The Short Story of The Buccaneers ©2001 JCMarion



In the north side of the city of Philadelphia in the early fifties a new vocal group began to take shape. The lead singer of the group was Ernest Smith, the bass singer was Don Marshall, Julius Robinson was the baritone and Richard Gregory was on tenor. The group featured pianist and musical arranger Sam Johnson and together they were known as The Buccaneers. The group was heard by a couple of would be record producers who were students at Temple University, Jerry Halpern and Ed Krensel. In a few short days in November of 1952 a recording session was set up in a studio located in an aging movie theater in central Philadelphia. The group had practiced a tune written by Halpern called "Dear Ruth". A local instrumental group known as the Joe Whelan Trio was hired as backup for The Buccaneers on this tune. The new recording label headed by Halpern and Krensel was called Southern Records. Soon "Dear Ruth" was issued on Southern #101 during the first few days of 1953. The tune is a catchy love ballad with interesting chord changes, but what makes the recording so memorable is the short interlude featuring the mighty Wurlitzer organ during the transition break into the final chorus. The flip side called "Fine Brown Frame" featured The Buccaneers backed up by Matt Child & The Drifters, and the combination sides certainly made for a unique recording.
Southern Records now located in Philadelphia began as best they could, to support their new record by making the rounds of all the local R & B programmers in Philadelphia, and soon expanded to include New York and Baltimore-Washington. Their efforts resulted in some success as the Buccaneers began to sell in these areas. New York based Rainbow Records liked what they heard and soon took over national distribution for the record and re-released it on Rainbow #211. Soon after Ed Krensel was drafted into the army and Jerry Halpern decided to carry on alone, The Buccaneers were offered to George Goldner and he signed them to his Rama Records label in September of 1953. Soon in the recording studio for Rama, The Buccaneers recorded the pop song "In The Mission of St. Augustine" on Rama #24. A typical jump tune of the time "You Did Me Wrong" was put on the flip side. The record did not do much on the sales charts and so Rama tried again with "The Stars Will Remember" and "Come Back My Love" on Rama #21 (released later despite the numbering system). The third and last single by The Buccaneers was also a failure in sales and airplay. This ended the recording career of the group and oddly enough the records that didn't sell are today worth a small fortune among record collectors.


The recording on Southern is certainly a reminder of those heady days when the sound of the many R & B vocal groups was developing into a musical style that would sweep the country in a couple of years. "Dear Ruth" is one of those songs that have a sound, a feel, that can never be duplicated today. It is a snippet of sound that will live as long as there are people who look forward to discovering the sound of a lifetime.

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