Tone Records Story ©1999JCMarion
Atlas Records was like so many of the growing number of Rhythm & Blues independent labels of the early fifties, but it was also different from many of them. For one it was Black owned and located in the Black community unlike most of the others. It was started by Tommy Robinson (not related to Bobby or Danny Robinson ) and located in the heart of New York's Harlem on 125th Street. The label began to produce records for the R & B field in late 1951, and like many began by featuring blues shouters and tenor sax instrumentals. The first release from December of 1951 was #1001 by blues man H-Bomb Ferguson with the Charlie Singleton Combo - "I Love My Baby" / "Rock H-Bomb Rock". Following in short order was #1002 by Charlie Singleton & His Orchestra - "Gone With The Wind" / "Blow Mr. Singleton"; #1003 also by Charlie Singleton - "Swinging Away" and a tenor sax version of Johnny Ray's "Cry". Vocalist Gwen Tynes recorded "Bill" and "How Could So Many People Be Wrong" on #1004. H-Bomb Ferguson and Charlie Singleton combined again in March on #1005 with "On My Way" / "Good Time Gal" and Singleton was featured on two sax instrumentals on #1006 - "Lonesome Lover" and "Cat's Paw" released in late April. Jim (Chickie) Horne recorded the swing era classic "Honeysuckle Rose" bw "Hello Little Girl" for #1007.
Charlie Singleton makes well received appearances in Boston and Providence building publicity for his records. Robinson then recorded vocalist Hattie Green with Charlie Singleton's Combo on two releases - "Rocks In My Bed" and "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good" on #1009, and "Ocean Liner" and "Deep Purple" for #1010 in June of 1952. During the summer months, both Hattie Green and Chickie Horne make many personal appearances in the New York metro area even though their records for Atlas are not big sellers. The next few releases on Atlas are in the fall and the numbers jump to #1021 - "The Super Chief" and "Jivin' With Doctor Jive" by Charlie Singleton & His Orchestra. Hattie Green returns for "Lover Man Blues" / "Pawn Shop Blues" on #1022. Blues singer Piney Brown after appearances in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, records as 'Kokomo' Brown for Atlas at the same time as a Piney Brown record is released on Par Records. The Atlas side is #1023 - "You Made Me This Way" and "Talkin' About You". Charlie Singleton records "Good Aire" and "My Song" on #1024 to round out the year of 1952. The best sellers for the label remain the sax instrumentals by Singleton.
The Atlas label begins the year of 1953 by signing vocalist June Davis and pianist-leader Freddy Washington to recording contracts. The label announces that Charlie Singleton's recording of "My Song" is the best selling record in the label's history. He is also a big draw in Boston over the winter months. Atlas #1026 is out in late January by June Davis and the Freddy Washington Orchestra - "Eight-Nine-Ten" and "Two Faced Woman". In April Willie Jones records "Jockey Jump" and "Sad Love" on #1028. Charlie Singleton returns with #1029 - "Broadway Beat" / "Pony Express", and during the summer the Art Shelton Orchestra records "Dynaflow" and "You Thrill Me So" with vocal by Lester Gardner on #1031. Charlie Singleton is recorded for #1032 with "Oozing Along" and "The Boardwalk". The label continues to miss the mark with most of the recordings issued except for some of the sax instrumentals by their most prolific artist, Charlie Singleton. Robinson keeps trying new R & B performers hoping for a big hit record to give his operation credibility and star power and of course, financial stability.
The new year sees Atlas trying again with Roscoe Thorne with #1033 - "Peddlar Of Dreams" and "Dolores" with little success. The Caverliers (who would be the forerunners of The Fi-Tones) record their version of "Dynaflow on #1035. The flip side is titled "You Thrill Me So". The Re-Vels Quartet record ""My Lost Love" and "Love Me Baby" for Atlas #1036. The next release of note during the year was by the Don Perry Orchestra with vocals by Ida Haymes on #1038 - "I Left My Baby" and "Lonely Hearts Blues" which was issued late in the year. The next year of 1955 led to more of the same for Robinson. Emmett Davis recorded "You Know You Didn't Want Me" and a cover of Arthur Prysock's "Woke Up This Morning" on Atlas #1039. This was followed by #1040 by Bennie Woods and The Five Dukes (also listed on some copies as by The Rockin' Townies) - "I Cross My Fingers" and "Wheel Baby Wheel". Tommy Robinson finally hits pay dirt in September of 1955 with the first release by The Fi-Tones Quintette. Most of the subsequent releases by the group are moderately successful for the label. The Four Haven Knights are on #1066 - "In My Lonely Room" / "I'm Just A Dreamer". Trying to build on the success of the Fi-Tones vocal group, he signs a promising fivesome out of Newark, New Jersey called The Parakeets. In 1956 their first release on Atlas is #1068 - "I Have A Love" and "The Rain Starts To Fall". This is followed by #1069 as by Leroy Williams & The Parakeets Quintet - "Yvonne" / "My Heart Tells Me". Atlas signs promising Pittsburgh singer Chuck Payne and soon issues his first record on #1060 in August - "Escape" and "I Hurt So Easily". Atlas issues #1071 by Vic Donna & The Parakeets - "Teenage Rose" and a remake of the Fi-Tones "Silly And Sappy". Singer Chuck Payne tries again with "La Dee Da" and "Baby" on #1072. A female group known as The Gypsies recorded "Young Girl To Calypso" and "Why?" on #1073. The Parakeets with Vic Donna on lead has one more side for the label and it happens to be their biggest hit - "Love Was A Stranger To Me". The flip side was "Count The Tears" on #1075. By now the releases under the Atlas label were sporadic and without much success. Some later examples are : The Travellers recorded #1086 - "Lenora" and "Betty Jean". Bobby Caston recorded "Call Me Darling" / "Why Wasn't I Told" on #1103.
At this time Tommy Robinson felt that the Atlas label had run its course and he was concentrating his energies on his related company Angle Tone Records. The first Angle Tone Records release was in April of 1955 by Ida Haynes - "Cross At The End Of The Road" and "Have Faith" on #502. The next year saw the Erwin Gospel Singers record "Hold Out" and "Jesus Is Calling Today" on #507 and "Eternal Life" and "I Feel The Power" on #508. The Chandeleirs gave the label its biggest hit in 1958 with "Blueberry Sweet" The flip side was "One More Step" on #521. The Chandeleirs returned on #529 on "Dolly" / "Dancin' In The Congo". The next release on #530 is a reissue of The Fi-Tones "It Wasn't A Lie". Little Butchie & The Vells recorded "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Sometimes Little Girl" on #535. The Kansas City Turnpikes recorded "The Douglas Blues (parts one and two)" on #537. Johnny Halo recorded "Even The Birds Are Blue" and "Little Annie" on #538. Angle Tone #539 was by The Fabulous Fabuliers who sang "She Is The Girl For Me" and "I Found My Baby". Dougie & The Dolphins were featured on #542 - "Yesterday's Dreams" and "Double Date", as Tommy Robinson tried for a more pop oriented sound in 1959. The songs "Careless Love" and "Unemployed" were recorded by Rudy & The Tradewinds on #543. The Original Charmers on #550 sang - "For Sentimental Reasons" and "Bashful Boy". The Hit Makers recorded "I Can't Take It Anymore" and "Too Good" on Angle Tone #1104 (using a new numbering system). Meanwhile Atlas used the same numbering system with "Pleasing You Pleases Me" and "Don't Let Me Shed Any More Tears" by The Lincolns on #1100 and "Why Wasn't I Told" and "Call Me darling" by Bobby Caston on #1103. Bandleader and drummer Harold Austin records "Austin's First" and Austin's Second" for Atlas as does Babs Gonzalez with "Teenage Santa Claus" and "Pay Dem Dues" on #1206.
Tommy Robinson had kept Atlas going for seven years in which he saw only a few successful productions come to pass, then concentrating his efforts during the latter part of the decade on Angle Tone he found success was still a difficult goal to achieve. With the exception of a couple of Charlie Singleton sax instrumentals, The Fi-Tones Quintette, and the one hit by The Chandeliers, he found mostly failure to connect with the growing record buying public. But like some others during those years he kept at it, and in doing so he remained a force on the New York music scene in its most formative years. Atlas / Angle Tone had made its mark and left its memories, thanks to Tommy Robinson.
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