Oh Baby Mine : The Four Knights©2007JCMarion

The Four Knights began their career as so many of the Black vocal groups of the thirties and forties did as an original gospel quartet. They were based in Charlotte, North carolina, and originally known as The Southland Jubilee Singers. The members of the group were Gene Alford, Oscar Broadway, John Wallace, and Clarence Dixon. They began making radio appearances in their home city in the early nineteen forties eventually ending up on WBT as part of the Carolina Hayride radio program. In 1945 the group acquired a manager named Sy Langois , and his first order of business was to get the group to mainstream their sound to pop tunes and with that move, a name change was in store. The new name for the group was The Four Knights, and in 1945 secured a radio stint with Arthur Godfrey. With the increasing exposure of the group came a chance at recording and soon they were signed to the oldest major of them all, Decca Records.

In the spring of 1946 the quartet had their first record release - "Just In Case You Changed Your Mind" / "Don't Be Ashamed To Say I Love You" on Decca #1103. The Four Knights had three more records for Decca when in 1948 they were moved to the company's subsidiary label Coral Records. That same year the group began a two year association with the Red Skelton Show which ended in 1950 when they were replaced by The Congo Rhythm Boys because of the Knights salary demands. In the spring of 1949 the group had their last record for Coral - "Crystal Gazer" on # 60072. In 1951 the foursome moved to Capitol Records and their first for that label was "I Love The Sunshine Of Your Smile" and "Sentimental Fool" on # 1587. It was the first recording by the group to m ake the best seller charts at # 23. In September of 1951 Capitol Records released the Knights cover versions of "Glory Of Love" (Five Keys) and "(It's No) Sin" pop hits for The Four Aces and Eddy Howard. Surprisingly, the Four Knights version of "Sin" made the top fifteen and stayed on the best sellers list for two and a half months. At years end, another cover - this time of Johnny Ray's cataclysmic hit "Cry" - was good enough to top out at # 21 in the country on Capitol # 1875.

1952 did not see the group keep their modest streak of hit records going as the next eight releases did not chart at all. In December of 1952 the group tried another cover of a pop hit - this time Don Howard's plain quasi-country tune "Oh Happy Day". The Knights hit pay dirt again as the song did well for Capitol (# 2315) getting as high as number six on America's best seller charts and remaining for more than two months. In 1954 the group continued to make in person appearances mainly in the Northeast including a week at Newark's Adams Theater as part of a Harlem Musical Revue stage show. In January of the year, Capitol released a tune recorded by The Four Knights a month earlier. It was called "I Get So Lonely", and was also known by the repetitive refrain sung by Oscar Broadway - "Oh Baby Mine" on # 2654. The snappy up tempo tune first entered the charts in late January - six months later it was still on the best seller charts.The tune, based on the sing along "Gently Down The Stream" got to the number two position second only to Doris Day's "Secret Love". It was the group's first (and only) million seller and one of the biggest hit records of 1954. The recording was also a huge hit in England.

At this time there were some personnel changes within the group. Gene Alford retired and was replaced by George Vereen, who was in turn replaced by former member of the Delta Rhythm Boys Cliff Holland. The group continued to do a number of musical variety shows on television and many club and theater dates including a week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. "Period" / "How Wrong Can You Be" on Capitol # 2847 charted briefly in the summer of 1954, as did their cover of "In The Chapel In The Moonlight" (pop - Kitty Kallen, R & B - The Orioles) on # 2894. In 1955 the Four Knights did some credited backup work with Nat Cole for Capitol. "If I May" / "A Blossom Fell" on # 3095 got good airplay on both pop and R & B stations across the country and was a huge two sided hit. "Blossom" kept out of the number one position by only "Unchained Melody" and had a five month stay on the top seller charts. The flip side "If I May" got well into the top ten and remained for two months on the charts. In August of 1956 Cole and The Knights had another collaboration that charted with "That;s All There Is To That" on # 3456 which was a three month chart hit and made the top fifteen in national sales. The combination made one more chart hit, 1957's "My Personal Possession" / "Send For Me" on # 3737 which briefly made the top twenty. That was the last recording for the Four Knights on Capitol after seven years and more than forty singles.

After the group left Capitol, they went back and signed again with Coral Records. "Four Minute Mile" / "When Your Lover Has Gone" on Coral # 61936 was the first release on their second go round with the label. The only chart appearance by the group for Coral this time was "Oh Falling Star" and "Foolish Tears" on # 62046. The Four Knights remained a musical attraction into the early sixties through a number of personnel changes before calling it a career in 1965. They remained a competent and entertaining vocal group for almost three decades, and although stylistically not a big influence on the R & B vocal groups, they were an important part of America's evolving musical scene.

There are two cds that are available that showcase the vocal talents of The Four Knights. From Heritage (U.K.) is the cd "The Four Knights : 1945-1950" presenting some early recordings (30 tracks) by the group including some gospel numbers. "Oh Baby vol. 1" from Acrobat features 22 tracks featuring all of the hits and others from the Capitol years (not the songs with Nat Cole). Here's hoping there is a vol.2 with the rest of the Capitol sides and the Decca / Coral tunes as well.

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