The Cues : By Any Other Name...©JCMarion



This group was begun in 1954 at Atlantic Records with the purpose of being an in-house vocal group to do backup work for the roster of Rhythm & Blues performers already on the label such as Ray Charles, LaVern Baker, Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, and Carmen Taylor. The acknowledged mastermind behind this plan was Atlantic's arranger and session man Jessie Stone. Two members of the recently disbanded group The Blenders, Abel DeCosta and Ollie Jones, were joined by Eddie Barnes and Robie Kirk (also known under the name Winfield Scott on writer's credits). This idea was unique in the independent label dominated world of early fifties R & B music. It was another example of how Atlantic Records was so far ahead in technical and professional priorities over most of their competition. The Cues may have been the identifiable name by which they would later try and make their mark as a recording group, but in those days at Atlantic Records in the formidable fifties they went by many different identities.
This great blend of voices were known by many aliases. With Ruth Brown they were The Rhythmakers. Behind Ivory Joe Hunter they became The IvoryTones. On recordings by Joe Turner, The Boss Of The Blues, they were known as The Blues Kings. When Carmen Taylor vocalized her backing group was The Boleros. And - LaVern Baker was accompanied by The Gliders. I remember wondering back in 1954 who were those great voices behind LaVern in the great R & B ballad "Tomorrow Night" and did they record on their own ? Many years later I had the answer that they were this great vocal group known as The Cues.


In late 1954 they followed Jessie Stone for a quick stop at the Messner Brothers R & B complex - Aladdin Records and their subsidiaries. The Cues recorded on their own for the Lamp label on #8007 - "Scoochie Schoochie" and "Forty 'Leven Dozen Ways" which sunk without a trace. The Cues however continued to prosper behind the scenes. Interestingly enough, The Cues were reportedly the backup group on Georgia Gibbs note by note cover of LaVern baker's version of "Tweedle Dee" which should be some sort of record in American musical history, being participants to two different versions of the same song at the same time ! The group continued to be in demand as a backup group for solo performers looking for the group sound. Some examples are the Cues doing the background for Roy Hamilton's "Don't Let Go" (the first rock hit recorded in stereo), and of Nat "King" Coles's many recordings for Capitol in the fifties, The Cues along (with the Four Knights), were an important ingredient. There is also news that The Cues recorded for RCA as The Four Students releasing one record on the Groove label (#0110) with a song called "So Near And Yet So Far". In mid 1955 The Cues turned up on Jubilee Records with a cover of The Platters "Only You" and "I Fell For Your Loving" on #5201.


By this time in late 1955 the group had acquired a competent lead singer in Jimmy Breedlove, and could hold their own in song presentation and were given the chance to record for a major label under their own name. The first Capitol release by The Cues was #3245 "Burn That Candle" (the flip "Oh My Darlin'") and it immediately took off. Unfortunately for The Cues, Bill Haley & His Comets heard their version and Decca soon had them record a cover on it and became a national hit for Haley freezing out The Cues from national recognition. The group becomes part of Buck Ram's traveling "Happy Music" tour beginning in Canada. Other members of the tour include Shirley Gunter, The Flairs, Dolly Cooper, and Joe Houston and his band.The next four releases for Capitol all went nowhere as they couldn't seem to break out of the bind that prevented the group from national exposure. The tunes were "You're On My Mind" on #3310, "Destination 2100 and 65" on #3400, "Girl I Love" on #3483, and "Prince Or Pauper" on #3582.

By mid 1957, Breedlove had departed and The Cues released a record on the Capitol subsidiary label Prep #104 called "Crazy Crazy Party". This record got considerable airplay helped along by Alan Freed in New York and had some success on the sales charts. One last record appeared by the group on a dimly remembered label called Festival, in early 1960 of a version of the tune "Old man River". Subsequent discographers have claimed that the record was actually a reworking of the song by a reconstituted version of The Ravens featuring Jimmy Ricks, while others claim that it is just The Cues doing a takeoff on The Ravens treatment of the tune.
Even though The Cues met very limited success under their own name, they continued to play a big part in the sound of R & B music as a result of work with some of the top names on Atlantic Records. Further work with LaVern Baker, Joe Turner, Ivory Joe Hunter, and Chuck Willis, were some of the artists who benefited from the background vocalizing of The Cues.Because of this history, this most unique vocal group played a big part in the spread of the popularity of the music they helped create, even though they went by other identities. So it is left to the remaining fans of the music to remember The Cues - by any other name.

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