The Clovers - One of a Kind - part two


The Clovers were definitely in the upper echelon of performers of this music as their hit records were now being "covered" by White pop singers. Alan "Moondog" Freed made public plans for a "Jubilee of Stars Under The Stars" to be held in Ebbet's Field in Brooklyn in August. The headliners will be The Clovers and Fats Domino. The Cleveland based d.j. is by now reportedly in negotiations to move his show to New York over station WINS. The Clovers remain a top draw throughout the country especially in Chicago and in L.A. with Gene Norman's "Blues Jubilee". In mid-July the new release for the group hits the street - "Your Cash Ain't Nothing But Trash" / "I've Got My Eyes On You". Unfortunately, this Atlantic recording does not do as well as many of the previous sides by the group either in sales or airplay. Some musical commentators think the vocal group trend is slowing down and solo artists are being favored by the public. This prediction will prove false very shortly. One prediction that does come true is the demise of the 78 rpm record as the R & B standard. Record labels promoting the R & B sound rapidly switch to 45s as the samples of choice that they send to radio stations seeking airplay. As Alan "Moondog" Freed begins his historic broadcasts from New York City, one of the records he features is the new Atlantic side by the Clovers-"All Righty Oh Sweetie" with lead by the returning ex-serviceman Buddy Bailey. The flip side, the bluesy "I Confess" features Charlie White in his last stint as a front man for the group.

The Clovers score big in Alan Freed's popularity poll among vocal groups and will appear in the first big in person show by Freed in New York City slated for mid January. "All Righty" is a great jump tune, but does not chart well for the group, but they continue to be a big draw in person. After the Freed show in January, they are slated to hit the road with the Rhythm & Blues Top Ten Cavalcade for a six week tour across the country. Also on the bill are the Moonglows, Joe Turner, and The Charms. Alan Freed's Rock and Roll Ball at St. Nick's Arena in Harlem is a huge success with large numbers of people being turned away. The dj again taps the Clovers for his Easter Jubilee set for the Brooklyn Paramount theater during Easter week in April. For the Clovers "Blue Velvet" / "If You Love Me" is a moderate success but not equal to their earlier releases despite the great appeal of Bailey's smooth vocal lead on "Velvet". The following sides "Love Bug" / "In The Morning Time" barely chart at all. Meanwhile the group continues its string of one nighters and is slated for the second R & B Top Ten Revue in late summer. The tour will cover the south, and southwest. Just before the tour starts Atlantic releases "Nip Sip" / "If I Could Be Loved By You". This recording is also a big disappointment in both sales and airplay. This is the fifth straight release by the group that has failed to catch on in the manner of many of their earlier sides for the label. The Clovers play at Harlem's Apollo with Ruth Brown before going on tour. The Clovers do a performance for the film "Rock 'n Roll Review", a low budget outing by Studio Films that is unique in that it features Black performers and is booked heavily in theaters in all areas of the country to cash in on the rock and roll mania. In January of 1956 the group tries to stem the tide of lukewarm recordings with their newest on Atlantic, "Devil Or Angel" / "Hey Doll Baby". Initial reports are encouraging, and soon the record is selling big leading the label in attaining its best month in its history. It seems like old times for the Clovers as the flip side also gets great sales and airplay.

Renewed interest in the group has come at the right time as Atlantic Records signs the Clovers to a new contract. In April in support of the disc, the R & B Show of 1956 starts a five week tour of the east and south. The two sided hit for the group has dominated the sales charts for the first four months of the year. The next outing for the Clovers marks a radical departure for the group and Atlantic records. The move has been building for some time, but with the release of "Love Love Love" / "Your Tender Lips" an attempt to reach the true pop market by the Clovers is now a reality. The move is a big success and the record powers the label to a new all time monthly record for sales. The disc breaks into the national pop charts and becomes a staple of the mid fifties version of "top 40 radio." Building on the success they have had, Atlantic goes pop with the group again and in September releases "From The Bottom Of My Heart" / "Bring Me Love". The A-side, "Heart", again uses a big backing chorus and "pop" instrumentation to flavor the arrangement. Atlantic uses an originality disclaimer in their trade ads, proclaiming that any cover version will not have the sound and feel of the original. Once again the side has good sales on the pop charts throughout the fall, although not nearly as big a success as the previous release. The Clovers didn't know it at the time, but that was to be almost their last hurrah as a top notch entity in the R & B field. Six subsequent releases on Atlantic all failed to catch fire including "Down In The Alley" which was culled from a recording session for Atlantic in 1953. As musical tastes were changing and Atlantic was moving away from its long established R & B base in favor of pop acts such as Bobby Darin, and pop stylings such as by the "new" Drifters, there was little interest in renewing the recording contract of the group that did so much to establish the label as a major player in the American musical scene. The group's long time manager Lou Krefetz tried his hand at record producing, with the release of two sides by the Clovers on his Popular label in 1958. The sales however were minimal and the end seemed to be in sight for this veteran vocal group. There was one more rabbit in the hat for the experienced guys from D.C. though. In 1958 the biggest news concerning the Clovers was made by original member Bill Harris. He released an album of jazz guitar stylings on Atlantic that caused a sensation. Most R & B instrumentalists were held in low esteem by jazz musicians and listeners, but the Harris release was a real eye opener. The praise was heavy from critics and publications such as Downbeat.

The Clovers meanwhile had been picked up by United Artists records, but their first outing "That Ol' Black Magic" / "Rock & Roll Tango" was the ninth failure in a row and hope was dim that they would ever recapture the success of the early fifties. The next UA recording was the one that clicked. A Leiber-Stoller tune called "Love Potion # 9", it was a typical song-story by the pair, the kind that made the Coasters a household name. This unique record for the Clovers exploded onto the pop charts in a big way, entering the top 25 lists and got extensive airplay. "Potion" wound up being the biggest selling hit in the group's long and successful history. There were a few attempts to duplicate the latest success by the group to no great sales figures, but the Clovers certainly had shown that they had what it took to somehow reinvent themselves one more time. A remake five years later by The Searchers out of Liverpool England in the wake of The Beatles, provided one of the big hits of the British invasion of the mid sixties. For all purposes, that ended the recording career of the fabulous Clovers, certainly the most successful R & B vocal group of the first half of the decade of the fifties, and they showed their staying power through the end of the decade. There were some sporadic attempts to revive the group from time to time, but so much of their success had come before the explosion of rock & roll into the mainstream of America, that they had very little recognition as an "oldies" standby. The one tune that could have prolonged their name on the circuit was co-opted by the Searchers, so much so that most rockers thought the British group was the originators of the tune. Such is the position of so many founders of the music because their story has never been properly told. But some of us do know the real truth-and it is us who maintain the legacy of these pioneers and will never let the history of them disappear.

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