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Vintage Harmony Groups

In the pre- and post-WWII era, the term “popular” music took on a whole new meaning. Performing groups of that age were some of the first to have the mass commercial appeal the current generation is so accustomed to their stars having. And these vintage harmony groups deserved their status! They inspired generations of close harmony groups to emulate their sound, and current groups owe much of their history to these exquisite, talented singers who paved the way for them. Explore the history, and enjoy it, too. Consider these recordings museums on CD!

Displaying 51 - 64 of 64 items.


Pied Pipers

Originally consisting of eight members, The Pied Pipers had their greatest success after nearly half of the members left the group. The remaining Pipers (Billy Wilson, Chuck Lowry, Jo Stafford, and her then-husband John Huddleston) joined the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1939, backing Sinatra on many classic recordings. In 1942 The Pied Pipers broke away from Dorsey, and Huddleston joined the army, to be replaced by Hal Hopper, one of the original eight members. The group backed Johnny Mercer on several tracks during the early 40s, including "Candy" and "Blues in the Night." Their first single ("Deacon Jones"/"Pistol Packin' Mama") was released in 1943. Stafford had become quite busy with her solo career and left the group in 1944, to be replaced by June Hutton. Throughout the rest of the decade The Pied Pipers charted frequently, yet their popularity waned in the '50s.


Platters

One of the leading R&B vocal groups of the 50s, they were the first black group to be accepted as a major chart act and, for a short time, were the most successful vocal group in the world. The Platters were formed in Los Angeles in 1953 by entrepreneur/songwriter Buck Ram (21 November 1907, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 1 January 1991). Through his ownership of the Platters' name, Ram was able to control the group throughout their career, and his talent for composing and arranging enabled the Platters to make a lasting impression upon popular music. Their original line-up, Tony Williams (b. 5 April 1928, Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA, d. 14 August 1992, New York, USA; lead tenor), David Lynch (b. 1929, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, d. 2 January 1981; tenor), Alex Hodge (baritone) and Herb Reed (b. 1931, Kansas City, Missouri, USA; bass), recorded unsuccessfully in 1954, precipitating the arrival of two new members, Paul Robi (b. 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 2 January 1989), who replaced Hodge, and Zola Taylor (b. 18 March 1934, Los Angeles, California, USA, d. 30 April 2007, Riverside, California, USA; contralto). Signed to Mercury Records, the Platters secured their first hit in 1955 when 'Only You' reached the US Top 5, an effortlessly light performance that set the pattern for subsequent releases, including 'The Great Pretender', 'My Prayer' and 'Twilight Time', each of which reached number 1 in the US charts. 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' (previously a hit for Paul Whiteman in 1934), which was an international number 1 hit single in 1958-59, highlighted their smooth delivery and arguably remains the group's best-loved release.


Ray Charles Singers

Ray Charles is the stage name of Charles Raymond Offenberg (born September 13, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois), an American musician, songwriter, and vocal conductor. He is best known for a series of easy listening record albums which he produced in the 1950s and 1960s as the Ray Charles Singers. This vocal group also sang backup on most of the recordings of Perry Como from 1950 to 1987, and Charles and his singers also appeared with Como in his live performances and on television. The Ray Charles Singers (with Charles featured prominently as lead male vocalist) sang the theme song to the television series Three's Company ("Come and Knock on Our Door"). He is sometimes known humorously as "The Other Ray Charles" to distinguish him from the great soul musician of the same name.


Ray Conniff Singers

Ray Conniff was born on November 6, 1916, in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Ray was exposed to music at an early age, his father was the leader/trombonist of the local Jewelry City Band and his mother played the piano. As a junior in Attleboro High School, Ray and some of his buddies decided to start a dance orchestra. Taking some musical tips from his father, Ray started practicing trombone and wound up playing first trombone for the band. It was for this group that Ray did his first arrangement, his fellow musicians loved his interpretation of "Sweet Georgia Brown."

Ray survived in the music business for over 65 years, he recorded over 100 albums and sold over 70 million albums, cassettes and CD's. He was the proud recipient of a Grammy Award for his recording of "Somewhere My Love", two Grammy nominations, over 10 gold albums, 2 platinum albums ("Somewhere My Love" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"), CBS Records-Best Selling Artist for 1962 Award and countless international awards. On 12th October 2002 Ray Conniff passed away in San Diego.


Revelers

Wilfred Glenn (1881-1970) had an astonishing vocal range of some two and a half octaves from C below the bass clef to F sharp. A product of pioneer stock from San Francisco, he came to New York and within five years had made 800 recordings on many labels from RCA Victor to Brunswick and Columbia, among others. His early career was marked by performances in oratorio and concert (Handel, Verdi, Wagner) from Carnegie Hall, to the New York Philharmonic and concert halls across the country, and he later also performed on Broadway. He was a founding member of the Revelers and had previously performed with other groups including the Shannon Four, the Singing Sophomores and the Merrymakers, among others. His performances in the primacy of radio made him into a national figure and later, when the Revelers made multiple tours of Europe, into an international star.


Royal Counts

Jersey based group from the 60's had a loyal following in the area but never enjoyed the national success they desereved. Combining elements of doo-wop and soul, the Royal Counts were produced by Relic Record's Stan Krause, as were his later discovery, the Persuasions, and the sound of the two groups is similar.


Singers Unlimited

The Singers Unlimited were born out of a strange combination of stark commercialism and rare innovation that somehow yielded some pretty high art. Gene Puerling was the vocal arranger as well as a singer with The Hi-Lo's, and later moved into jingle singing and arranging in Chicago. Don Shelton had been a Hi-Lo as well, and joined Puerling in the commercial field. Along the way they joined with Len Dresslar (the voice of the Jolly Green Giant) and vocalist/voiceover artist Bonnie Herman. This led to the formation in 1967 of a ready-to-go jingle-singing quartet. Then Puerling began experimenting with the new technology of multi-track recording, and the Singers expanded their four voices into eight, twelve, sixteen, and later into practically a hundred or more! The Singers produced around 15 LP's in the period between 1971 and 1981.


Sons of the Pioneers

It's amazing - even today the Sons of the Pioneers are still mesmerizing long-term fans and creating new ones. They still have sell out crowds and standing ovations. New fans are attracted by the current members' musical ability, by their songs which haunt you long after the concert and by the mystique of the great American West. "It's not something that is connected to hit records and charts and fads. It's just an eternal interest in the American West and they sing about it beautifully and it's written beautifully and that's something that just will never go out of style." as summed up by Doug Green.

Hometown: Branson, MO


Soul Stirrers

The first Soul Stirrers 78 to feature Cooke, "Jesus Gave Me Water," was a major hit, and with his good looks the young singer made an instant impact with female audiences, in the process becoming the gospel circuit's first sex symbol. The group's popularity continued to soar, but as the Soul Stirrers entered their third decade, the daily grind began to wear on its members, and soon Bruster retired; he was replaced by baritone Bob King, who also doubled as a guitarist, becoming their first-ever steady instrumentalist. In 1954, the Soul Stirrers briefly added Julius Cheeks to their roster; after lending his raspy vocals to a recording of "All Right Now," however, contractual obligations forced him to exit almost as quickly as he arrived. In 1956, Cooke finally crossed over to the pop market, and was replaced by ex-Highway QC Johnnie Taylor; while Taylor himself would also enjoy pop success in the years to follow, he failed to command the same devotion as his predecessor. Lineup changes continued regularly in the years to follow, but the Soul Stirrers forged on, with new, younger members keeping the group afloat into the 1990s.


Staple Singers

The Staple Singers were an American gospel, soul, and R&B singing group. Roebuck "Pops" Staples (1914-2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (b. 1934), Pervis (b. 1935), Yvonne (b. 1936), and Mavis (b. 1939). They are best known for their 1970s hits "I'll Take You There", "Respect Yourself", and "Let's Do It Again".

The family began appearing in Chicago-area churches in 1948, and signed their first professional contract in 1952.(1) During their early career they recorded in an acoustic gospel-folk style with various labels: United Records, Vee-Jay Records, Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965. While the family surname is "Staples", the group used the singular form for its name, resulting in the group's name being "The Staple Singers".


Swallows

Collectors have made the Swallows one of the most beloved of R&B groups. Their haunting ballads and risque up-tempo novelties are perennial favorites. The origin of The Swallows goes back to 1946, when a bunch of 13-year-olds from Baltimore formed a group called the "Oakaleers." The members were: Lawrence Coxson (lead tenor), Irving Turner (tenor and baritone), Earl Hurley (first and second tenor and bongos), Norris "Bunky" Mack (bass, piano, guitar, and drums), and another tenor named Gavin. They were thus a self-contained unit in terms of vocals and instrumental accompaniment.

The Oakaleers practiced on street corners for a couple of years. Then, around 1948, they ran into a couple of guys who also sang on the corner: Eddie Rich (first tenor) and Frederick "Money Guitar" Johnson (baritone and guitar). (Rich and Johnson were childhood friends and eventual brothers-in-law.) Interestingly, Johnson, a lefty, taught himself to play a right-handed guitar held upside down.


Swan Silvertones

The greatness of a vocal group depends on demonstrated influence on quartets that have followed them. No where is that clearer than with the Swan Silvertones and their famous lead singer, the Reverend Claude Jeter. Jeter's use of a falsetto lead revolutionized the way we think of vocal harmony. In more than sixty years of singing, the Swan Silvertones excelled in vocal harmony and set the stage for countless groups that came after them.

Their radio show and live appearances made the Swan Silvertones one of the most popular quartets in the south. In July 1946, the Swan Silvertones were given some time off from their radio show to record for King records in Cincinnati. The group now consisted of Claude Jeter (lead), Albert Reed (tenor), Solomon Womack (baritone), John Myles (baritone) and William Johnson (bass singer and guitar). In contrast to Jeter's falsetto lead, Womack was added to the group to provide a hard, gospel lead.


The Coasters

From 1956 to 1961, the Coasters released a string of classic singles that reflected the life of the American teenager with keen wit and hot, rocking harmonies. Invariably those songs were written, produced and arranged by the duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The union of a black vocal group with two Jewish songwriters was one of the most propitious in rock history. Leiber and Stoller's witty, street-smart "playlets" were sung with sly, clowning humor by the Coasters and accompanied by the hot, honking "yakety sax" of King Curtis. The Coasters' parlayed their R&B roots into rock and roll hits by delivering Leiber and Stoller's serio-comic tunes in an uptempo doo-wop style. Beneath the humor the songs often made incisive points about American culture for those willing to dig a little deeper.


Tokens

The Tokens are well-known for one giant hit song that they put on the charts in late 1961, and the members of the group continued on in the music business in various capacities following the success of that hit.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight, also known as Wimoweh, is a Zulu song that had been sung by a tribe in South Africa. There are indications that the song originated with Solomon Linda, who wrote it as Mbube and had a hit with it on Gallotone Records in South Africa, in 1939. The Weavers recorded it as Wimoweh before the Tokens picked up on it and recorded their own spirited version of the song for RCA in 1961.

Following the success of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, the Tokens put nine more songs in the top 100 from 1962 to 1970, two of which made it to the top forty: I Hear Trumpets Blow on their own B. T. Puppy label and Portrait Of My Love on Warner. Portrait Of My Love had been a top ten hit for Steve Lawrence earlier in the decade.

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