porky Chedwick personally, I did attend one of the "Porkstock" celebrations of either his 50th or 51st anniversaries including a concert/festival outside of Three Rivers Stadium in either 1998 or 1999.  I recall seeing Bo Diddley, Frankie Ford, Eddie Holman, the El Capris and many other acts.  Porky has made a huge contribution to our music.  We owe him a lot." - Charlie Horner   

 

Tragedy strikes the Chi-Lites: Frank Reed dies.  Marshall Thompson suffers a stroke.

Tragedy has struck one of our favorite soul harmony groups, the Chi-Lites in late February.  Frank Reed, the group's lead singer since replacing Eugene Record in 1988, died suddenly of unreported causes.  He was only 59.  Within 24 hours of hearing the news, original member Marshall Thompson suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in St. Maartin, where he was performing on the Soul Train cruise.  He has since been medivaced to a hospital in Chicago where he reportedly is doing better.  To watch a recent YouTube of the Chi-Lites with Marshall & Frank singing "Have You Seen Her," click Chi-Lites.  [Above photo of Marshall Thompson & Pam Horner in 2009]

The Whiptones to sing the National Anthem at the New York Mets opening game, March 31
 

This just in!  Our friends, the teenage acappella doo wop group from Whippany NJ, the Whiptones, will be singing the "Star Spangled Banner" at the New York Mets' opening game at CitiField, on March 31 at 1 PM.  The Whiptones won the spot from a strong field of competitors who auditioned March 10 at the 2014 NY Mets Anthem Search.  We saw the group highlighted on Fox News, who covered the auditions.  Our congratulations to the Whiptones!  Visit the Whiptones website at www.thewhiptones.com.

Charles Love of the soul group, Bloodstone, dies

Charles Love, founding member of the great soul harmony group, Bloodstone, passed away March 7, 2014, in his home town of Kansas City.  He died of pneumonia resulting from complications of emphysema.  Bloodstone first began singing in their Kansas City MO high school under the name the Sinceres.  They relocated to Los Angeles and then to London before striking it big with the song, "Natural High".  To hear that song on YouTube, click "Natural High".   In 1975, the group wrote most of the songs, financed and starred in their own motion picture called "Train Ride To Hollywood".  The film was a musical comedy and had Bloodstone in a dream sequence as porters on a train with legendary Hollywood actors.  The group sang a number of great doo wop songs like "Sh-Boom" and a sound track LP was released.  I (Charlie) recall seeing the film on cable in 1980 but didn't have a VCR at the time.  I've been trying to find a copy of the film ever since.  To watch a YouTube trailer of the film with great singing scenes by Bloodstone click Train Ride trailer.  Remember, it's a comedy so take it in the spirit it was intended. 



 

Our article on the Golden Bells and Contessas now posted to our website.

Our article on the Golden Bells and Contessas, two groups from New Brunswick, NJ, is now posted in its entirety to our website.  We've even added color scans of the record labels.  The article first ran in Echoes of the Past magazine.  Photo here is of the Golden Bells holding copies of their record on the Sure label.  Since the record now lists for $2000, we bet the group wishes they'd kept these.  To read the article, click the link on the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.
 

Morgan Babb dies.  Gospel DJ, led the Radio Four

Rev. Dr. Morgan Babb, gospel radio DJ and lead of the Radio Four, died February 7, 2014 at the age of 84,  Rev. Babb started the gospel quartet the Radio Four along with his brothers in the 1940's.  In 1954, the group settled in Nashville, recording many outstanding gospel quartet records on the Republic and Nashboro labels.  In addition to their own records, the Radio Four backed other gospel artists like Mdm. Edna Gallmon Cook and Sister Lucile Barbee.  Later, Rev. Babb gave up singing to host a gospel radio program on Nashville's WVOL.  In 1983, he started his own radio station, WMDB.  Babb's radio career spanned 50 years.  In 1965, Rev. Babb founded the King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church in North Nashville, where he continued to preach until his passing.  Rev. Morgan Babb was a major figure in gospel music and in the Nashville community.

Sony Music acquires the world rights to the entire Philadelphia International Records catalog

Sony Music has just announced the acquisition of the entire catalog of Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International RecordsSony previously had the rights to some post-1974 releases.  It now has access to everything and plans some comprehensive box set releases in the near future.  Gamble & Huff started Philadelphia International Records in 1971.  The label has produced many of Philadelphia's most iconic records including ones by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees, Teddy Pendergrass, the O'Jays, Billy Paul, the Jacksons, Lou Rawls, McFadden & Whitehead, the Ebonys and dozens more.

Artifacts From Our Vaults: Mills Brothers Commemorative Coin

This issue's artifact from our vaults is a commemorative coin issued by the Piqua, OH, Public Library in 1990, to honor the famous vocal group, the Mills Brothers who came from Piqua.  We have our friend K.J. O'Doherty to thank for this piece, for he recently donated it to Classic Urban Harmony.  Thanks, K.J.!!!
 

Never-before heard interviews with four remaining members of the Heartbeats to air on Lou Rallo's Big Beat radio show, March 13.

Our friend, Lou Rallo, will be airing never-before heard interviews with four remaining members of the great R&B group, the Heartbeats on his radio program, the Big Beat Show.  Tune in to www.WRSU.org at 7 PM EST (actually Daylight Savings Time) on Thursday March 13, 2014.  If you're not able to listen live, the program will be archived on www.vocalgroupharmony.com one week later.

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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