Remembering The Four Fellows -
The group was formed in Brooklyn, New York in the early fifties, and like so many of the early vocal groups had their formative training in gospel music. The group consisted of Jim McGowan (lead), Dave Jones (tenor), Teddy Williams (baritone) and Larry Banks (bass). The quartet was originally known as The Schemers, but soon changed their name to sound more professional for an early TV appearance. They finally secured a recording date for the independent label Derby in 1954 and released "I Tried" and "Bend Of The River" on #862. The record went nowhere but one of the driving forces behind the Derby label was Phil Rose who had also been with Coral. When Rose decided to move out on his own and start his own record label Glory, and he remembered the Four Fellows whom he had faith in as hit makers. The first two efforts for the new label were not successes. They were "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" / "I Know Love" on Glory #231, and "Grow Along With Me" / "So Will I" (lead vocal by Betty McLaurin) on #233. In the late spring of 1955 the Fellows hit paydirt with "Soldier Boy" / "Take Me Back Baby" on #234. As the record started to sell big, the group appeared on Dr. Jive's R & B Revue at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in June of that year. Also on the bill were The Moonglows, Gene & Eunice, The Nutmegs, Bo Diddley, and Buddy Johnson & His Orchestra with Ella Johnson and Nolan Lewis.
The success of the recording of "Soldier Boy" has resulted in a number of pop covers including those by Sunny Gale and Edyie Gorme'. In late summer the Four Fellows toured the South and Midwest with the Buddy Johnson Orchestra, Chuck Berry, and Al Savage. In September the Fellows join The Orchids, The Spaniels, Al Savage, and the Johnson band at the Regal Theater in Chicago. In October the group records their latest for Glory on #236 - "Angels Say" and "In The Rain". The group takes part in the celebration of the opening of the new Small's Paradise in Harlem which was under new ownership by Tommy "Doctor Jive" Smalls. The Fellows sign up for the big Christmas Revue to be presented by Dr. Jive at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. "Angels" does respectable sales and airplay, but the next release fails - "Just Come A Little Bit Closer" (lead vocal by Betty McLaurin) / "A Love That's True" on Glory #237. In January of 1956 Glory releases "Fallen Angel" and a version of Harry Belafonte's "Hold 'Em Joe" on #238. The next two releases don't do much better : "Pettycoat Baby" / "I'm Past Sixteen" on #241, and "Darling You" / "Please Don't Ask Me About Love" on #242. In August the Fellows have a moderate hit with an uptempo tune "I Sit In My Window". The flip side is "Please Play My Song". Good airplay of the tune puts the Fellows in the public eye once again. Glory Records tries an interesting move for the next release by the group - a cover of pop singer Jerry Vale's hit "You Don't Know Me" on #248. The flip is "You Sweet Girl". This release does not do much of anything or does the next release at year's end - "Loving You Darling" / "Give Me Back My Broken Heart". The group gave it one more shot in early 1957 this time with Toni Banks as lead singer. She had been with the group in a previous lineup when they were called Three Guys & A Doll. This change had little effect on the group as "You're Still In My Heart" and "Johnny The Dreamer" failed to receive either airplay or sales. This was the end of the Four Fellows except for backup work on an LP for folk/blues singer Josh White.
The Four Fellows will be remembered for their epic recording of "Soldier Boy" by most group fans of the fifties, but it should also be noted that "Angels Say", "In The Rain", and "Darling You" were also great ballad sides, and "I Sit In My Window" was an unusual and driving up tempo rocker that showed that the group was not one dimensional. A good example of their way with a song is to hear their live performance with Alan Freed from the airchecks of the CBS radio network show in 1956. "Soldier Boy" and "Window" are performed with excellence and you are immediately wondering why this talented quartet did not make more of an impression on the music scene in the mid nineteen fifties.
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