Mr. Moon : The Five Pennies©2004JCMarion


From the town in Eastern Tennessee that is the home of that state's great university, Knoxville, comes the beginning of another of the great number of Rhythm & Blues vocal groups of the nineteen fifties. This time we are getting to know the story of a group known for one song, but although not a great national hit record, it is one of those that heard once will haunt your memory banks for years upon years. The group would be known as The Five Pennies, but all those years ago they began their existence as The Echoes.

The Echoes came to be while harmonizing on some tunes in the hallways and restrooms of Austin High School in Knoxville in 1952. The original members of the group were three brothers - John, Herbert, and James Myers, along with Ben Washington and Charles Holloway. There were some personnel changes within the group over the next two years, but soon a local club owner named Fred Logan took over management of the group. By September of 1953 after getting a few gigs as opening acts for some of the bigger R & B revues passing through the South, the new group was recommended to the people at Herald Records. This association led the group to be on the groundbreaking single by Faye Adams called "Shake A Hand". The Echoes were uncredited on the label, and even though the record was a massive national hit, it in reality, did next to nothing for the group in their quest for recognition and fame.

A senior at Austin High asked to join the group during the fall of 1955. His name was Clifford Curry and he became the sixth member of the Echoes. Curry seemed to be the missing voice that the group needed and soon their manager had them give a recording session for Savoy Records located in Newark, New Jersey a try. Savoy Records changed the name of the group from The Echoes to the Five Pennies (all six of them !). Savoy Records announced the signing of the Five Pennies in November of the year. The session resulted in singing backup to R & B vocalist Big Miller on the songs "All Is Well" (a hit for Amos Milburn) and "Try To Understand" on Savoy # 1181. The group then recorded two songs under their own name on the songs "Mr. Moon" (written and sung by Curry on lead), and "Let It Rain" which was released on Savoy # 1182. Both records hit the street at the end of 1955.

By February of 1956 Savoy announces that "Mr. Moon" is a good seller for the label and that it is starting to go over in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago. After a nice run, Savoy releases the Five Pennies on the songs "Money" and "My Heart Trembles" on # 1190 in April of 1956. The group has a number of in person appearances in the East and South. They play the Royal Peacock in Atlanta with singer Jimmy Scott during April. That was to be the extent of their recording career with Savoy Records. Clifford Curry soon left the group to enter college, and the rest of the group carried on under a variety of names and a variety of labels. They never had another hit record, but did find work as a backup group for various artists in the late fifties and early sixties.

The one member of the Five Pennies who did find some success was Clifford Curry. In the early sixties he was a member of the Bubba Suggs Band. By the middle of the decade he was recording as a solo artist and in 1967 had a nice national R & B hit with the song "She Shot A Hole In My Soul" on ELF # 90002, and again with "Double Shot Of My Baby's Love" on ELF # 90008. Meanwhile the remnants of the Five Pennies recorded some sides for Motown's VIP label as Hearts Of Stone, but nothing materialized from that partnership.

That in essence is the story of the Five Pennies, a group that in one form or another was intact for almost two decades in the music business. They had one "minor" hit in all those years, but one that captures the signature sound of the times with its earnest and heartfelt lyrics and an unforgettable vocal performance. Those facts are proof that there was indeed, magic in the air all those years ago when these records were made.

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