The Magnificent - Magnificents
Chicago teenagers Johnny Keyes, Ray Ramsey, Fred Rakeshaw, and Willie Myles formed a vocal group in 1954 and called themselves The Tams. At a local talent show they were befriended by noted Chicago radio personality The Magnificent Montague. As fellow d.j. Hal (the Kool Gent) Kent had a name association with a vocal group called The Kool Gents, Montague named the new group after himself and so The Magnificents were born. In January of 1956 the announcement was made in the trade press, and soon the new group had come in contact with Vee-Jay Records and a session was in the works.The song that was pitched was called "Up On The Mountain". By the spring the record was out on #183 (the flip is "Why Did She Go", and was an immediate smash.
In May the group does a Chicago television appearance on Bandstand Matinee,and the push helps the record sell big in Chicago. Next the record breaks out in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. The rest of the country is soon to follow. By the summer Vee-Jay has a monster hit on its hands as the song is number one in Chicago and Gary, Indiana, selling big in Canada, and soon is in the top fifteen sellers on the national R & B charts. The Magnificents start out on their first extensive tour of one nighters and are a big draw in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. In October the group does week long shows in New York at the Apollo Theater, and in Washington D.C. at the Howard. That November The Magnificents do a big show in their hometown of Chicago at the Trianon Ballroom. The bill includes The Kool Gents, Calvaes, Echoes, Shakey Horton, Harold Burrage, and Otis Rush. It is mc'd by Big Bill Hill and McKie Fitzhugh of radio station WOPA.
By the end of the year Barbara Arrington had been added as lead singer and L.C. Cooke replaced Ray Ramsey. The result was Vee-Jay #208 - "Caddy Bo"/"Hiccups" and was a dismal record that did not generate any excitement. The Magnificents played the WDIA Annual Goodwill Revue in Memphis at holiday time. The next release on Vee-Jay was #235 pairing "Off The Mountain" which would seem to be a logical follow up to their hit, and "Lost Lover" and again the group came up empty. At this time the group had become disillusioned with their treatment by those in the industry (especially Montague and Vee-Jay Records) and broke up. There was another Magnificents release on Vee-Jay #281 - "Don't Leave Me" and "Ozeta" in the spring of 1958. Somehow although the group was no more Baltimore charts showed "Don't Leave Me" as the number eight seller in that city. In 1960 Vee-Jay #367 was a re-release of "Up On The Mountain" with an apparently different un-named group on the flip on a song called "Let's Do The Cha Cha". There is one further mention of the Magnificents on an obscure early 60s release for Chess, most likely this has no relation to the Vee-Jay group.
That's it then, the short and untimely story of The Magnificents, one of the great one hit wonders of the nineteen fifties vocal groups. The one hit though was so massive and memorable however, that it will be around whenever records of the R & B fifties are played. We should be thankful for small favors such as these !
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