The Jewels : A Rhythm & Blues Mystery©JCMarion


The Jewels have always been one of my very favorite vocal groups from the nineteen fifties. Their sound and their style are singular-they sound like no other group before or since. However in the ensuing forty four years since I first heard The Jewels, any information on them has been very hard to come by. A CD of their past recordings has finally been issued (called B-Bomb Baby), but it has also been hard to find (not as hard as The Four Buddies CD, but not easy). The Jewels to my knowledge had never played any of the major R & B venues in the East, which is another reason that they remained a mystery group.

In mid August of 1954, the newly formed R and B record label based in Los Angeles recorded this new group and released #1301 - "Hearts Of Stone" and "Runnin'". The 'A' side of the record "Hearts" broke big immediately especially on the West Coast. It caught the ear of many new listeners to the sound of rhythm and blues now that Moondog (Alan Freed) was on the air in the Big Apple. The infectious "doo wah doo wah da doo" background and the "no no no" chorus made it a big favorite. My 78 rpm original exists to this day. Because of the tremendous popularity of the tune, The Jewels were the subject of a most unique phenomenon - the R & B cover record. This was done by The Charms for De Luxe Records out of Cincinnati. After three months it was clear that The Charms version with lead singing by Otis Williams won over the Midwest, but in California and on the East Coast, the original by The Jewels was the obvious choice. I do not ever recall Moondog playing the cover, true to his loyalty to the originators at the time. While the beat was still going on with "Hearts of Stone", R and B Records released a second record by The Jewels. This was #1303 - "Oh Yes I Know" and "A Fool In Paradise". The ballad side "Fool" was a great showcase for the group to show that they could do a good turn on a ballad as well as the hard rockers. This record did not do nearly as well as the first, probably because everyone was expecting another shattering jump tune to outdo the first one. R and B #1306 was next at the end of the year, and the 'A' side was titled "Rosalie" and had Johnny Torrence the group's lead singer with featured billing on the label. The flip side was titled "Living From Day To Day". Far from being a solo effort, it was in reality a Jewels record. There was reportedly one more release by The Jewels for the R and B label, and it was #1313 "Try And Get Me".

In the meantime the group was going great guns on the West Coast. In mid January of 1955 they appear at the big Rock and Roll Jamboree at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. with The Dominos, Medallions, Gene and Eunice, T-Bone Walker, Richard Berry & The Dreamers, Shirley Gunter & The Queens, and Joe Houston. In April the group signs with Imperial Records and within weeks their first release for their new label is out on #5351. It is "Angel In My Life" and "Hearts Can Be Broken". Both are up tempo tunes with "Hearts" a logical successor to "Hearts Of Stone", this time with a "yes yes yes" chorus. On the East Coast the 'A' side is "Angel" which also has a lot of the feel of their first hit and is a very original sounding record. During the summer the group tours with Marvin & Johnny, Jesse Belvin, and Joe Houston's Combo. In July The Jewels appear at another all star concert of R & B stars presented by L.A. radio personality Gene Norman. In August the group does Las Vegas with the Bill Doggett Combo. That month Imperial releases #5362 - "Natural Natural Ditty" and "Please Return" featuring Rudy Jackson. This record does not sell as well as the previous release, but the Jewels are a big hit in San Diego at the 400 Club and in their home base of Los Angeles.

Right after the new year begins Imperial releases #5377 - "How" and "Rickety Rick". Even with initial airplay featuring "How", the record dies as does the next outing for Imperial #5387 - "My Baby" and "Going Going Gone" which was a prophetic title as the label does not renew their recording contract. Even with this development the Jewels still are a draw in person. They tour the Midwest in March of 1956 with a show that includes Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, The Five Keys, The Teen Queens, Ivory Joe Hunter, and The Bonnie Sisters (how did they get into the act?). In September of that year the group has one recording for the RPM label #474 - "B-Bomb Baby" and "She's A Flirt". By the end of the year the Jewels called it quits as a performing group. There were reportedly some additional recordings by the group released in subsequent years - "Pearly Mae" and "The Wind" for the Antler label on #1102 which was owned by Buck Ram manager of The Platters and Penguins, and "I Worry About You" and "Are You Coming To The Party" for the Shasta label owned by singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely. The Imperial label also had a number of unreleased sides by the group such as "No Shoulder To Cry On" which may yet see the light of day.

That is most of what is known of The Jewels, a vocal group with one of the most unique sounds ever developed by a R & B act, and certainly they are a group not to be forgotten so easily. They remain however, a rhythm and blues mystery.

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