Steve Gibson & The Red Caps©2000JCMarion
The Red Caps had their beginnings in 1939 as a budding quartet with various amounts of experience, and included Steve Gibson on guitar, Rich Davis on piano, Dave Patillo on bass, and Jimmy Springs on drums, and called themselves The Toppers. A year and a half later they were joined by sax player Emmett Mathews, and became The Five Red Caps. By 1943 they were polished enough to begin a long and varied recording career. For four years the ensemble recorded for Joe Davis, mostly on the Beacon label. Their first big seller was "I've Learned A Lesson I'll Never Forget" for Beacon #7120. Other records that made the R & B charts in the mid forties were "Just For You" on #7119, "Boogie Woogie Ball" featuring Romaine Brown on piano on Beacon #7121 (the flip side is the fine tune "Lenox Avenue Jump"), and "No One Else Will Do" on #7130. At the end of 1947, Beacon Records ceased operations and the group was signed to Mercury and were now known as Steve Gibson and The Red Caps. In mid 1948, Steve and The Red Caps had the biggest record of their career with the old pop standard "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine" on Mercury #8069. Another solid hit for the group on Mercury was "Blueberry Hill" on #8146 released during the summer of 1949.
Steve Gibson began the year of 1950 with Mercury #8165 - "They Ain't Gonna Tell It Right" and "I Wake Up Every Morning". In March Mercury issues another Gibson record - "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" on #8174.The flip side is a cover of the Ames Brothers pop hit "Sentimental Me". The 'A' side ("Are You Lonesome Tonight?") does well on the sales charts, especially in the Midwest. "I Want A Roof Over My Head" and "I'll Never Tell Anyone Else" are also recorded for Mercury that month. The interesting thing about this session is that Gibson decided to pay for the master recording himself so that he would be guaranteed that his record of the songs would be the first one issued to the public. In April, after some revamping of the lineup, the combo consists of Gibson-leader and guitar; Romaine Brown-piano; Dave Patillo-bass; Emmett Mathews-tenor sax; Jimmy Springs-drums; and the vocalist is Andre D'Orsay. The group begins a six week stay at Chubby's place in suburban Philadelphia. The group signs on a new vocalist in September. He is Earl Plummer and the group records a new release for Mercury - "Steve's Blues" / "Dirt Dishing Daisy" on #8186. By November Mercury does not renew the recording contract with Steve Gibson & The Red Caps, and so they move to RCA Victor. The end of the year finds the group with their very first release on 45rpm with a cover of Phil Harris novelty pop hit "The Thing". The flip side is a song called "Am I To Blame?". The group is billed now as Steve Gibson & The Original Red Caps.
During the year of 1951, the group is a constant draw in clubs throughout the East, but their record sales do not measure up to this popularity of their in person appeal. The first RCA release of the year comes in March with #20-4076 - with two strangely titled novelty rhythm numbers. "Did Ya Eat Yet Joe?" and "Three Dollars and Ninety Eight Cents" are recorded by the group. In June "I'm To Blame" and "The Sidewalk Shuffle" follow on RCA #22-0127. The combo signs up to be presented by the nationally known Jolly Joyce agency of Philadelphia. In late summer "Would I Mind?" and "When You Come Back To Me" is released on #22-0138. In October the Red caps go for an up-tempo tune in "Boogie Woogie On A Saturday Night" backed with "Shame" for RCA #47-4294.
In 1952, the history of Steve Gibson & The Red Caps continues as a great in person attraction that cannot seem to develop their popularity in record sales. They spend the first part of the year in Miami Beach being a big draw at the Copa City night club for three weeks. In May an important addition to the group takes place as female vocalist Damita Jo joins the Red Caps. In that same month she makes her debut on record with the group singing on a cover of Bette McLaurin's Derby hit "I May Hate Myself In The Morning". The flip side for RCA #20-4835 is "Two Little Kisses". In July the next RCA recording is issued featuring Damita Jo on vocal for "I Went To Your Wedding", another cover of a pop music hit, and Emmett Matthews does the vocal on the flip side. Surprisingly the Damita Jo side makes the pop charts and gets as high as the number twenty position. Soon after that record's release, there were two more changes in the group. Earl Plummer, the male vocalist leaves to go out on his own as a solo performer, and Jerry Potter joins the group as the drummer. "Bobbin" and "How Do I Cry" are released on RCA # 47-4835. In November RCA issues #20-5013 with "Truthfully" and "Why Don't You Love Me?".
In January of 1953, Arthur Davey, an original member of the Red Caps who had left to found the rhythm trio Plink, Plank, and Plunk, rejoins the Steve Gibson group. That same month the group's newest release for RCA is out. It presents Damita Jo on vocal with "Do I, Do I, Do I", and the other side is the jump tune "Big Game Hunter". In April RCA Victor offers a renewed contract to the group including Damita Jo as vocalist. The vocal-instrumental combo is a good draw and has an extended engagement at Philadelphia's Rendezvous Cafe. Romaine Brown, longtime pianist with the group leaves in September and forms his own group to be called The Romaines. Joining him in the new group are two ex-Red Caps, vocalist Earl Plummer and drummer Henry Tucker.
The year of 1954 saw the group live through the massive changes that came to the music scene. The group continued to do well in personal appearances, spending the entire summer at the New Jersey shore in Wildwood. Arthur Davey, an original Red Cap who rejoined the group early in 1953, tires of life on the road and goes to his hometown of Denver, Colorado, and leads his own trio at local clubs. Mercury Records re-releases the groups big 1948 pop hit "Wedding Bell" in July. In mid 1954, Steve Gibson hires veteran writer and arranger Leon Rene to work with the group on its music. The group with Damita Jo as a featured vocalist gets a choice performing contract to do a two month stay in Las Vegas beginning in September. In October, Mercury Records re-releases the tune "Blueberry Hill" by The Red caps, and it does surprisingly well in the Midwest. RCA Victor does little with the group as the new wave of rock 'n' rollers has taken over the music scene during 1955. By the following year ABC Paramount Records gives them a shot with the trendy "Rock 'n' Roll Stomp" and "Love Me Tenderly" in April. The group always a draw continues to do well at clubs such as Los Angeles Melody Room, and Miami's San Souci nightclub. "Write To Me"/"Gaucho Serenade" on ABC #9750 does nothing commercially, while a cover of The Rays "Silhouettes" gets a bit of airplay and sales. In early 1957 Steve & The Red Caps try a cover version of Jimmy Reed's "You Got Me Dizzy" for ABC Paramount. The flip is "You May Not Love Me" and it is released on #9796. The combo heads the bill at The Martinique on the south New Jersey shore for much of the summer.
The summer of 1958 finds the band once again appearing for the season at The Martinique in Wildwood, New Jersey, the 12th year in a row for the Red Caps there. For the rest of the year the combo is Las Vegas bound for a long running engagement at The sands. In 1959 "Bless You" recorded for Rose Records is released but without much success. ABC Paramount takes over the distribution of the record and re-releases it on the Hunt label #326 with "Cheryl Lee" on the flip side. In mid year the Red caps do a number of club dates in the New York area including Basin Street East and the Town & Country. Late in the year Hunt Records releases "San Antone Rose" and "Where Are You" on #330 and the combo play the Roxy Theater in New York. By 1961 the vocal-instrumental combo had broken up for the last time. It had been a long and productive run of more than twenty one years with Steve Gibson the one constant. They had a number of recorded successes, although nothing that would shake the earth or set off a new trend. They were a competent, professional group of entertainers that straddled that thin imaginary line that existed between the pop music and R & B worlds during the forties and early fifties. They made the music that served as a backdrop for the monumental changes that were taking place even as they performed. Steve Gibson & The Red Caps outlasted almost everyone, and were a happy band of musicians that have added much to the soundtrack of our lives.
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