Tuesday, 12 May 2009
The Clovers - Devils or Angels
R'n'b vocal group, the Clovers were one of the great groups of the 50's, whose influence far outweighed their chart success. They consisted of lead singer John "Buddy" Bailey, Harold Winley, Harold Lucas, Matthew McQuater and guitarist Bill Harris. They were formed in Washington and were soon signed to the small independent R & B label, Rainbow Records of New York. Their first release for Rainbow was a cover of the old pop standard "Yes Sir, That's My Baby", coupled with "When You Come Back To Me".
Although the song failed to garner much in the line of sales, it did find a fan in Washington deejay "Waxie Maxie" Silverman, who helped land them a deal with Atlantic Records. In February 1951 they their debut Atlantic disc (Atlantic 934), "Don't You Know I Love You"/ "Skylark". The top side was written by Atlantic boss Ahmet Ertegun, and is my favourite Clovers track. Plenty of their songs have been covered (and rightly so) but I find it strange that Don't You Know I Love You has gone through life relatively untouched. The single shot to number one on the R & B charts and sold over 300,000 copies. The follow-up "Fool Fool Fool" / "Needless" fared even better, also reaching number one but reported to have sold over half a million. The group were then joined by a former member of the Dominos, Charlie White.
Early in 1952 saw "One Mint Julep" / "Middle Of The Night", the top side benefiting from SAO favourite Henry Van Walls on piano. Their songs grew in stature with each release., incorporating strong and imaginative arrangements with catchy lyrics. They always seemed to stay on the blues side of rock 'n' roll with highlights among the next few releases including "Ting-A-Ling" and "Hey Miss Fannie". When Buddy Bailey was enlisted, Charlie White took over the lead role. "Good Lovin" continued the winning streak but 1953's "The Feeling Is So Good" / "Comin' On" became the first 45 of the Clovers to miss the charts since they'd joined Atlantic.
This was rectified at the beginning of the next year with "Little Mama" / "Lovey Dovey" a classic double sider. By the spring they were named as one of the top ten money makers by Billboard magazine and the Juke Box Operator's Association. They were signed to headline Alan Freeds Moondog Coronation Ball, which was held on May 1 1954 to a wild crowd of more than 10,000. They together with Fats Domino co-headlined the "Jubilee of Stars Under The Stars" for Freed at Ebbet's Field in Brooklyn in August. Further hits singles followed with "Your Cash Ain't Nothing But Trash" / "I've Got My Eyes On You" and "Blue Velvet" / "If You Love Me".
And what would we do now for a DVD of the Rhythm & Blues Top Ten Cavalcade, a six week cross country that saw the Clovers share the bill with the Moonglows, Joe Turner, and The Charms. "Love Bug" / "In The Morning Time" made surprisingly little noise on the charts as did another killer double sider, "Nip Sip" / "If I Could Be Loved By You". Their fortunes took another upturn when "Devil Or Angel" / "Hey Doll Baby" was released. They were slowly giving their sound a moe poppy flavour, as witnessed by their next 45, "Love Love Love" and the glorious "Your Tender Lips", another one of my favs. "From The Bottom Of My Heart" / "Bring Me Love" also did brisk business but their success was not to last much longer. For one release they even went back to the vaults and found a gem from 1953, the now standard, "Down In The Alley". When the group's contract with Atlantic expired, it was not renewed.
Their manager, Lou Krefetz, produced their next single and released it on his Popular label in 1958. Sales were disappointing though. They joined United Artists but the outlook seemed gloomy when the first release "That Ol' Black Magic" / "Rock & Roll Tango" kept their run of failures going. However, the follow-up, "Love Potion # 9" by Leiber and Stoller took off and climbed into the pop charts, peaking at # 23. It became the biggest seller in their illustrious history. It proved to be a one-off though and subsequent releases fared less well. Of the original members, only Harold Winley survives. Bill Harris died on December 10, 1988, Harold Lucas on January 6, 1994, Buddy Bailey in February 1994 and Billy Mitchell, who sang lead on "Love Potion # 9", on November 6, 2002.
The 2 Sequel CDs are your best bet if can track down copies.
The Clovers - Sequel RSACD 857
The Clovers Dance Party - Sequel RSACD 858