1950 : The Ravens ©1999JCMarion


The Ravens had been an established vocal group for three years leading into 1950. The original Ravens consisted of Jimmy Ricks, Warren Suttles, Ollie Jones, and Leonard Puzey. With the addition of tenor lead Maithe Marshall, the group became a top attraction and created a series of great recordings especially "Old Man River" and "Ricky's Blues", recording for the Hub and National labels. In January of 1950 National Records releases #9101 "I've Been A Fool" / "I Don't Have To Ride No More". It was at this time that the Ravens (already organized as a commercial corporation) purchase a large turkey farm located in Marlboro, Maryland, to add to their economic empire. The group is set to appear with the Artie Shaw Orchestra at New York's Bop City. Soon after that engagement The Ravens appear in a show with Dinah Washington that plays the Regal Theater in Chicago. The next appearance at Bop City is marred by an injury to Jimmy Ricks which happened while Ricks was acting as equipment manager. The injury is not serious and Ricks is the butt of many jokes about the incident.

In March of the year, the group appears with Wini Brown and Doc Sausage Combo at Philadelphia's Bop City. For the second week of this particular engagement blues singer and pianist Amos Milburn joins the show. In early April National Records #9111 is released - "Count Every Star" / "I'm Gonna Paper My Walls With Your Loveletters" and it becomes the first Ravens record available on 45rpm. National keeps all previous Ravens releases available and many of them will be re-released in the 45rpm format. The group heads west and spends two weeks appearing at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, before moving on for a series of personal appearances in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was announced that just before the Ravens left for their western trip, member Leonard Puzey was married to R & B performer Ruth Brown. After the Hawaii trip, the Ravens appear in Los Angeles at the Oasis Club. While in California Jimmy Ricks buys his own plane for recreational purposes. It is a small single engine Piper.

During the summer a strange tale involving the Ravens and their recording of "I Don't Have To Ride No More" on National comes to light. It seems that the song makes reference to the number '694' in the lyrics. That was enough to spur a number of bettors in the Atlanta area to put heavy action on that combination. The trouble occurred when that particular number "hit" three times in the space of two weeks causing some bookmakers to endure a financial crisis. The solution was to suspend all action on that combination until the Ravens finish their Atlanta gig and are well out of town before betting action would be allowed to resume on that particular number. On another front, the Ravens as a unit will be given dj duties over New York radio station WLIB. They will play records, comment on the music, and maybe even sing their criticisms ! In July the group celebrates their fourth year in show business and appear at the Club Picadilly in Newark, New Jersey. At the end of the month the Ravens travel to Memphis and make an appearance at the W.C. Handy Theater.

In August National #9098 is out. It pairs "I'm Afraid Of You" with "Get Wise Baby". The next month the Ravens turn to a new direction. Universal Attractions who manages the group, concludes a deal with Columbia records which now becomes the new recording label for the group. All recordings by The Ravens for Columbia will be supervised by that label's chief A & R man, Mitch Miller. In September the ravens play the Howard Theater in Washington D.C. with Ruth Brown. The next month the group returns to New York for a week at the Apollo Theater. The first recording session for Columbia takes place in November and the Ravens are backed up with an all star jazz orchestra. Two weeks later the first Columbia recording is released. It is #39050 - "Time Takes care Of Everything" / "Don't Look Now". In December The Ravens take part in a big celebration and show that commemorates the twenty fifth anniversary of noted Harlem nightclub Small's Paradise. At the end of the year the second Columbia recording by the group is released - #39070 : "I'm So Crazy For Love" / "My Baby's Gone".

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