In 1951 Lester went into business with Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber after recording a few of their very first records. Lester formed the Coasters and went on to manage the band for several years. The Coasters were one of the few artists in rock history to successfully straddle the line between music and comedy. With the connection from Lester to the legendary writing team of Mike and Jerry, The Coasters created a trademark for their catchy songs, witty lyrics and on-stage antics. That engaging and infectious combination made them one of the most popular early R&B/rock & roll acts, as well as one of the most consistently entertaining doo wop/vocal groups of all time.
The Coasters grew out of a successful Los Angeles doo wop group called the Robins, lead tenor Carl Gardner (a more recent addition) and bass Bobby Nunn formed the Coasters (named for their West Coast base), which maintained the Sill, Leiber & Stoller association. The initial Coasters lineup was completed by baritone Billy Guy (a gifted comic vocalist) and second tenor Leon Hughes, with guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Their first single, "Down in Mexico," became a Top Ten R&B hit in 1956, epitomizing the sort of humorous story-song Leiber & Stoller were perfecting. The Coasters hit again in 1957 with the double-sided smash "Young Blood"/"Searchin'," both sides of which reached the pop Top Ten.
The Coasters' first recording in New York was 1958's "Yakety Yak," which featured King Curtis on tenor sax. Its witty, slice-of-life lyrics about a teenager being hassled by his parents struck a resounding chord, and "Yakety Yak" became the Coasters' first number-one pop hit that summer, topping the R&B charts as well. "Charlie Brown," which cast Jones in the title role of class clown (and immortalized him with the catch-phrase, "why's everybody always pickin' on me?"), hit number two on both the pop and R&B charts in 1959, firmly establishing the Coasters' widespread crossover appeal. More hits followed: the Western-themed "Along Came Jones," "Poison Ivy," "Shoppin' for Clothes," and the group's final Top 30 hit, 1961's burlesque-dancer tribute "Little Egypt." Several incarnations of the group would follow throughout the years with Carl Gardner remaining the only original member since 1971. The Coasters became the first vocal group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Born in Corning, New York, Duane began playing the guitar at the age of five. At the age of 16 he obtained a Chet Atkins model Gretsch guitar, and formed a duo, Jimmy and Duane, with his friend Jimmy Delbridge (who later recorded as Jimmy Dell). While performing at local radio station KCKY they met disc jockey Lee Hazlewood, who produced the duo's single, "Soda Fountain Girl", recorded and released in 1955 in Phoenix. Hazlewood then produced Sanford Clark's 1956 hit, "The Fool", featuring guitarist Al Casey, while Eddy and Delbridge performed and appeared on radio stations in Phoenix before joining Buddy Long's Western Melody Boys, playing country music in and around the city.
Eddy devised a technique of playing lead on his guitar's bass strings to produce a low, reverberant "twangy" sound. In November 1957, Eddy recorded an instrumental, "Movin' n' Groovin'", co-written by Eddy and Hazlewood. As the Phoenix studio had no echo chamber, Hazlewood bought a 2,000 gallon water storage tank which he used as an echo chamber to accentuate the "twangy" guitar sound. In 1958, Eddy signed a recording contract with Lester Sill and Lee Hazlewood to record in Phoenix at the Audio Recorders studio. Lester began managing Duane and licensed the tapes of all the singles and albums to the Philadelphia-based Jamie Records. Lester produced Duane's early recordings for Jamie as well.
"Movin' n' Groovin'" reached number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1958; the opening riff, borrowed from Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," was itself copied a few years later by The Beach Boys on "Surfin' U.S.A.". For the follow-up, "Rebel 'Rouser", the record featured overdubbed saxophone by Los Angeles session musician Gil Bernal, and yells and handclaps by doo-wop group The Rivingtons. The tune became Eddy's breakthrough hit, reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over one million copies, earning Eddy his first gold disc.
Eddy had a succession of hit records over the next few years, and his band members, including Steve Douglas, saxophonist Jim Horn and keyboard player Larry Knechtel would go on to work as part of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew. According to writer Richie Unterberger, "The singles – 'Peter Gunn', 'Cannonball', 'Shazam', and 'Forty Miles of Bad Road' were probably the best – also did their part to help keep the raunchy spirit of rock & roll alive, during a time in which it was in danger of being watered down." On January 9, 1959, Eddy's debut album, Have 'Twangy' Guitar Will Travel, was released, reaching number 5, and remaining on the album charts for 82 weeks. On his fourth album, 'Songs of Our Heritage' (1960), each track featured him playing acoustic guitar or banjo. Eddy's biggest hit came with the theme to the movie Because They're Young in 1960, which featured a string arrangement, and reached a chart peak of number 4 in America and number 2 in the UK in September 1960. It became his second million selling disc. Eddy's records were equally successful in the UK, and in 1960, readers of the UK's NME voted him World's Number One Musical Personality, ousting Elvis Presley.
In 1960 Eddy signed a contract directly with Jamie Records. This caused a temporary rift between Eddy and Hazlewood. The result was that for the duration of his contract with Jamie, Eddy produced his own singles and albums.
The Paris Sisters are Albeth (the oldest), Sherrell (the middle child), and Priscilla Paris (the baby). They were born and raised in San Francisco., CA. Their mother, Faye, was the quintessential stage parent, a former opera singer who continued her career vicariously through her children. They signed with Lester Sill's fledgling Gregmark label in 1961, the impresario implemented a top-to-bottom overhaul of their approach, tapping up-and-coming producer Phil Spector to shepherd the transformation.
Spector relegated Albeth and Sherrell to the background, and while he turned the spotlight on Priscilla, he insisted she dial back her powerful voice to a dusky whisper.
"I Love How You Love Me," cracked the U.S. Top Five, galvanized by Priscilla's intimate lead turn and Spector's atypically restrained production. The singles "He Knows I Love Him Too Much" and “What Am I To Do?” also became hits for the trio.
Born Aaron Thibeault Walker in May of 1910, T-Bone single-handedly revolutionized western culture as a whole, and modern music in particular, by introducing the electric lead guitar into the blues. His fluid phrasing in both instrument and voice have gone on to form the foundation which legends like Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, and Jimi Hendrix have freely admitted to building their own legacies upon.
It is ironic then, that a musician of such far-reaching influence as T-Bone would have first made a name for himself by letting his feet do the talking as a dancer, first for his stepfather’s weekend band and then later for the legendary Cab Calloway. But his fancy footwork served him well, for it not only made him a fantastic showman, but endowed him with a unique mastery of rhythm and timing. While he only lent his now signature vocals to the 1940 cut “T-Bone Blues”, a pair of recordings for Capitol Records two years later, “Mean Old World” and “I Got A Break Baby” respectively, revealed how his innovative guitar work could embellish his impassioned vocal delivery, effectively establishing a musical dialog that would be retold throughout the ages.
But it was his first offering to Black & White Records in 1947 in that embedded his music into the imaginations of musicians and audiences the world over. “They Call It Stormy Monday” not only became a radio mainstay, but can be effortlessly cited as the epicenter of the enormous blues explosion of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, and thus the subsequent invention of a new genre called “rock n’roll” thereafter. Not content with one classic under his belt, for the next ten years T-Bone embarked on a breathlessly prolific string of hits, including “T-Bone Shuffle”, “West Side Baby”, “Glamour Girl”, “Strollin’ With Bones”, “The Hustle Is On”, “Cold Cold Feeling”, “Blue Mood”, “Vida Lee”, “Party Girl”, “Railroad Station Blues”, “Two Bones And A Pick”, “Blues Rock” and concluding with “Shufflin' The Blues”.
He spent most of the ‘60s by mesmerizing audiences throughout Europe and rang in the ‘70s by winning a Grammy for the album Good Feelin’. Though T-Bone would leave this world a few years later in body, his spirit lives on not only in the generations to come that will discover his artistry, but also through his daughter, Bernita Walker, who has dedicated her life to affecting social change in her own way via two Los Angeles-based organizations: Project Peacemakers, a domestic abuse agency that offers support groups, education, and anger management courses; and Another Step Up, which focuses on at-risk teenage women. Both organizations can be reached at (323) 291-2525.
Ray is an American Rockabilly pioneer, singer, guitarist and song writing icon.
He grew up influenced by country as well as blues music, and many of his recordings are classed as rockabilly – he was described by one producer Major Bill Smith as "the greatest white-sounding black dude ever". His recording career started in Phoenix in 1958, when Lee Hazlewood produced his single "That's the Way I Feel / Oh, My Baby's Gone". His second record, "Linda Lu / Monkey’s Uncle" – both sides written by Sharpe, and featuring Duane Eddy and Al Casey on guitars was a mainstay on the Billboard charts in 1959.
Sharpe’s songs have subsequently been recorded by many artists including the Rolling Stones, Flying Burrito Brothers, and Tom Jones, Neil Young, and he continues to release records as well as performing regularly in the Fort Worth area.
A guitar player from childhood, Stanford Clark was influenced by both early rock & roll music and by country music. He got his start in the early 50's playing in the Phoenix clubs. While stationed in the South Pacific during his stint in the Air force, he formed a band and won a talent contest in Hawaii. Eventually, the Air Force stationed him back in Phoenix, where he met his old friend Al Casey, who introduced Clark to Lee Hazlewood, the beginning of a successful writer / performer partnership in association with Lester Sill and Gregmark.
The Pentagons are remembered for their 1961 hits, "To Be Loved (Forever)" and "I Wonder." The original lineup featured Joe Jones, Carl McGinnis, Bill James, Otis Munson, and brothers Kenneth Goodloe (lead) and Ted Goodloe and formed in 1958 in San Bernardino, CA. Sometime during this early period, Munson left and James was later replaced by Odie Jones, Joe's brother, making for two sets of brothers in the Pentagons' lineup.
The graceful and understated ballad "To Be Loved (Forever)," would be the 45 that most doo wop fans and collectors remember them fondly for, written by Ken Goodloe. The single was a regional hit in late 1960 and was immediately picked up for national distribution and reissue on Donna Records. It later broke wide open after it was played on Dick Clark's TV show and in February of 1961, it peaked nationally at number 48 pop.
After this initial success, Lester Sill joined Silver and Motola as the Pentagons' managers. The group's next single was another Motola production, "I Like the Way You Look at Me," which was once again licensed to Donna Records which carried over that string-laden sound the Pentagons were becoming known for. The B-side, "Down at the Beach," written by Joe and Odie Jones, was a minor hit as well (although this happened two years after it was recorded). Beginning with the very distinctive "Billboard March" -- a calliope-like flourish heard at the start of a circus and also used in James Darren's number two 1961 hit "Goodbye Cruel World" -- the lyrics of "Down at the Beach" really captured the whole sunny SoCal surf and sand scene -- "you look good in your short shorts...I really go for your ta-yan."
After this release, the Pentagons signed to Jamie Records. Their final hit was the Jamie-released "I Wonder (If Your Love Will Ever Belong to Me)" which peaked at number 84 pop in October of 1961, but with no additional hits forthcoming, the group disbanded and faded into obscurity. Lester also produced Duane Eddy's early recordings for Jamie.