The Colts-A Musical Footnote©1999JCMarion


In August of 1955, Mambo Records of Los Angeles, announced the signing of a new vocal group to their label. The guys hailed from Bakersfield, and were all students at Los Angeles City College. They were called The Colts and consisted of Ruben Grundy, his brother Joe, Carl Morland and Leroy Smith. They were going to be managed by music business veteran Buck Ram who at the time also had a group recording for Federal Records called The Platters, as well as L.A. natives The Penguins. The group went into the recording studio and produced a nice sounding ballad named "Adorable" For the flip side the chosen tune was "Lips Red As Wine" and the release was to be Mambo #112. Just as the record was about to hit retail outlets and ready for airplay, Ram and the rest of the decision makers at Mambo felt that the label name was confusing some people in leading them to think that the label featured only Latino dance music. The Colts were immediately put on the Vita label (also #112) and they began to make the rounds in support of their recording.

The group made local TV appearances with Al Jarvis and on the Strictly Informal show with Larry Finley. Meanwhile in New York, Atlantic had also heard the Colts record and Jerry Wexler and the Erteguns felt that this could be a good vehicle for the post-Clyde McPhatter Drifters. And so The Drifters went into the studio and produced one of the best cover records ever made, that of the Colts "Adorable". It proved to be the perfect tune as the first for the group without their celebrated former lead singer. In October the Colts went down to San Diego, and there did their very first in person performance, at the 400 Club. They also appeared on local TV in that city. Their record, aided by strong popularity on the west coast charted in late October into November before being overtaken in sales by the Drifters' version. The Colts closed out the year by appearing in a big R & B revue in Los Angeles hosted by Hunter Hancock.

In early 1956 the followup to "Adorable" is released. It is Vita #121 - "Sweet Sixteen" / "Honey Bun". The song "Honey Bun" was written for them by Curtis Williams of the Penguins who was also the writer of "Earth Angel". They head east for the "Doctor Jive Easter Show of Stars" in New York in April. The Colts also sign on for a 45 day tour billed as "The Biggest Rock & Roll Show of 1956" which headlines Bill Haley and Frankie Lymon. At the end of May a third Vita release #130 is out - "Never No More" / "Hey You Shoo-Be-DooBe", but doesn't make much of an impression on the sales or airplay results. During the summer Buck Ram looking to consolidate his influence moves the Penguins to Mercury where they join the Platters, and moves the Colts from Vita to Dot Records. At this time it is announced that Mickey Lynn, vocalist wife of Johnny Otis Band singer Mel Williams, has joined the Colts who now become The Four Colts and a Philly. Nothing much comes of this lineup and no records are released by them. New members Eddie Williams and Don Wyatt join the group. The Colts have one more outing for Buck Ram's own label Antler in the summer of 1957. The sides are "Sheik of Araby" / "Guiding Angel" on #4003, but this too is a failure. In July of 1957 Buck Ram records an EP of big nand numbers with a 26 piece orchestra. One of the vocalists on the album is Eddie Williams of The Colts. Late in the month The Colts appear for a week in Las Vegas at the El Cortez. After that gig the group will leave for a month's stay in Hawaii. By now Ram is diverting most of his attention to the fabulous success of The Platters world wide. In 1959 there was one last record by the group for the Delco label with original lead singer Joe Grundy. "Oh When You Touch Me" and "I Never Knew" was released on Delco #4002. The Colts then found their way into musical obscurity and remain one of the great curiosities of the musical scene in the 1950s and the source of one of the great cover records of all time.

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