In the words of Bar Mix Master “the blend of the charred oak, spiciness, of Bourbon; the sweet, herbal, and slight caramel flavour of Sweet Vermouth; and the indescribable flavour of bitters combine to make a cocktail like none other.” This cocktail “is said to have been invented in New York’s Manhattan Club in 1874 at the request of Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill to celebrate a newly elected governor” (http://barmixmaster.com). The cocktail still these days is known as the Manhattan.
This is a multi-part story of one of the greatest and best-loved groups in the history of soul music, the Manhattans, told by its present end ex-members and many other music business figures, who have been dealing with the group throughout the years. As to the origin of the name of the group, there have been different recollections. One member is in favour of the skyline they could see right across the water from the Jersey City – “Manhattan was close to New Jersey. It was easy to remember, and we just felt we wanted to represent class” – but another member, Mr. Winfred “Blue” Lovett, remembers slightly differently: “We collectively came up with the Manhattans, but we referred ourselves to the alcoholic drink. Everybody thought the name was from the borough of the New York anyway, so we just grabbed on to that.”
(The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
The five singers, who became the first members of the Manhattans in the early 60s, went to two Jersey City high schools in the 50s – George Smith and Richard Taylor to Snyder High and Winfred Lovett, Kenneth Kelly and Edward Bivins to Lincoln High.
(Sonny Bivins pic taken from www.themanhattans.net)
EDWARD “SONNY” BIVINS
Edward Jesse Bivins, Jr. (tenor) is the senior member of the group in terms of his age, as he was born on January 15 in 1936. Still today he’s best known as “Sonny” – “when I was young, I was always smiling” – but his other nickname used to be “Dip.” Sonny: “I played baseball. Then I started singing, and I couldn’t sing and play baseball at the same time.” He played minor league baseball in the Jersey City All-Stars.
Sonny was born in Macon, Georgia, to Willie and Edward Bivins. “My father tap-danced, and I got into music through my father.” Sonny had two brothers, Donald and James, but no sisters. In Macon he started singing in a school choir and glee club. “We moved no New Jersey in 1950, and I went to Lincoln High in 1951. In school I was two years ahead of Kenny Kelly and Blue Lovett, and we all used to sing around school and on the street corners.”
Sonny’s early idol was Sam Cooke, and of the later acts he puts the Temptations first, but thinks highly of the Dells, the Spinners, the O’Jays and B.B. King, too. His all-time favourite record is To Each His Own by Nat King Cole. He has five children – Mark, Pam, Doug, Yvette and Kenny – but they’re not active in music. “They have their own things they wanted to do in life.”
(On the right: Early Smitty; The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
Sonny reminisces how he met their future lead singer, George Smith, for the first time during a teen dance night at the YMCA in 1953 in Jersey City. “I heard somebody playing the piano in the adjacent room from the dance hall. Slowly I opened the door and peeked my head inside and saw a young, teenage guy about my age playing the piano and singing I Cried in my Mother’s Arms. I walked over to him and started to harmonize with him. We looked at each other, smiled and we introduced ourselves. His name was George “Smitty” Smith. As time went on, our relationship grew closer and we eventually left high school and went into the military vowing to complete our high school education once we got out of the service.”
In 1954 Sonny joined the NG. “After the National Guard, I was in the Air Force in Germany till 1957.”
(Smitty at the Apollo; The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
GEORGE “SMITTY” SMITH
The second oldest in the first line-up of the Manhattans is George Hoza Smith (tenor), who was born in Florida on December 18 in 1939. Jeanie Scott: “His mother couldn’t remember his actual birth date. It was either supposed to be December the 18th, or December the 28th.” Mrs. Jeanie Scott, formerly McCarthy, who today is the wife of the legendary Jimmy Scott and handles his business (www.jimmyscottofficialwebsite.org ), lived with Smitty until his untimely passing in December 1970. “We got together in 1969, so I was with him maybe a year and a half.”
(On the right: Jimmy Scott, The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
“When Smitty was a toddler, perhaps four years old, his mother and his father separated. The only thing he could remember about his father is him walking with some dogs (laughing). His mother moved to Jersey City with Smitty and his oldest sister Marion. Marion has lived her whole adult life in California. Eventually his mother married another man, whose last name was Smith, and he became Smitty’s stepfather, and that’s how he got his name. Smitty’s mother had ten children. After Marion and Smitty – who they all called ‘Brother’ – she had eight other children, so Smitty had three half brothers and five half sisters. Tommy was Smitty’s youngest brother and he had a group called 8 Mile High. The other brothers, Bobby and Joe, had a group of their own, too, Out of Limits.”
“Smitty had three children. When Smitty was fifteen years old, his girlfriend got pregnant with George, Jr., aka ‘Dewberry’, so they got married. George, Jr. looked exactly like him. After he came back from the service, she had another baby while he was away, Michelle, which Smitty took as his own. Later he had his daughter Paula with a girlfriend.”
Through his mother, Smitty first sang gospel music in church and then joined his newly-found singing pals, while in Snyder High. “Smitty and Sonny were close at the time, Blue and Kenny were close”. After Snyder High, Smitty joined the Air Force and was stationed in California for two years.
(Smitty & Jeanie; The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
Jeanie: “My first memory of the Manhattans would be hearing their records on the radio – I’m the one that Love Forgot, Searchin’ for my Baby… I had been going to all their shows and I kind of had a crush on Smitty, but I was afraid to talk to him. I had seen him around, and I was peeking around corners at him. Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five would tease me and say ‘go on and knock on their dressing room door and talk to Smitty’, but I wouldn’t go over there. It wasn’t until a couple of years later. They were about to do a show at the Cheetah in New York on 52nd street. I sent Smitty a message and he called me up and he came over to my house the next day. We got together, and we were together ever since, and he moved me in his mother’s house until he passed. As a matter of fact, I stayed with her for a couple of years after that and I remained close to the family throughout the years, especially with Smitty’s Mother, brother Bobby – who was like a brother – and Smitty’s children George, Jr., & Paula.”
WINFRED “BLUE “LOVETT
Winfred Lorenzo Lovett (bass) was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on November 16 in 1940 to Lovonia and William Lovett. “My father was a singer in church, and he made it mandatory that I sing in church on every Sunday also.” Winfred has two sisters, Billie and Gwendolyn, and today he resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
Most know this bass singer extraordinaire best under the simple moniker of “Blue.” “It’s my so-called nick-name. If you hung out on streets – and you’re not necessarily bad or are in gangs and nothing like that – you had a nick-name, and because of my complexion and a long hair and a beard “Blue Jesus” was my name. I naturally dropped the ’Jesus’ and kept the ‘Blue’.” During his high-school years he was also called “Bacon” for a short while.
Blue has seven children: William, Robyn, Tania, Kia, Damon, Marisa and Rico. “None of them do anything professionally in music, except Rico, who was born in 1986 and who does rapping. All my kids live on the west coast.”
Some of Blue’s favourite recordings of all times include Neither One of Us by Gladys Knight & the Pips and Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. “Also Luther Vandross has come up with some magnificent songs that I like. I think my all-time bass singer would be Melvin Franklin of the Temptations. The Temptations started us off. We patterned us after the Temptations and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.”
In Lincoln High, Blue played football and baseball. “Then I couldn’t play sports because of my asthma. Baseball was out and football was definitely out, so my third choice was music, and I never thought that I would get an opportunity. If you were from the New York area, it was very hard back then to get a record deal. You had to be discovered.”
“I did locally high school groups, but nothing ever happened. We just sang to entertain our families, fans, girlfriends… In Lincoln high school Sonny, Kelly and I took part in a singing contest in a variety show and we won. I forgot the name of our group in high school.” All five Manhattans boys got to know each other already in the 50s. “All five of us met during the high school days. Sonny Bivins, Kenneth Kelly and myself went to Lincoln, and Richard Taylor and George Smith went to Snyder, which were competing high schools in Jersey City.”
In the late 50s Blue was drafted. “I was in the Air Force. I was in France, but they closed that base and I was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany. I was discharged in 1960…’61. There in Germany I had a group of my own called the Statesmen. It was me and four other guys, but not Sonny and Richard. They were stationed in the Air Force in Germany, too, but they were stationed elsewhere.”
KENNETH “WALLY” KELLY
Kenneth Bernard Kelly (tenor) was born on January 9 in 1941 in Jersey City to Eloise and Lloyd Kelly. Kenny: “My parents are both deceased. My mother belonged to a chorus, when she was younger. She sang in a church choir.” Besides one brother, Adonis, Kenny has three step-brothers and a sister. His two children are called Kai and Monee.
Kenny’s last name is spelt both Kelley, and Kelly. “My father spelt his last name Kelly. There happened a vocabulary error somewhere along the line, and my last name got changed to Kelley. As I grew older, according to certain situations I ran in and out of, they assumed it was supposed to be spelt Kelley. I didn’t go through the corrections, so there exist two spellings of my last name. Most of my IDs have Kelly, so I mostly use Kelly.”
Kenny’s nickname is Wally. “We had a guitar player named Charles Reed and he gave it to me, because I was always telling people different little things and answering to their questions.” Kenny is the only college graduate among the members of the group, and he graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1963.
“Being in a group situation, we idolized a lot of groups – the Spaniels, and later the Temptations and Smokey & the Miracles. Later I had one idol and that was Ray Charles.” Kenny’s favourite record is Letter Full of Tears by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and besides singing he plays piano, trumpet and baritone sax.
“I played in a high school band in Jersey City. I started messing around with my neighbour next door, which was Sonny. He played guitar. We just started singing together, and he introduced me to some guys, who sang. It was just something we did, because we liked doing it. Group singing was popular at that point of time. We all would cross each other at some point. We formed different groups, and from that we eventually came in contact with each other.”
“Sonny belonged to this one group, and he brought me in to hear what the group sounded like. I don’t remember the name of the group, but one member kept missing the rehearsals and I – having been there so frequently and knowing his parts – said ‘okay, I’ll do it’.”
“I grew up with some of the members of the Manhattans. We met in the 50s. I don’t know what groups Richard came out of and I don’t remember what groups Blue was with. Blue was with several groups. A lot of the groups didn’t stay together. They’d form and break up. One group that I, Sonny, Smitty and somebody else were part of was called the Socialeers. We sang in local clubs and talent shows. That group started breaking up, because people had other commitments.” Right after Lincoln High, Kenny joined the Navy, which was followed by his three-year college period in Baltimore. He would meet the other fellows again in 1963.
One early incarnation of the Manhattans was as lucky as to even cut a record in 1961. Smitty, Blue, Sonny, Ethel Samuels and Buddy Bell had formed another group and they called themselves the Dulcets. This quintet under a misspelt name of the Dorsets released a single on a New York label called Asnes. The plug side, a slowly and heavily swaying post-doowop, novelty type of a song, was titled Pork Chops (Asnes 101), and in style and interpretation it owes a lot to the Olympics or the Coasters of those days. Blue: “yes, that’s the flavour we had on that.”
Smitty is leading on the song that was written by him, Frennie Brooks and John Brown (mistakenly printed as Bowden on the label). Blue: “I think the owner of Asnes was Frennie Brooks, and those guys, Brooks and Brown, worked at the airport and recorded us. Nobody heard the record – or perhaps twenty-five people – but nobody bought it. It didn’t do anything.” Sonny: “I was laughing, when we did it… but it was okay.” Backed by an uptempo ditty called Cool It, Pork Chops was re-released four years later in the U.K. on the Sue label (391).
Some of the other artists on the short-lived Asnes label were Ernie Johnson (You Need Love) and a “Jamaican doowop” outfit named the Jiving Juniors (Moonlight Lover). Soon after Pork Chops the Dulcets disbanded, so there was no follow-up record. Sonny: “Everybody decided to go their own ways. Ethel and Buddy are still around. I see Buddy every now and then. They are here in New Jersey.”
THE OTHER MANHATTANS
Blue: “We had a battle for the name, until I Wanna Be was released. There was another Manhattans, and the union insisted that whoever came out with the first hit they would be able to maintain the name, and I Wanna Be (Your Everything) came out in ’64 and that was the way we won the name over.”
Music history knows many groups, who have used the name ‘Manhattans’. There are Eli & the Manhattans, Ronnie & the Manhattans and several plain Manhattanses. In the 50s and 60s singles by these groups have appeared on such labels as Dootone, King, Big Mack, Boss, Colpix, Ransom, Web, Piney, Enjoy, Golden World, Atlantic and Avanti, but not any of them is by our group. Blue: “From ’61 through ’64 we tried desperately to get a recording deal, but it was impossible.”
There was at least one occasion, when they actually entered the studio and were ready for Danny Robinson (Bobby Robinson’s brother) to record them, but nothing came out of it. Blue: “He never recorded us. He pretended to record us, but he never did anything with us.”
Kenny: “I became a Manhattan as a result of the group I was introduced to. The members of that group started also not making the rehearsals. Sonny was part of that group and Smitty was already there. We wanted this group to come together. We already knew who we wanted to have as ideal members. So Sonny brought me in, introduced me to the group and then one of the other members stopped making rehearsals. He was a truck driver. Then they brought Richie in. We had to just get a bass voice, and everybody wanted to see if we could get Blue again. He agreed and that’s how we got together.”
(The pic courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott)
Mr. Joe Evans is a seasoned musician, to say the least. Throughout decades he has played with a number of jazz, blues and rhythm & blues luminaries, but for the Manhattans he was first and foremost the owner of Carnival Records and the gentleman, who gave them their first record release in 1964.
Joe Evans, Jr, was born in Pensacola, Florida, on October 7 in 1916, so this year he’ll turn ninety-four. He started playing the saxophone in the 1930s in the Ray Shep Band, moved to New York in 1938 and has since played with Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton, to name a few. All this is documented in a fascinating book titled Follow Your Heart (ISBN-13978-0-252-03303-2; University of Illinois Press, http://www.press.uillinois.edu; 180 pages + 22 with photos; 200">, written by Mr. Evans himself and Christopher Brooks. It’s an interesting read and contains many remarkable stories starting from Joe’s early days as a musician. He sheds light on touring the south in the 30s, working with such artists as “Ma” Rainey, Billie Holiday, Al Hibbler, Ivory Joe Hunter, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, running record companies in the 60s and 70s and life after an active and many-sided career in music.
Mr. Evans, who today lives in Richmond, Virginia, was kind enough to talk about the Manhattans, Carnival Records and some other points of his career for this article, too. In the 50s he belonged to the Apollo Theater house band in New York. “It was very nice. It wasn’t tough. We played five shows a day, and one night a week you played a midnight show. On Wednesday night they had an Amateur Hour. A lot of the stars were discouraged in that show at the Apollo. The audience was very responsive. On Wednesday night, if you weren’t good, they would boo you. They had a guy called Porto Rico, who would come out in different costumes chasing you off the stage, if they didn’t like you. But the audience was very good to you, if they liked you.”
CEE-JAY, TANGERINE, MOTOWN…
In the late 50s Joe met with Clarence Johnson, and became a partner with him in running a record label. “Cee Jay – that was initials for Clarence Johnson. We called him ‘Jack Rags’. He’s the man that taught me the record business. He played trombone and had played in several bands. He talked me into going into the record business. He knew it, because he was already in it.”
The roster at Cee Jay in 1960 and 1961 included Mike & the Utopians, Sherman Williams, Jay Dee Bryant & the Magic Knights, Little Roy Little, the Four Kings, Jimmy Spruill & his Band, the Vines, Delroy Green & the Cool Gents and Harry Lewis & his Orchestra… but there wasn’t a hit-making unit. “Most of those artists just gave up. Then some of them continued to try to be a success, but they never made it. A lot of them joined other groups, and some of those groups became famous.”
“On that label we mostly did r&b stuff. One big record we had on Cee Jay was a blues record, and it was called I’m a Little Mixed Up by Betty James (583). Leonard Chess of the Chess Records leased it, took it over and made it a big record.”
Clarence Johnson passed away in late 1961, the label ceased to exist and Joe proceeded to work for Ray Charles. “It was very nice. I was working as a promotion director. Ray had a label that was distributed by ABC-Paramount called Tangerine. I did a lot of work coast-to-coast. He was a very nice man, very nice to work with.” Since its start in 1962 Tangerine signed many established artists – Percy Mayfield, Lula Reed, Louis Jordan etc. – but hit-wise it wasn’t a very successful company. “I believe that Ray had an idea what was good, but it was not the same idea what was happening in the business at the time. This is just my belief. He could make hits, but other artists that weren’t as strong couldn’t make hits like that. The material wasn’t as strong as his and they weren’t as dynamic as he was. Then he had a band on the road for the people to hear him in person and he could influence people that way. And he was very good at what he did. Other artists couldn’t get away with that.”
After Ray, Joe worked for a growing Detroit company called Motown after being approached by another saxophone player and a band leader named Choker Campbell. “I was working and travelling with their show, the Motown Review. I was playing mostly background for the artists, but I did a lot of recording with them, too. I recorded with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, their girl groups, several artists…”
With Cee-Jay Records Joe had become so attached to the record business that in conjunction with his work at Tangerine he launched and started running a label of his own called Carnival, a name he picked up from a billboard ad. Joe formed the label in 1962 together with Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, a saxophonist, bandleader and recording artist in his own right that Joe had met in Detroit already in the 40s. They also formed Bright Star Publishing Company (with BMI), and Paul’s home address – 605 West, 156th Street, New York – became the company and label address.
The first release, Your Yah-Yah Is Gone (501), was by a girl group called the Tren-Teens, who were scheduled to cut the record already for Cee-Jay. The song owes some to Lee Dorsey’s Ya Ya, released a year earlier on Fury. The Tren-Teens’ debut single was followed by Delores Johnson’s big-voiced r&b belter titled What Kind Of Man Are You, (502). You can listen to some mp3’s at www.westwoodmusicgroup.com -> Carnival Records.
Joe’s and Paul’s Carnival Records shouldn’t be mixed up with Jerry Moss’ and Herb Albert’s label by the same name in 1961, which turned into A&M a year later. Also Atlantic’s Herb Abramson’s Carnival is a different label.
The third artist for the label was Barbara Brown, who cut in ‘63 a pleading r&b ballad named Send Him to Me (b/w a cute toe-tapper, Sometimes I Wonder), but Barbara’s boyfriend wouldn’t allow her to continue show business career and perform in front of other men, so after one more single a year later she dropped out. She, however, was an important link in Joe and the Manhattans hooking up with each other.
THE MANHATTANS TO MOTOWN
Barbara told Joe Evans about the group, but there are two slightly different stories as to how the two actually met for the first time. Sonny: “Richard, Smitty, Kenny, Blue and I felt that we had put in enough time and hard work to compete at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night, which was held every Wednesday night. So from Jersey City we went to the Apollo and placed 3rd that night. But as fate would have it, Joe Evans was in the house that night. And despite coming third, we really won that night, because he signed us to his Carnival Record label.”
Blue: “A gentleman called Joe Evans was the one who saw us and liked us. He played alto sax in Choker Campbell’s orchestra that travelled with the Motown acts. Joe Evans’ vision was to start a “Motown” in the New York area, and Barbara Brown was one of his first artists. Barbara told him about us and he caught us at the Apollo.”
Joe: “One of the artists on Carnival, Barbara Brown, was responsible for me meeting them. She gave them my phone number, they called me and then we set up an appointment at the Theresa Hotel. I had Paul Williams with me. If I saw them earlier, I didn’t remember them, but I never met them in person until they came into the Theresa.”
“The songs that they sang that day were songs that were made popular by other groups during that time. They sang two or three songs like that. They sang the songs better than the groups that had recorded them (laughing). I said to Paul Williams ‘that is a million-dollar group’, and he said ‘oh, you’re crazy’, but later he said ‘you’re right, you knew what you were talking about’.”
“I asked them ‘do you want a record contract’, and they said ‘yes’, but then they said that ‘everybody promises to record us but they never get around to it’. Then they told me that they had been approached by Bobby Robinson’s brother, Danny Robinson. He was in the record business also (Everlast, Enjoy). They tell them to come to the record session, but when they get there they’re recording someone else and tell them ‘we’ll get around to you’, and when they would finish late at night everybody would pack up and go home. They said that happened to them two or three times. I said ‘well, it won’t happen with me, because if I promise to record you and sign you, I will record you’.”
“The next day they signed the contract and brought it back to me. I asked them had they gone over the contract with their parents or friends, they said ‘no, we don’t need to do that. We’re over twenty-one and speak for ourselves’. So we started from there.”
Joe was still working for Motown, so he took the first two songs he cut on the Manhattans to Detroit first. “I put them on tape and I took the recording to Berry Gordy. He liked it, but he wouldn’t go ahead of Mickey Stevenson. He put him over that, and I would have to talk to him. When I spoke with Mickey Stevenson, he wanted to take it over and only put perhaps my name on a record or something like that. I’ve been in the business too long for that and I wouldn’t go for that, so I didn’t talk to him anymore about them.” Joe soon left Motown altogether.
MUSICIANS, STUDIOS, MIXING…
Joe put the Manhattans on his own Carnival label. For his recording sessions he favoured one particular studio and he used a permanent line-up of rhythm section players. “For most of the recordings I used Talent Masters in New York, because I worked very well with the engineer there. His name was Bob Gallo, and he was also a guitarist.”
“For the rhythm section I had a regular bunch. There was Bernard Purdie, who was the drummer, and Jimmy Tyrell was the bass player. Robert Banks was the pianist. “Snaggs” Allen was the guitarist and Eric Gale was the other guitarist. They recorded all the Manhattans backgrounds.”
“I did the mix. I would record the track first. When I record the track, I would let the vocals sing along with it, just to give the musicians the feel of the song. They didn’t have to be good. They were not for the record.” As Mr. Evans tells in the book Follow Your Heart, on four-track tapes that he used those days “track one was for the lead singer, two was for the background singers, three was for the rhythm section and the fourth track was for whatever additional instruments were necessary.”
“When I put the strings down – I think there were five or six of them – in the mix I would double them up. If I wanted a light sound, I would double them once, and if I wanted something heavier, I would record those five or six in one register and then I make another take of them in another music I wrote. The horns I didn’t double up much. I used the trumpets and I used the trombone most of the time, but I would blend the trombone into the bass sound, and that blend had a different sound to it. When I used the girls in the background, I used the Lovettes, especially with the Manhattans.”
Kenny: “We used Talent Masters Studios in Manhattan. Only studios we used in Jersey City was the rehearsal studios. How many takes we needed? It all depends on the song. Some of the songs we did once, and that was it. We were always told ‘time was money’. It was no use in going there and not be prepared to go. So we tried to prepare ourselves as much as we possibly could, before we went in.”
“FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME”
Those two songs that Joe first took to Berry Gordy were finally put out on the first Carnival single (504) by the Manhattans in March 1964. Sonny: “Our first single, For the Very First Time, was a hit locally in the tri-city area.” George Smith, their lead singer, also wrote the song, which is a rather typical dancer of those days and actually sounds like it could have been cut a couple of years earlier. The flip, a mid-tempo and mellow mover titled I’ve Got Everything but You, was written by Joe and his newlywed wife, Anna Moore. Anna took care of the company’s bookkeeping and her sister, Louise, became an assistant in the firm.
Perhaps a local hit, but nationally For the Very First Time didn’t make any waves. According to Joe, their follow-up, There Goes a Fool/Call Somebody Please (506), did a little better. Released in August 1964, There Goes a Fool was written by Sonny. “I had written plenty of songs, but that was the first one recorded.” It’s an uptempo pop song, which undoubtedly was musically influenced by the British invasion those days. Smitty is again leading, and you can even hear a short flute solo by the producer himself, Mr. Joe Evans. Call Somebody Please is a mid-tempo pop ditty, which Blue wrote and he also leads on this side.
Those days Paul Williams decided to leave the company to pursue other interests such as managing artists, so Joe now had the company all to himself. He formed a new publishing company called Sanavan – the name comes from Anna and Evans – and the new Carnival address became 350 Chadwick Avenue in Newark, Joe’s home address.
Although the Manhattans eventually became Carnival’s leading act and breadwinner for the company, many other interesting artists had releases on the label, too. Curly Mayes cut a poppy umptempo ditty called Oh Why (b/w I’m Walkin’ On, Carnival 505) in 1964. Joe: “He was out west somewhere. I’m still looking for him now, because I have a chance to put one of the songs on his records on a television movie.”
Smitty invited his friend, Curby Goggins, to the company. Curby also cut only one single (Come Home to Daddy/Love Me If You Want to; 510) in 1965. Harry Caldwell sang in his high tenor voice a teenage anguish ballad named Nobody Loves Me on Carnival 516 in 1966. It was backed with another yearning song, this time a mid-pacer titled Nobody Loves Me, co-written by Blue Lovett. Joe: “I haven’t seen Harry for years. He’s down in North Carolina somewhere. He was from Charlotte, North Carolina. He was also a brick mason, and he travelled around.” Harry’s second single, a sympathetic “hippie” ballad called A New World Is Just Beginning (547), was released as late as in 1970.
The Lovettes had two single releases and both Little Miss Soul (518 in 1966), and I Need a Guy (530 in 1967) were written by Blue. Blue: “They lived in Jersey City. We all grew up together wanting to be recording artists, and Joe Evans loved them. We used them sometimes as female background singers, and we were looking for that Motown thing that Berry Gordy did. The idea that Joe had was to record these young ladies and hopefully get a hit on them.” Indeed, Little Miss Soul is like a standard Motown scorcher, whereas the flip, Lonely Girl, is a downbeat tender song. I Need a Guy is again a motownish mid-pacer, while I’m Afraid (to Say I Love you) on the flip is a poignant beat-ballad.
Norma Jenkins recorded Blue’s poignant ballad, Need Someone to Love (528; b/w a stomper called Me, Myself and I) in 1967. Blue had invited Norma to Carnival. Blue: “She was very good.” Male duos were popular throughout the 60s, and one single by Carnival’s own Turner Brothers proved that as singers they were equal to many of their colleagues. I’m the Man For You Baby (535) is an almost deep soul ballad, while My Love Is Yours Tonight is a more mid-tempo mover. Joe: “I haven’t seen them recently. These people are hard to keep up with. They came from someplace down south. They were quite active. They got around.”
Kenneth Ruffin stayed at Carnival for one single as well. I’ll Keep Holding On (536) is a pleading soul ballad with a strong support from the horn section, whereas Cry, Cry, Cry is a blues romp. Joe: “Kenny was basically a writer, but I recorded him, because some things he sang quite well. I’ve been searching for him, too. He wrote several songs that other artists did.”
It’s Too Late and I’m Just Gonna Be Missing You (539 in 196"> by Rene Bailey let you know from the opening bars that here we have one big-voiced blues lady. Joe: “She lives in upstate New York. I call to Rene all the time. She’s partly retired. She sings on most of the weekends, and she’s teaching the school.”
In the next part of the story I’ll still feature two other popular Carnival acts – Phil Terrell and Lee Williams and the Cymbals - more in detail and with comments from the artists themselves. In their roster Carnival also had such familiar names to the fans of genuine soul music as Little Royal, who cut a fine soul ballad titled I Can Tell, and Jimmy Jules, who excelled on an Otis type of a slowie named Nothing Will Ever Change. Both singles were released in ’67.
LET’S DANCE FIRST…
So far on all four released Manhattans sides on Carnival Records the songs had been dancers, and we had to wait till the fourth single to hear a ballad. Joe: “Uptempo things were easier to get played. If you had a name, they’d play anything, but the best way to get new artists played was play an uptempo record. When you take it to a deejay, they put it on and they don’t listen to the whole song. They listen to the introduction and a little bit and tell you ‘I’ll play it’. If you have a slow song, they don’t listen enough, no matter what it is. So you had to have a little bit of rhythm to the song for them to give you a break with.”
The Manhattans’ third Carnival single was also a mover, but it became their first hit and marked the beginning of a remarkable success story. That song as well as the rest of the Carnival period and DeLuxe period will be covered in the second part of the story.
INTERVIEWEES: Gerald Alston, Edward Bivins, Joe Evans, Kenneth Kelly, Winfred Lovett, Jeanie Scott, Phil Terrell, Lee Williams
MY OTHER HELPERS: Christopher A. Brooks, Charles Hardy, Vick Kaply, Toye Kates, Jr.
· Blues & Soul: John Abbey, David Nathan, Sandra Butler, Dom Foulsham
· Blues News: Juhani Ritvanen, Osmo Asikainen, Ismo Tenkanen, Aarno Alén
· Soul Express: Pirkka Kivenheimo
· Black Music: Denise Hall
· There’s That Beat!: Dave Moore
· Vintage Soul: Adrian Croasdell
WEB SITES (besides those mentioned in the article):
· Follow Your Heart (Evans-Brooks)
· Top Rhythm & Blues singles + albums & Pop singles + albums (Whitburn)
· The R&B Indies, vol. 1 – 4 (McGrath)
· Soul Harmony Singles 1960-1990 (Beckman-Hunt-Kline)
· A Touch of Classic Soul (Taylor)
From left to right: Richard Taylor, Kenny Kelly, “Smitty” Smith, “Blue” Lovett, “Sonny” Bivins
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott
In the Jersey City area, as well as in numerous other regions around the U.S., in the early 60s there were many aspiring and eager street-corner harmony groups seeking for that elusive fame, sudden silver lining. After looking for a long time one such group, the Manhattans, finally found their recording home at Carnival Records in early 1964. In the line-up of Edward “Sonny” Bivins, Kenneth Kelly, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, George “Smitty” Smith and Richard Taylor they released two singles, which made some noise locally, but the third one made the breakthrough and scored on a national level.
I WANNA BE
In the early days the group used to rehearse in Kenny Kelly’s house, and during one of their rehearsals Joe Evans, the owner of Carnival Records, decided to choose Blue Lovett’s song I Wanna Be (Your Everything) for the next single. Released in December 1964, the single (Carnival 507) hit Billboard’s pop charts on January 16 in 1965 and rhythm & blues charts two weeks later. It climbed up to # 68-pop and # 12-r&b and allegedly sold over half a million copies. In his biography Follow Your Heart Joe Evans tells on no less than eight pages about his clever ways to market the single and how a New York DJ by the name of Murray the K played a big role in breaking the record. Also one shouldn’t underrate the importance of Joe coming to an agreement with Columbia Products over pressing his records.
I Wanna Be has a steady stomping beat and a simple, infectious melody, and it later became quite popular in northern soul circles. Although Smitty was the lead singer for the Manhattans, in this case Joe Evans made their bass singer Blue to sing his own song… and sing a lot higher than his natural register.
Blue: “The night we knew I Wanna Be was going to be aired on national radio from New York for the first time, we sat and notified all our friends and relatives to make sure they tune in. It was quite an experience to hear yourself on a radio. It was actually a contest. On certain nights they would choose two upcoming artists and compare their releases, play both and the people would call in and vote. Naturally that night we won, because we told everybody in the New York and New Jersey areas to make sure they listen.”
The b-side was Sonny Bivins’ light dancer called What’s It Gonna Be. Sonny: “Just a song I took from a saying, and just started writing a story to that song.” On the label it reads “a Joe Evans – Bob McGhee production.” Joe Evans: “Bob helped me, when I was going down to Baltimore or all of those places with the record, and that’s how his name got on there as a producer. He didn’t do anything in producing, but I put his name on there. He was a writer and he had his own label, but here he just helped me. He had a pass on the train. When I wanted to go down there to do promotion, he let me use that pass and I’d ride the train down there and back. That helped me out quite a bit. I was working on a close budget.”
Prior to I Wanna Be, singing had been only part-time for the members of the group. Kenny: “Right after I got out of the college – my major was biology – I started working in hospitals and labs. After I Wanna Be went into the national charts, we had a decision to make, whether we wanted to continue as 9-to-5 workers or were we serious about our singing career. So we chose to be serious about our singing career. Once we started doing dates sporadically, I just couldn’t maintain the job that I had by pursuing the singing career, so I quit my job. After I Wanna Be everybody did the same.”
Blue: “I worked for Muscular Dystrophy. We weren’t making any money singing, so I worked for Jerry Lewis, the comedian, who was the host of Muscular Dystrophy every September. He’d give a Telethon. I worked for that company and I wrote I Wanna Be, while I was at work.”
SEARCHIN’ FOR MY BABY
Sonny wrote a pleasant, mid-tempo toe-tapper titled So in Love (Carnival 50"> for Barbara Brown, and here “Smitty” joins her on vocals and makes the song a duet. That single side was coupled with Forget Him, another memorable and a slightly wistful mid-pacer that Barbara Lewis could have cut those days. Sonny composed also that song. Sonny: “I met Barbara Brown through George Smitty Smith. We sang in school with her. Smitty also was a big part in helping me with my songs.”
The Manhattans’ fourth single, Searchin’ For My Baby (509), was a mellow dancer that musically really didn’t stand out and didn’t differ considerably from the rest of the uptempo output those days, but it hit # 12-r&b and # 135-pop in the summer of 1965. Blue is leading and is accompanied by a rather high-pitched harmonizing from the rest of the boys, not unlike what we used to hear from Chicago groups at the time. The song was later covered by the Persuasions on their A Cappella album in 1970.
On the pic above Smitty (on the right) together with his brother Joe Smith
photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott
The flip, I’m the One That Love Forgot, was not only a wistful, heartbreak song, but it was significant in introducing the first ballad by the Manhattans on record. Still today it’s Kenny’s and Sonny’s favourite. Sonny: “I wrote that song for my future wife Amy, who I ended up marrying. She is the mother of my five children.” On pop charts the single became a double-sider, as also Love Forgot edged its way up to # 135. Blue: “I think our identity became love songs and ballads. I wrote a lot of things, when we patterned ourselves after what Motown was doing with the Temptations. I tried to, anyway. That didn’t sort of fit us. Our signature is ballads, love songs.”
That single was also one of catalysts in the process of the group becoming an opening act for Otis Redding during his black college tour to southern states in 1965. Otis loved the group and was particularly impressed by Smitty’s singing. Blue: “He wanted to manage us just before he was killed in an air crash. He loved the Manhattans. He had us touring with him yearly. He put us under his umbrella, the Bar-Kays and the Manhattans.” Otis died on December 10 in 1967.
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Sonny wrote a busy ballad called Follow Your Heart (512), which after its October release reached # 20-r&b and # 92-pop. Sonny: “This was also a song I wrote for my wife Amy.” He even plays guitar on the track. Smitty inspires himself into a highly emotional delivery, which bears a remote resemblance to Billy Stewart’s phrasing on some of his records those days. On YouTube you can listen to Mike Boone’s interview with Sonny about the song as well as the song itself. Just type in “Chancellor of Soul” -> interviews Sonny Bivins of the Manhattans, pt.1. Blue wrote and sang an average dancer named The Boston Monkey on the b-side.
The mid-tempo Baby I Need You (514) was written by Sonny and Joe Evans and it was the Manhattans’ first release in 1966. Smitty really pours his heart out on this sweet and string-heavy track, which to an extent echoes the then Temptations sound. Sonny: “Temps were one of my early influences. I love the sound of the 5-part harmony.” Blue: “We didn’t want to copy them, so to speak. Basically everything we did, we had the Impressions and the Temptations in mind.” Again on YouTube Mike Boone presents this song together with Sonny, now on part 2.
On the flip there was another rather mediocre “animal dance”, this time titled Teach Me (The Philly Dog), and it was composed by Blue and Joe Evans together. Blue: “I showed Joe Evans the melodies that I wanted. I play keyboards a little bit, a little piano, and I showed him the way I wanted it to go, and Joe split the writing with me.”
“I know instances, where a person has changed one word, because the English was improper, and they put their name on the record as a writer. They changed just one word and put themselves down as a writer, co-writer or whatever. Back in the day we were told – not necessarily by Joe Evans – that, if you didn’t have any musical experience and if you didn’t play some instrument, you could put your name down only as a writer. This was one of the tricks of the trade, where black artists were fooled and told different stories that we finally found out were not true.” The single hit # 22-r&b and # 96-pop.
Four charted singles called for an album. Carnival’s first LP called Dedicated to You (CLPS-201) was released in early 1966, and in late March it entered the rhythm & blues charts for two weeks and peaked at # 19. Produced and arranged by Joe Evans and engineered by Bob Gallo, eight songs were culled from preceding singles and the rest four songs were released on forthcoming 45s, so there aren’t any album-only tracks on the LP. The emphasis is on dancers with seven up-tempo, two mid-tempo and three down-tempo tracks on display. Kenny: “It sort of put us onto the charts as being a stable. It didn’t do as well as we liked it to have done, but it put us out there.”
Those days the studio work was very efficient, at least at Talent Masters. Blue: “Everything was done at the same time – the lead singer, the background voices and the music. You had two hours to do as many songs as you could do and usually we would squeeze in maybe three – and if it was going well – maybe four. The musicians were so excellent that they knew what they were doing. Once in a while they would make an error, and Joe would stop them and say ‘I wanna hear this right here and I want this to be happening right here’, but, other than that, every time we would go back and do another take, it wouldn’t be because of the lead singer or the background vocals.”
Two songs that were lifted from the Dedicated to You album were put out as the next single in May 1966. Smitty’s and Joe Evans’ song Can I (517) is a pleading neo-doowop ballad, or – as Blue calls it – “progressive doowop.” In late summer of 1966 it started climbing up the rhythm & blues charts and ended up at # 23. That song is Kenny’s favourite alongside I’m the One That Love Forgot. Blue: We still do Can I on our show.” That New Girl on the flip, written by Blue and Joe, is a light and bright dancer, with the Impressions sound sneaking in this time.
Three months later the group stalled again at # 23-r&b (# 128-pop), but this time the song was a mellow and melodic mover called I Bet’cha (Couldn’t Love Me), written by Blue and Gregory Lamont Gaskins. Blue: “That’s our first guitar player. Later Greg left us and he played with Elvis Presley for a long time.” Besides Elvis, Gregory played with Dee Dee Warwick and the Sweet Inspirations those days, too. The twosome wrote also a slowly swaying ballad titled Sweet Little Girl, which was placed on the other side of the single and which again reminds you of the Impressions. Blue: “When it came to ballads, I loved everything that the Impressions did. When it was uptempo, I loved everything that the Temptations did.”
ALONE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
For the Christmas of 1966 Joe Evans produced for the group a yuletide single, two heartfelt ballads, which however failed to chart. On the other hand, these seasonal records rarely evolve into hits. Kenny: “Sometimes a hit is made by a record company, and when you’re out there competing with the majors, you got to be in the right place at the right time with the right combination of people. Carnival was a small record company, and their financial muscle wasn’t as strong as it could have been at some point of time.”
The Lovettes are backing the Manhattans on these tracks, as well as on most of their recordings on Carnival. Sonny wrote a mellow and pretty ballad named It’s That Time of the Year (524). Sonny: “I was thinking of children around the Christmas time, how they were so happy and feel the spirit of the holiday.”
Blue composed a sorrowful, “lonely boy” ballad called Alone on New Year’s Eve. Jeanie Scott: “Smitty’s favourite of all was Alone on New Year’s Eve. He had a kind of a rough life in relationships, so I guess he kind of related to that.”
Also the next single, All I Need Is Your Love (526), missed the charts, but in this case it’s no wonder, because the Lovett-Gaskins uptempo number sounds somewhat tense and lacks natural flow. Kenny: “I would think that we were trying to put our hands on something danceable. I guess it was easier to market fast songs than ballads. The decision of what was going to be released was predominantly by Carnival.” The flip, Our Love Will Never Die (by Blue and Joe), is a mid-tempo, “teenage romance” song with strings sweetening and Smitty’s restrained, undertone delivery. It was one of the tracks on the debut album.
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott
WHEN WE’RE MADE AS ONE
The next single, released in June 1967, offered for the first time two ballads back-to-back. George Smith and Joe Evans wrote a simple, romantic and quite soulful serenade called When We’re Made as One (529), and after almost nine months it was the first Manhattans record to hit the charts, peaking at # 31-r&b. Blue: “We sing that on our shows occasionally still. We do that a cappella.” Kenny: “We wanted the A-side to be When We’re Made as One. We had so much confidence in that song that we just refused to allow ourselves to be persuaded in any direction other than When We’re Made as One.”
Jeanie: “Smitty would sit on the end of the bed and sing to me Can’t Take My Eyes off You (laughing). Can I is the song that drew me to Smitty in 1966, but the song that he wrote that fit, When We Are Made as One, was ‘our song’. The lyrics mimicked our surroundings. It was springtime, when we got together, after peeking around corners at him for several years, and he said ‘you should have come to me sooner. Look at all the years wasted we could have been together’. He was right!” Sonny’s and Smitty’s sentimental Baby I’m Sorry was placed on the flip.
By the end of 1967 Joe Evans produced Sonny’s sincere and sweet ballad I Call It Love (533), led by Smitty, and it actually became the last charted single for the group on Carnival Records (# 24-r&b, # 96-pop). Blue is leading on his and Joe’s Manhattan Stomp on the flip, and here the title really says it all. This stomper was another and the last single side that was lifted from the Dedicated to You album.
FOR YOU AND YOURS
The Manhattans’ second Carnival album, For You and Yours (CLPS-202), hit the streets in 1968, and again it was a collection of single sides only. Produced by Joe Evans, the score between up-tempo and down-tempo tracks this time is even, 6-6. Both of these Carnival albums were released on a U.K. Kent CD in 1993 (CDKEND 103). Kent has since re-issued practically the whole Carnival catalogue, and the latest compilation was Carnival Northern Soul (CDKEND 327 in 2009; www.acerecords.co.uk).
That same year the group was honoured prominently by the industry for the first time. Sonny: “I remember us getting our first award in 1968 for the ‘Most Promising Group’ from the National Association of TV & Recording artists, which is one of the industry’s biggest professional organizations. You never forget the first one. We were so excited you would have thought we won a Grammy.” Kenny still fondly remembers the NATRA concert in ’68.
After the album Carnival still released two Manhattans singles in 1969, and three of those four songs were meant to be on the third album, which never materialized. I Don’t Wanna Go (542) is a mid-paced beater written by Richard Taylor, Kenneth Kelly (lyrics) and Joseph Jefferson. Joe was born in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1945, and in the 70s he became a renowned writer alongside Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons. Under the guidance of Thom Bell they wrote mainly for the Spinners, but they composed hit material for other Philly artists, too. Before that Joe was a player. Joseph: “I worked as the drummer for the Manhattans in the mid-60s. That was my first gig as a professional musician. I landed that gig as a result of their working drummer becoming ill at the Sahara Club in Richmond, Virginia. More of that period in my life will be revealed in my forthcoming book Memoirs. We played to S.R.O. arenas as well as other smaller venues and these guys would always fill the house. I didn’t really know how big they were until I toured with them.”
“I co-wrote I Don’t Wanna Go with Kenny and Richie. It was my first recorded song! I don’t remember much about it other than it was something we started playing around with and we all thought it was a cool idea. So it made the cut. But these guys were really great to be around, very caring and very professional. Loved them then and love them now. It was because of them that I got exposed to the music business, and I thank them for it.” Joe played with the Manhattans for about three years, and after that with Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations, before forming his own group, Nat Turner’s Rebellion. Soon he met Tony Bell, Thom’s brother, and became a writer instead of a drummer. Also a serious food infection in Philadelphia, which caused him to withdraw from a tour, helped him in that choice.
A fast dancer called Love Is Breakin’ Out (All Over) on the b-side has remote Motown echoes on it. The song was written by Sonny and Joe. Sonny: “We were after the Temps 5-part harmony.”
On the final Carnival single there was Call Somebody Please, Blue’s poppy ditty from the second album, and ‘Til You Come Back to Me, Joe’s poignant, tuneful ballad and a really strong “swan song.”
ALMOST TO ATLANTIC
The Manhattans were still contractually bound to Joe and Carnival, when the first serious signs of restlessness appeared – partially evolving inside the group, partially nurtured by Joe’s competitors in business. Blue: “We could only sing on the East Coast. We weren’t stretching out enough. We were dissatisfied. We couldn’t play Chicago, we couldn’t play Texas, we couldn’t play California… We didn’t see any promotion. There was no money there to actually take us any farther than New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, East Coast cities.”
“Joe was a wonderful guy, but he wasn’t financially in a place, where he could actually put us out, do California and Chicago. All the years we were with him, we never went west of Pittsburgh. Joe was the kind of guy that you loved. He was like a father person to us, but many people came to us to tell us that we were too good to be pigeonholed into just playing East Coast only. And I knew he didn’t have the kind of money to send us over the country. We loved Joe, but we knew that he wasn’t going to take us but so far. If we were going to make this a professional career, we would probably have to sign with somebody else on the next four years.”
Kenny: “We thought we had our go at Carnival. We felt that we were able to do better than what we’ve been doing with another organization. We had the talent that wasn’t exploited. Nobody questioned their humble beginnings. If it hadn’t been those, there wouldn’t have been future.”
Sonny: “We were enormously grateful to Joe for signing us, but without the distribution, public relations or industry contacts that the larger labels had, the Manhattans would get lost in the shuffle. He was a nice man, and the recording sessions were fun. We liked them very much.”
Jeanie: “Joe gave them their first break, and they were the most successful group on his label. Smitty looked to Joe as a father. He really had a lot of respect for Joe, and he was really hurt and disappointed, when he was outvoted to go to another manager and another label. Joe had been good to them and especially good to Smitty, so that upset Smitty a lot.”
In Follow Your Heart (book co-written by Christopher Brooks) Joe writes about an alimony incident, when he had to bail Smitty out. Jeanie: “It happened before I was living with Smitty. All people thought because the Manhattans were making records and doing concerts that they made a lot of money, this was never the case with them in the 60s, or any of the entertainers on the chitlin’ circuit. So Smitty’s ex went after him for his money, but he made very little. His brothers and sisters were very angry she did this, having him arrested. When I was there, she was okay, wasn’t pressing him for money, and she and I got along fine. It wasn’t till many years later after Smitty’s death that the Manhattans actually started making a little better money, when they had their crossover hits Kiss and Say Goodbye and Shining Star, and won a Grammy.”
Joe: “The Manhattans got very, very popular in the areas, where I did most of the promotion – New York, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, the East Coast. I was not big enough at that time to have all of that nationally. I had spots in the west, but I didn’t have a complete distribution out there. I had 35 distributors, but I didn’t have all covered all out west.”
“But the main reason was, when they would be in the theatres, the other artists would come around and they would be talking ‘we’re with ABC Paramount, and they’re doing so and so, you should be with them, too’. I once overheard this. But these groups didn’t last long. They didn’t come up with another hit right away, and the company dropped them. I was determined to develop my group, and develop them correctly, to establish their name. I built the group on solid, solid foundations, and wherever they played they could always go back, whether they had a hit or not. They left me and they went with another company, but they didn’t come up with hits for many years.” Indeed, during the next four years chart-wise the group didn’t fare as well as with their Carnival singles with the exception of one song, which eventually paved them the way to bigger things. The group, however, never made it to the West Coast until in 1973.
In spite of an existing contract, Joe decided to put his business interest and feelings aside and started negotiations about selling the contract first to United Artists, Kapp and Jubilee, who all made it a condition that Joe continues to produce the group. Then Joe came to an agreement with Atlantic Records. Joe: “I was going to put them with a company that I knew could get records out on them and promote them, because that’s mostly what they needed. I took more time with the material for them than with anybody else, because I knew them. I knew what they could sing, and I could write music even without going to them. They’d be out of town, and I’d be writing music, and when they’d get back I’d record them.”
DE LUXE RECORDS
Bobby Schiffman worked as a manager at the Apollo Theater in the late 60s. His father, Frank Schiffman, was one of the founders of the Apollo and its predecessors in the 20s and 30s. Blue: “Bobby knew we were looking for a manager, so he got in contact with an attorney to let him know the Manhattans wanted to be managed by someone. We felt that Bobby Schiffman, who knew music and had the control of the Apollo and the acts that came there, was a good person to recommend us.”
Bobby hooked the group up with an attorney named Jack Pearl. Blue: “He represented Hermine Hanlin, who is Austrian. She needed an act and we needed a manager, so Jack put us together and we signed with her in 1969. Jack also became our musical attorney.”
Jack Pearl was affiliated with King Records and worked as their attorney and even vice president ever since the 40s. After Syd Nathan, the founder and the owner of King Records, passed away on March 5, 1968, Jack became the lawyer, who handled the estate. He negotiated the deal to sell the King operations to Starday Records in Nashville in 1968.
DeLuxe Records was launched in 1944 in Linden, New Jersey, but by 1951 Syd Nathan had purchased the company, made it a subsidiary to King Records and moved it to Cincinnati, Ohio. In the early days Roy Brown was DeLuxe’s number one artist, but it also concentrated on doowop vocal groups and numerous other blues and rhythm & blues acts. The Manhattans was practically the last act on their roster, and some of the other latter-day artists included Earl Gaines, the Presidents, Pat Lundy, Dan Brantley, Reuben Bell and Benny Gordon.
Jack Pearl was the one who told the group not to sign the contract with Atlantic. Joe: “Jack Pearl did not sign them with the best record company. He signed them to DeLuxe Records, because they wanted to revive the label. Jack Pearl worked for them. His family owned that label.”
Joe was so disappointed with the rejection of the Atlantic deal that he gave up the idea of cutting the third Manhattans album for Carnival Records. Of the eight scheduled songs, he cut only three, which were released as singles but without any chart action in 1969.
(Lee Williams pic taken from www.themanhattans.net)
LEE WILLIAMS & THE CYMBALS
In popularity Lee Williams’ group came second right after the Manhattans in Joe’s team. Lee is also a part of the Manhattans history, as we shall see later. William Lee Williams was born in Kinston, North Carolina, on June 10, 1941