[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two articles about pop music bands originating from the Chicago area. To read the previous column, which focused on well-known groups that had significant chart success on the Billboard Magazine pop music charts, click here. This follow-up article targets some of the lesser-known Chicago bands.]
Chicago area recording artists have been significant in musical genres such as blues, jazz, R&B, folk and country, but they have also greatly impacted popular music. Solo artists such as Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Ella Fitzgerald have made names for themselves, but this article takes a look at some bands and groups from northeastern Illinois.
Following are selections from a dozen such bands that had various levels of success by the ear;y 1970s, and to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title. Well-known groups such as Styx, Rufus and Survivor aren’t included because they didn’t establish themselves prior to the early ’70s.
- “ONE TIN SOLDIER” (Coven, 1971): This anti-war song, written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, was performed by a quintet featuring lead singer Jinx Dawson. It was originally recorded by a Canadian group The Original Caste (No. 34, 1969), but this version was used as the theme song for the film Billy Jack. Coven had several previous releases in the late ’60s, but this was their only significant single. BILLBOARD: No. 26 (No. 79 when re-released in 1973.
- “LOVERS NEVER SAY GOODBYE” (The Flamingos, 1959): Although the quintet was formed in 1952, this was their first pop chart hit. It was written by member Terry Johnson, who shared lead vocals on the song with Paul Wilson. The group had many lineup changes, but the other members singing here were Nate Nelson, Tommy Hunt and Jake Carey. Their top-selling single was “I Only Have Eyes For You” (No. 11, 1959). BILLBOARD: No. 52 pop, No. 25 R&B.
- “EVERYONE’S LAUGHING” (Spaniels, 1957). One of the nations’s first successful R&B groups, with Pookie Hudson on lead, became the top-selling group on Vee-Jay, but they broke up in 1966 when the label went bankrupt. Their top R&B charter was “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight” (No. 5, 1954). BILLBOARD: No. 69 pop, No. 13 R&B.
- “IT COULD BE WE’RE IN LOVE” (Cryan’ Shames, 1967): This Hinsdale, Ill., sextet never had a Billboard charter higher than No. 49, and this was the second of three consecutive records that peaked at exactly No. 85. They were always extremely popular in Chicago, and this single spent the entire month of August 1967 as No. 1 on hometown station WLS and it was also No. 1 for three weeks on Chicago’s WCFL. The song was co-written by group members Lenny Kerley and Jim Fairs. BILLBOARD: No. 85.
- “I GOT A WIFE” (Mark IV, 1958): This Calumet City, Ill., quartet — consisting of Bob Peterson, Williams Thomas, Mike McCarthy and Leon McGeary — was originally called The Rhythm Makers. Their only other Billboard Hot 100 single, was “The Shake” (No. 69, 1958). BILLBOARD: No. 24.
- “RUBY DUBY DU” (Tobin Mathews & Company, 1960): This instrumental came from the movie Key Witness starring Jeffrey Hunter. Performing the song was a group from Calumet City, Ill., that featured guitarist Tobin Mathews. It was a huge hit in Chicago, topping the hometown charts on WJJD for three weeks and WLS for two weeks. BILLBOARD: No. 30.
- “AT MY FRONT DOOR” (El Dorados, 1955): This was the lone Billboard pop charter for a quintet formed in 1952 by lead singer Pirkle Lee Moses Jr., and Al Smith’s orchestra provided backup instrumentals. The group had 10 follow-up flops on the Vee-Jay label, and after several lineup changes, they had insignificant singles on the Torrid and Paula labels in the early 1970s. BILLBOARD: No. 35 pop, No. 8 R&B.
- “WHEN SHE NEEDS GOOD LOVIN’ SHE COMES TO ME” (Chicago Loop, 1966). This sextet featured vocalists Bob Slawson and Judy Nova, who co-wrote this song. Produced by Bob Crewe, this was their only Billboard Hot 100 item. BILLBOARD: No. 37 pop, No. 7 R&B.
- “I DO” (The Marvelows, 1965): This quintet, fronted by Melvin Mason, was first known as The Mystics (not to be confused with the “Hushabye” group) before being renamed in 1964. Other members were Willie Stevenson, Frank Paden, Johnny Paden and Jesse Smith. BILLBOARD: No. 37.
- “CHERRY PINK AND APPLE BLOSSOM WHITE” (Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats, 1961): Murad was born in Turkey before moving to America at age 2. He formed a harmonica-based trio in 1944, along with Don Les and Al Fiore, and they had their biggest success in 1947 with the million-selling chart-topper “Peg O’ My Heart.” BILLBOARD: No. 58.
- “UP ON THE MOUNTAIN” (The Magnificents, 1956): Johnny Keyes was lead singer for this quintet, which also included Ray Ramsey, Fred Rakestraw and Willie Myles. They were formed at Hyde Park High School in 1953, and the song was co-written by Keyes and Calvin Carter. BILLBOARD: uncharted pop, No. 9 R&B.
- “KISS ME” (El Cincos, 1957): Not much information is available about this quintet, which had only one recording session for the Vee-Jay label. BILLBOARD: uncharted.
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