The Counts : The Right Place
and The Right Time, but . . . . .©JCMarion1999
The Counts were a vocal group on the periphery of the R & B explosion that took hold across the United states in late 1954. The Nashville, Tennessee group impressed local talent scouts and brought them to the attention of Randy Wood and his fledgling Dot label located in nearby Gallatin. The first recording by the group was issued on Dot #1188 - "Darling Dear" and "I Need You Always". The 'A' side, the rhythmic ballad "Darling Dear" was an immediate hit with its interesting sound that seemed to have one foot rooted in the older blues and the other on the more modernistic stylings of the mid fifties. In support of the popularity of the record the Counts start making personal appearances, the tried and true method of hyping the current record, laying the groundwork for the record to come, and of course one way for the performers to make a few bucks that they seldom saw from record royalties and songwriting credits.
In May The Counts hit the stage of the venerable Apollo Theater in New York along with the "King" of the one nighters Buddy Johnson & his orchestra with Ella Johnson and Nolan Lewis. In late May a second Dot recording is released, it is #1199 - "Baby Don't You Know" and "Hot Tamale". This time a thud is heard as it is not a successful follow up that the group and the label hoped for. Even so, The Counts are signed on as part of the touring revue called "The 2nd Annual Rhythm & Blues Show" which includes Roy Hamilton, The Drifters, Faye Adams, LaVern Baker, The Spaniels, King Pleasure, and the Rusty Bryant band. The show will tour the South for six weeks during the summer. At this time Dot tries again with #1210 - "My Dear My Darling" and "She Won't Say Yes".
In late August the group does a few one nighters in Ohio with Moondog Freed. The new Dot single is a hit, even bigger than their debut disc and both sides get good air play in many parts of the country. The ballad side "My Dear" is a throwback to the sound of their first record with strong harmony and heavy rhythm. The flip side with its jump tune feel is different in that in the absence of guitar and sax breaks they are backed only by a piano with the group singing backup riffs. The fade out "crying" finale is used which was a somewhat common but effective gimmick on many R & B records of the early fifties. The Counts are part of a historic concert, one that has been overlooked by many so called music historians. This was in September of 1954 when the 2nd Annual R & B Revue comes to the Brooklyn Paramount Theater for two sold out shows. The makeup of the audience gave a view of the future of this music. Point number one was the racial composition of the crowds that came for the shows. The large number of Whites proved that the music was moving away from the "race" category and becoming an American phenomenon. Point number two was the age composition of the crowd. The majority of the attendees were teenagers showing that this style of music was becoming the sound of young America (to borrow the catch phrase of Motown). It is just one of those things that happen that The Counts were not able to capitalize on the forces at work during those two important shows that September.
Just as the music was breaking out of its constraints and becoming a major force on the landscape of the country, the group was floundering. They could not make their talent take hold and become part of this new experience, try as they might. The Counts are part of a major advertising campaign ccelebrating the fifth anniversary of the founding of Dot Records (along with Rusty Bryant). In November Dot #1226 - "Waiting Around For You" and "Baby I Want You" makes little headway. At years end the group covers the pop hit "Let Me Go Lover" (already covered by Carmen Taylor for Atlantic) and the flip side is "Wailin' Little Mama" for Dot #1235. The Counts join the Gene Ammons combo for some dates in the Midwest including New Year's at Chicago's Trianon Ballroom. Two more records on Dot appear during the year of 1955 - #1243 - "Love And Understanding" and "From This Day On" and #1265 - "Sally Walker" / "I Need You Tonight", but neither does much regarding air play or sales. In early 1956 the final Dot recording is issued #1275 - "To Our Love" and "Heartbreaker". Dot Records is by now the label of the cover record by Pat Boone, Gale Storm, The Hilltoppers, and others.
There was one final recording by The Counts. It was released on the small independent label Note Records (also the label of the forgetable Cohorts and Krazy Kats). It was the first outing for the label on #2000 - "I Brought It On Myself" and "Sweet Names". And so that was the end of the recording career of The Counts. They were a group in the right place at the right time, but had nothing much break for them and are left as a hazy memory of the days when the music changed. But because of us, their music lives on and that in itself is some small measure of justice.
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