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Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter. Issue #15.  Bringing the world of Doo Wop, R&B, Soul and Gospel Harmony to your Inbox.. 

Classic Urban Harmony
Newsletter #15

Welcome to another issue (#15) of the Classic Urban Harmony Newsletter.  We send this newsletter out whenever we have enough group harmony news to report.  This issue again contains all the breaking news in our field along with book, film and concert reviews, our regular features and unfortunately, more obituaries.  This time we've added a lot of links for you to hear the records we're talking about in the articles.  As 2013 rapidly approaches its end, Classic Urban Harmony begins to curtail this year's activities and prepare for the coming holiday season.  Don't worry.  We have great plans for 2014, as we continue to push the envelope for what can be accomplished to preserve the legacy of vocal group harmony.  As evidence of that check out the December issue of Echoes of the Past to see our groundbreaking research on vocal harmony out of New Brunswick, NJ.

Quote of the month:  "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything." - Plato

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 - November 14, 2013

Madara & White, MSFB, Jerry Ross among those receiving stars on Philadelphia Music Alliance's Walk of Fame

Johnny Madara and David White, co-writers of "At The Hop," Philadelphia International Records' house band MFSB, the Salsoul Orchestra, John Davis and the Monster Orchestra, Vincent Montana Jr., Gene Shay, Joel Dorn, John Madara & David White, Jerry Ross and Peter Richard Conte were all awarded stars on the Philadelphia Music Alliance's Walk of Fame on South Broad Street.  The ceremony was held on October 24.  David White was previously awarded a star as part of Danny & the Juniors.  We understand that George Frunzi will have a great article on David White in the December issue of Echoes of the Past.  See the article to the right for how to subscribe to Echoes.

Lou Reed, rock pioneer dead at the age of 71.  Started out as a doo wop singer.

Lou Reed, rock music pioneer, lead of the Velvet Underground and soloist with songs like "Walk On The Wild Side" died at his Long Island NY home on October 27, 2013.  He was 71.  Lewis "Lou" Reed was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Freeport, Long Island.   His first record was with the doo wop group, the Jades who recorded "So Blue" / "Leave Her For Me," recorded for the Time label in 1958.  In fact Lou wrote both sides of the record.  If you'd like to hear the Jades record, click Lou Reed Jades and you'll be taken to a YouTube of the record.  Afterward, please return here and finish reading our newsletter, 

 

George Cromwell dies.  Lead of the Boston R&B vocal group the Dappers

We have just been informed of the passing of George "Dapper' Cromwell, lead singer of the Boston, MA, R&B vocal group the Dappers.  George died on October 21, 2013.  The Dappers first recorded "Come Back To Me," a song that Cromwell co-wrote, for the Peacock label in 1955.  The group also recorded for the Epic, Foxie and Massabesic labels.  George Dapper later recorded "My Mothers Eyes" on the Dapper label (presumably his own) as the Uniques featuring George Cromwell.  [Thanks to Eunice and Rich Tulimieri for this item.].  To hear "Come Back To Me" on YouTube, click Dappers.

Renowned Entertainer Billy Vera a hit at NYC's Cutting Room with big band

Music fans are very familiar with the name Billy Vera.  The singer, songwriter, record producer, film and TV actor, radio host and noted music historian is one of the most versatile entertainers around and one of the most knowledgeable scholars of black music.  Vera may be best known for his 1987 hit record, "At This Moment" but his career stretches back to the early 1960's.  While Billy Vera's musical interests are very similar to ours and we have a lot of singer friends in common, our only contact with Billy had been a few traded messages on FaceBook.  Thus, when we heard Billy Vera was going to be singing with a big band at NYC's Cutting Room on November 2, 2013, we quickly purchased tickets.  We arrived early and there was already a line at the door vying for the best tables.  As we expected, the audience contained a number of our music friends including Raoul Cita and Willie Winfield of the Harptones, Tony Middleton and Richie Davis of the Willows, Billy Dawn Smith (writer of most of the Crests' hits), Shelly Buchansky of Vito & Salutations and many more.   The show was fantastic with Tamela D'Amico opening with a few songs and then radio host and jazz expert Bob Porter introducing Billy Vera.  Performing with a full big band, Billy Vera sang songs from his fine new CD, "Billy Vera: Big Band Jazz".  Vera's selections spotlighted black songwriters from the 1920's through the 1950's.  Billy gave a brief history of the songs, who wrote them and who recorded them before singing each selection.  Among the included songs were tunes made famous by Little Willie John, Nat Cole, Savannah Churchill, Louis Jordan, the Spiders, Count Basie and many more.  The show lasted two hours and we could have listened all night.  Afterward we asked Billy about 1962 recording of "My Heart Cries" by Billy Vera & the Contrasts.  Billy was kind enough to autograph the record sleeve for our archives.  We've posted a number of photos to our website that can be reached from the What's New Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.  Also please check out Billy Vera's website, http://billyverabigband.com to read about Billy Vera and hear samples of tracks from the new CD. 

Classic Urban Harmony wraps up Doo Wop course at the Raritan Valley Community College.  A great experience!

We just concluded our five week course on "Spirituals, Rhythm & Blues, Doo Wop & Soul Harmony" at Raritan Valley Community College's Bridgewater Campus.  It was part of the college's Lifelong Learning Program and we had a great time.  Each week we presented an hour-long multimedia presentation (mostly new material), followed by a discussion of relevant music books, websites, shows and current group harmony news.  We covered everything from the originals and development of doo wop singing to groups from Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New Jersey and even group harmony singing around the world.  The feed back from those attending was inspiring.  Thanks to all who attended.  We understand that RVCC has had inquiries from those who heard about the course too late to sign up.  If you missed out on this course, we may do something similar again sometime, though not right away.

Classic Urban Harmony Website passes 90,000 hits!

Our website has recently passed 90,000 hits, on our way to our first 100,000 visitors.  Thanks to all of you for making our site one of the premier websites in the group harmony field.  Please check www.classicurbanharmony.net often to stay on top of all that is happening in vocal harmony. - Charlie & Pam 
 

Chang Lee dies at 88.  Recorded with the DuBarrys.

Domenick "Chang Lee" Roberto of Silver Lake, Belleville, NJ, died on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at the age of 88.  Using the stage name Chang Lee (sometimes Sonny Lee), Roberto had been a popular entertainer in the Newark NJ area since the late 1940's.  In the mid-1950's he formed the variety troupe Chang Lee & the Zani-Acts featuring the Yum Yum Girls.  Lee was sometimes backed on stage and on record by the vocal group the DuBarry's, a group that also began in the forties, sounding like the Mills Brothers.  Chang Lee & the DuBarrys recorded for the Jamison label.  Notable members of Chang Lee's Zani-Acts at various times included future actor Joe Pesci and former Four Lovers' member, Hank Majewski.  In the Zani-Acts photo above, Chang Lee is in the center, Joe Pesci is second from the left.  To hear a YouTube of Chang Lee & the DuBarry's record click Chang Lee.

Al Johnson, lead of the soul vocal group, the Unifics, dies at 65.

Al Johnson, the lead singer of the 1960s rhythm and blues vocal group the Unifics, died Oct. 26, 2013.  He was 65.  Johnson had a heart attack during treatment for a colon infection.  Al Johnson was born in Newport News, VA in 1948. He attended Howard University in Washington DC where he co-founded the soul vocal group, the Unifics.  Johnson sang lead on "Court Of Love" which reached #3 on the R&B Charts.  The follow up, "The Beginning Of The End" reached #9 on the R&B Charts.  Al Johnson also sang with another DC group, Terry Huff & Special Delivery.   He later moved into songwriting and producing, working with the Whispers, Dells, Roberta Flack and others.

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.

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.

New Brunswick, NJ, R&B Vocal Harmony our latest area of research!

While we've been researching the history of R&B vocal groups from all over the country, we've been neglecting the vocal harmony legacy of groups just a stone's throw from Classic Urban Harmony Headquarters.  So many groups, so little time!  It turns out, New Brunswick, NJ, has had a rich harmony history and that is our latest area of research.  Record collectors know that the Golden Bells' "Bells Are Ringing" on the Sure label sells for $3000 but did you know the group is from New Brunswick?  You may be aware of that great female group record "Just Love Me" by the Contessas but is your copy on a dark blue label WGW label (the first press).  Read about the Golden Bells (pictured above) and the Contessas in the next issue of Echoes of the Past, due out in December.  If you don't currently subscribe to Echoes, it's only $16.99 for a year subscription (4 issues).  For details, email Bob Belniak at echoes.past@yahoo.com.  Tell Bob you heard about the magazine from our newsletter.  To hear the New Brunswick groups mentioned above, click Golden Bells and Contessas

Doc Pomus Documentary a Must See Film

You may not know the name Doc Pomus, but you certainly know his songs - "Save The Last Dance For Me," "I Count The Tears," "This Magic Moment," "True Love True Love," "Sweets For My Sweet" (Drifters), "Teenager In Love" (Dion & Belmonts), "Hushabye" (Mystics), "Let's Kiss & Make Up" (Crowns), "Young Blood" (Coasters) and a hundred more.  Doc Pomus was crippled by polio at the age of six but went on to become a blues singer and highly successful songwriter.  The documentary, AKA Doc Pomus, tells his inspirational life story with song clips, rare photos and taped interviews of Doc Pomus and many who knew him.  Since Pomus' life was intertwined with the birth and growth of Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll, this makes for a fascinating film.  This documentary has only been running in select locations so watch your local movie theater listings.  We had to drive an hour to Asbury Park to catch it.  If you miss the film, we suggest you read the book (reviewed below).  Many of you will want to read the book as a result of seeing the film.  To watch a trailer from the documentary, click AKA Doc Pomus
Doc Pomus biography, "Lonely Avenue," one of the best reads ever!
Coincidentally, I happened to be reading the biography of Doc Pomus when I heard about the documentary (see above).  Now, Doc Pomus died in 1991 and this biography came out in 2007.  Pam and I have a lot on our plate and it sometimes takes me a while to get around to reading everything that's coming out.  Anyway, I ordered Alex Halberstadt's "Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times Of Doc Pomus" on line a couple months ago.  When I received it, the binding on my copy was poorly done making the pages harder to turn  and I was tempted to return it.  Something told me to keep the book and read it and I'm glad I did.  This was one of the best books I've ever read and I read a lot.  With the help of Doc Pomus' detailed personal journals, this true story reads like a novel.  It is fascinating, inspirational and emotional.  Above all it gives tremendous insight into heart and mind of one of the more important figures in the development of R&B and R&R music.  Pomus' life was a constant struggle to overcome both his physical limitations and personal demons.  This is a captivating book that you won't want to put down." - Charlie Horner.  To read a more detailed review and find a link to order a copy, visit the Bookshelf Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.   

From Paul Ressler's Archives - Mystery photo of the Challengers

Each newsletter we try to feature a rare photo from our friend Paul Ressler's extensive archives.  This time we've included an old photo marked "The Challengers".  Is this a photo of the mid-fifties West Coast vocal group, Walter Ward & the Challengers, who would later become the Olympics?  They recorded "I Can Tell" for the Melatone label.  Or maybe it's the Challengers who recorded "Troubles At End" for the Debonair label?  Of course, it might be a completely different Challengers who didn't record at all.  Does anybody know?  We'll be featuring more items from Paul Ressler's archive next issue.  Thanks, Paul!

Classic Urban Harmony's Montville Township (NJ) Public Library multimedia presentation another success.

Classic Urban Harmony's Sunday, October 27, 2013, multimedia presentation at the Montville Township (NJ) Public Library was another great success.  Montville's giant electronic screen really brought to life our "Under The Streetlamp: Tales From the Doo Wop Era" presentation.  The Q&A session at the end was one of the longest and most interesting we've had.  What a knowledgeable audience!  Thanks to all who came out.  While this is our last presentation of the year, we're planning some great new events for 2014.  Follow our activities on the Events Calendar Page of www.classicurbanharmony.net.

Colly Williams dies.  Lead of the Philadelphia-based Doo Wop group, The Students

We are sad to report the passing of Colly Williams, lead of the Philadelphia-based vocal group, the Students.  Best known for their recording of "Mommy & Daddy" / "My Heart Is An Open Door" (Red Top label, 1957), Colly Williams also sang with the later soul group the Camotions ("Sonny," La-Ro-Ke label) and the Prizes (Parkway label) as well as having a solo career (Poplar label).  The Colly Williams record on Ry-An is reportedly not by him.  [Thanks to Dave Brown for this item.]  To hear "My Heart Is An Open Door" on YouTube, click Students.

Gloria Lynn dies at 83. Legendary jazz singer, sang with the Dell-tones early in her career.

Jazz singer Gloria Lynn died of a heart attack at the age of 83 on October 15, 2013 in Newark, NJ.  Born Gloria Wilson in Harlem in 1929, Gloria sang in her church choir and won the Wednesday night amateur contest at the Apollo Theatre at the age of 15.  She married Harry Alleyne and later shortened her stage name to Gloria Lynn.  Gloria Lynn joined the all female quintet, the Dell-Tones in 1953 [Members of the Dell-Tones had previously recorded as the Enchanters.]  Gloria sang on the Dell-Tones records on the Brunswick and Rainbow labels.  She's leading the group on "Yours Alone" (Brunswick 84015).  In the summer of 1954 Gloria left the Dell-Tones to go solo.  She'd eventually find fame as a jazz singer.  To hear "Little Short Daddy" (the flip of the record pictured above) click Dell-Tones.  Sorry, Gloria is not singing lead on this one.

Artifacts from our Vault: 1934 poster of the Mills Brothers at the London Palladium

This issue's artifact comes right from the wall of Classic Urban Harmony Headquarters.  It's a poster from the Mills Brothers first appearance at the London Palladium during the week of May 14, 1934.  That was the very week that the show had a command performance for the King and Queen of England.  Charlie once asked Donald Mills what was the most memorable moment of his 75 year show business career.  Donald replied, "The London Palladium in 1934.  We came out on stage and I looked up at the box on one side and there were the King and Queen of England.  Then I looked up at the box on the other side and there was my mother!"  The poster is on thin paper and is one of two known copies.  The copies survived in perfect shape when one of the less known performers rolled up a couple copies in 1934 and passed them down through his family. 

NYC's historic Roseland Ballroom closing end of April 2014.  It's truly an end of an era.

NYC's historic Roseland Ballroom will be shutting its doors forever at the end of April 2014.  The ballroom was first built in Philadelphia in 1917 and moved to a new building at 51st and Broadway in New York City in 1919.  In January 1957, Roseland moved again to a former ice skating rink at 239 West 52nd Street.  There it is still operating today, though not for long.  Three years short of its one hundredth birthday, Roseland Ballroom will be no more. 
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