R&B Vocal Groups    page - 3

The Orioles

One of the most influential of all R&B vocal groups, the Orioles are certainly at the top of the list, when it comes to pioneer vocal groups. Formed in Baltimore, and originally known as the Vibranaires, the group featured the cool yet expressive lead voice of Erlington Tilghman (aka Sonny Til). The rest of the original group consisted of Alexander Sharp (1st tenor), George Nelson (baritone & 2nd lead), Johnny Reed (bass), and Tommy Gaither (guitar). Discovered by Deborah Chessler, who became their manager, the Orioles first recording in 1948 of the Chessler penned tune "It's Too Soon To Know" went to #1 on the R&B charts but more importantly crossed over to the pop charts rising to # 13. The group recorded prolificly, and had other major hits with  "What Are You Doing New Years Eve", "I Miss You So" and "Crying In The Chapel". After the original group disbanded, Sonny Til formed other Orioles groups and continued to record until 1981, the year of his death. Today's Orioles feature Bobby Thomas on lead, who had sung with Sonny in the 70's configuration . The group also contains the only surviving original member, bass Johnny Reed.

The Marcels

By 1961, male vocal groups were no longer as prominent on the pop/rock & roll charts. But the Marcels, out of Pittsburgh certainly had the charts rocking with their 1st recording  on Colpix, "Blue Moon". With an over the top bass intro by Fred Johnson, "Blue Moon" is still one of the most widely recognized vocal group "oldies". The rest of the original Marcels included Cornelius Harp (lead), Gene Bricker (2nd tenor), Ron "Bingo" Mundy (1st tenor), and Richard Knauss (baritone). The group continued on Colpix with more standards given their special treatment such as "Summertime", Heartaches", "You Are My Sunshine" and "That Old Black Magic". In 1997, the group is still performing and sounding great with three original members.

The Four Knights

One of the pioneer vocal groups, the Four Knights were considered to be both a refined Gospel group as well as a pop-blues group. The group started in North Carolina as the Southland Jubilee Singers and consisted of Gene Alford (lead), John Wallace ( 2nd tenor & guitar), Oscar Broadway (bass), and Clarence Dixon (baritone). Their first recording "Just In Case You Change Your Mind" was for Decca in 1946. They later recorded for both Capitol & Coral, their biggest hit being "I Get So Lonely"  recorded for Capitol in 1953, and which charted for 24 weeks in 1954.. The Knights also provided fine backup for Nat King Cole on several recordings such as "My Personal Possession" on Capitol in 1957.

The Impalas

Out of Brooklyn NY, the Impalas were one of the first mixed groups. The original group had Joe "Speedo" Frazier on lead, Lenny Renda (2nd tenor), Richard Wagner (baritone), and Tony Carlucci ( 1st tenor). They are best remembered for their 1959 hit on Cub "Sorry, I Ran All The Way Home". The group had other records in the fifties & sixties and made a good recording of "My Hero" in 1982 on the U.G.H.A. label. The Impalas, led by "Speedo", but with different backup personnel, still perform today.

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