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- 1991: One Summer Night
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A weblog for all who like the music from the fabulous fifties, sixties, revival rockabilly and psychobilly
Dante had promised "Tracy"'s songwriters, Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, that if the song was a hit he would record an entire Cuff Links album and when it charted, Vance and Pockriss quickly delved through their catalogue to produce more songs. Dante said: "It was the quickest album I'd ever done. I think I did the entire background vocals and leads in a day and a half – for the entire album. I remember doing at least four or five songs in one day." To speed the project, Vance and Pockriss hired novice arranger Rupert Holmes to work on the album, which including the second hit, "When Julie Comes Around", which peaked at No. 41 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart.
As the album was being completed, Vance and Pockriss created a seven-member touring band, comprising Pat Rizzo (saxophone), Rich Dimino (keyboards), Bob Gill (trumpet/flugelhorn/flute), Dave Lavender (guitar), Andrew "Junior" Denno (bass), Joe Cord (vocals) and Danny Valentine (drums).
Dante opted not to tour with the group, having accepted a solo album recording contract by Archies creator Don Kirshner that excluded any more outside work. When he called Vance to obtain his royalties for the first album, Vance refused to pay up unless Dante recorded a second album. The dispute was settled only after a personal confrontation at Vance's office and Vance erased Dante's vocals from his final song, "Run Sally Run" and replaced them with Cord's. It was the last Cuff Links single to chart, reaching No. 76 in April 1970.
Cord's vocals appeared on only a few tracks on the second Cuff Links album, The Cuff Links, with most songs featuring Holmes.
The Cuff Links name was later revived for unsuccessful singles on the Atco and Roulette labels.In 1999 singer-songwriter Michael "Valentine" Ubriaco obtained the touring rights to the Cuff Links name and revived the group for live performances. That band includes original guitarist Dave Lavender and still tours.
"Tracy" / "All the Young Women" / "Heather" / "Early in the Morning" / "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" / "Lay a Little Love On Me" / "When Julie Comes Around" / "I Remember" / "Sweet Caroline" / "Where Did You Go?" / "Sally Ann (You're Such a Pretty Baby)"
"Robin's World" / "Thank You Pretty Baby" / "Jennifer Tomkins" / "Down in Louisiana" / "Mister Big (Oh What a Beautiful Day)" / "The Kiss" / "Foundation of Love" / "Bobbie" / "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" / "Run Sally Run" / "Afraid of Tomorrow"
Their first hit was 1961's "There's No Other (Like My Baby)" (see 1961 in music). Originally the B-side to "Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby" (featuring Wright on lead), the wistful gospel-pop ballad (co-written by Spector and Leroy Bates, with Barbara Alston on vocals) reached number 20 in the Billboard chart, registering as an auspicious debut for Spector's Phillies label.
Brill Building songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "Uptown" gave the girls their second radio hit. Ethnically flavoured with flamenco guitar and castanets, the more uptempo "Uptown" featured Alston once again emoting convincingly over a boy, though this time with class issues woven into the story. After the success of "Uptown", a pregnant Girard was replaced by Dolores "LaLa" Brooks.
The touchy subject matter of the next single — 1962's "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and sung by Alston) — resulted in limited airplay, never reaching Billboard's Hot 100. The track enjoys a cult following.Soon after "He Hit Me" flopped, Phil Spector began recording singer Darlene Love and her backing group The Blossoms under the name "The Crystals". Legend has it that the real Crystals were not able to travel from New York to Los Angeles fast enough to suit the LA-based Spector, who wanted to quickly record writer Gene Pitney's "He's a Rebel" before anyone else could release a version. The Crystals were unavailable, but Love and the Blossoms were also based in L.A., so Spector recorded and released their version under The Crystals' banner. (Other sources claim that Spector's haste in recording the track was simply because he was enthusastic about the song, and that he was unaware of any competing versions—despite the fact that Vikki Carr
was recording "He's a Rebel" nearly simultaneously with Spector.)
The song ("He's a Rebel") had originally been offered to The Shirelles, who turned it down because of the anti-establishment lyrics. It marked a shift in girl group thematic material, where the singer loves a "bad boy", a theme that would be amplified by later groups (especially The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack").
"He's a Rebel" is perhaps the Crystals' best-remembered song, and one of the most enduring of the girl group genre. It was also their only US #1 hit. Their follow-up single, "He's Sure the Boy I Love", in actuality also featured Love and The Blossoms. It reached #11 on the Billboard chart, and features a classic spoken intro by Darlene Love.
The next single credited to The Crystals is one of the rarest—and also possibly the strangest—in rock music history. Reports vary as to the actual motivation behind the recording, but most agree that Phil Spector was looking for a way to annoy former business partner Lester Sill. What he came up with was a nearly six-minute song called "Let's Dance The Screw - Part I", which would have been unplayable on 1963 radio. The record featured simple instrumentation (very much unlike Spector's famous Wall of Sound production style), repetitive lyrics, and Spector himself intoning the lyric "Dance The Screw" numerous times in a deadpan monotone. (The B-side, Part II, was more of the same but played much more slowly.) The Crystals sang the song's repetitive verses, though it is unclear if these singers were the 'real' Crystals or The Blossoms. Incidentally, some accounts mention that Spector's lawyer is actually the man intoning "Dance The Screw."The recording was never released commercially as a single, and only a few copies are known to exist (all marked "D.J. COPY - NOT FOR SALE"). The record was apparently only created to be a bizarre sort of joke at Sill's expense, who was soon to leave the Philles label, as a single copy was specially delivered to him in early 1963. Both parts of the song have since been released on CD.
Though it is unclear as to the level of their participation in "Let's Dance The Screw", the 'real' Crystals definitely began recording again under their own name in 1963. However, Thomas had departed to get married, only to join another mildly successful group, The Butterflys, along with another original Crystal, Myrna Girard. This reduced the group to a quartet with Barbara Alston on lead. Alston, known for her shyness and stage fright, was never comfortable with being out front, stepped down from the lead spot giving it to Brooks. According to Brooks, she had been doing Alston's leads in their live shows for a while.
After "Let's Dance The Screw", the group's next release was the classic "Da Doo Ron Ron". According to Darlene Love, the track was originally recorded by The Blossoms, with Love on lead vocal. Prior to release, Spector erased Love's lead vocal and replaced it with a vocal by LaLa Brooks, although he kept the Blossoms' backing vocals in place. Cher also featured on backing vocals. Allegedly, Spector erased Love's lead vocal after she had asked for a contract instead of simply receiving session fees. The song was a top 10 hit in both the US and the UK, as was the follow-up single "Then He Kissed Me", the first Crystals single since "He Hit Me" to feature all members of the Crystals as a definite group.Despite the steady flow of hit singles, tensions between Spector and the Crystals mounted. Already unhappy with having been replaced by Love and the Blossoms on two singles, The Crystals were even more upset when in 1964, Spector began focusing much of his time on his other girl group The Ronettes. As well, there were disputes about royalties, with The Crystals feeling that Spector was withholding royalty money that was owed to them.
Two failed Crystals singles followed before the band left Spector's Philles RecordsUnited Artists Records later in 1964. "Little Boy", which reached #92, was a Wall Of Sound production that was layered multiple times, which meant that the vocals were hard to distinguish from the music. "All Grown Up,", their final Philles single, (of which two versions exist) only reached #98. for
1964 also saw the departure of Wright who was replaced by Frances Collins, a dancer who they had met while touring; toward the end of that year Alston departed leaving the group a trio. As a trio, they recorded two singles for United Artists, "My Place" and "You Can't Tie a Good Girl Down". One more single was released by Barbara, Dee Dee and Mary on the tiny Michelle Records in 1967 ("Ring-a-Ting-a-Ling") and they disbanded in 1967 (see 1967 in music). They reunited in 1971 (see 1971 in music) and still perform today. Kenniebrew is the only original Crystal who remained active throughout their touring from the seventies to the present. Dee Dee carries on The Crystals legacy by performing with Patricia Pritchett-Lewis (Member since 2005) and Melissa MelSoulTree Antoinette (Member since 2002).
Discography standard albums
9 of the 12 tracks on "He's A Rebel" had also appeared on "Twist Uptown"
Discography compilations albums
They were discovered at Apollo Theater's Wednesday night talent show by talent agent Cliff Martinez, and brought to independent producer George Goldner who had just set up tiny new indepent Rama Records label. The Crows were the first group signed and the first to record. The first songs they recorded were as back-up to singer and tenor Watkins. The song "Gee" was the third song recorded during their first recording session, on February 10, 1953. It was put together in a few minutes by group member, William Davis, with Viola Watkins also being credited as co-writer.
The song was first released as the B-side of a ballad, "I Love You So". However, radio stations began turning it over and playing "Gee", first in Philadelphia and later in New York and Los Angeles. By January 1954 it had sold 100,000 copies, and by April entered the national R&B and pop charts, rising to # 2 R&B and # 14 pop. The song was a huge hit a year after it was recorded.The Crows were a one-hit wonder. While "Gee" was on the charts, the record company released a number of other singles by the group, including "Heartbreaker", "Baby", and "Miss You", but none were successful. Their failures and the inability to perform regularly to support their recordings led to the breakup of the group a few months after "Gee" dropped off the Hit Parade. They maintained the original line up for the entire career of the group, with no hope for a reunion following the deaths of Gerald Hamilton in the 1960s, and Daniel Norton in 1972.
The band was founded by J. T. Carter and included Talmoudge Gough, Harold Torres, and Patricia Van Dross (older sister of R&B great Luther Vandross). Carter selected vocalist Johnny Mastrangelo (later just Johnny Maestro) to perform as lead vocalist for the group. Maestro's vocal style on the group's recordings became instantly recogizable and a juke box favorite of the national teen audiences. Maestro's quality vocals, great song selections, and recordings with dance-easy beats made the winning combination for charted hits. The group had several Top 40 hits in the 1950s on Coed Records, including "Sixteen Candles," "A Year Ago Tonight," "Trouble in Paradise," "Six Nights a Week," "Step By Step," and "The Angels Listened In". They also charted with "Sweetest One" (Joyce label) and "Guilty" (Selma label). The Crests appeared and performed several times on national teen dance television shows in the late 1950s.
Maestro left for a solo career in 1960. He would later join The Del Satins, which would become Brooklyn Bridge. They had a Top 40 hit with "The Worst That Could Happen" in 1968. His place was taken by new lead James Ancrum. The group recorded a new single, "Little Miracles." It was the first single not to chart in the top 100. Gough quit the group after the single, and was replaced by Gary Lewis (not the same as Gary Lewis & the Playboys). The group failed to find success throughout the decade.
Van Dross and Torres would also be gone by the late 1960s. The group continued as a trio of Carter, Ancrum, and Lewis. This lineup continued until 1978, when the group split. Carter went on to sing with Charlie Thomas' Drifters.
Carter then reformed the group in 1980. He auditioned over 200 singers, finally settling on lead Bill Damon, Greg Sereck, and Dennis Ray and New York drummer Jon Ihle. Carter continued the group well into the 1990s. He sold the trademarks to the Crests name to Tommy Mara in the late 1990s. Mara was Carter's lead vocalist at the time, and now continues the group without Carter. Carter now performs as part of the three person group Starz. Lewis is now singing with The Cadillacs.
The 1984 John Hughes teen movie, Sixteen Candles, took its title from The Crests' song, which was re-recorded by The Stray Cats for the Sixteen Candlessoundtrack.Johnnie Maestro and his later group, The Brooklyn Bridge, continue to perform and appear at show dates, primarily at East Coast venues.
Robert Young wrote most of The Counts songs, such as "Hot Tamale" and "Darling Dear". Their smash hit "Darling Dear" moved into the top ten R&B charts in 1954. The hit song made it to #6 in the nation. The Counts signed with Dot Records in 1954 while still teenagers. All members attended Crispus Attucks High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, while the band formed.