Teenage Promise : The Six Teens©2008JCMarion


In the mid fifties in the Los Angeles area, there was a young man with a vision and a desire. His name was Ed Wells, and he had the idea for a vocal group that would have a different sound and a different path to success. As he put the group together there was an equal mix of male and female voices, and he hoped they would put together the songs of a type that would help to showcase their talents. His first choice for the group was Beverly Pecot who he had known for years through family connections. The next to be asked in was Kenneth Sinclair who seemed to be a natural because of his love for singing. Through Sinclair, Wells came upon Darryl Lewis who would become the bass voice of the group. More importantly, Lewis had two cousins who sang often enough in church. To Wells they seemed a good fit for his visions for the vocalists. The cousins were Louise and Trudy Williams, and although Wells had originally thought that he would use only Louise, there was something about the then twelve year old Trudy that made him think that perhaps she would fit in to his ideas.

They decided on the name The Six Teens because basically that's what they were, and also from the success of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers who had taken over the teenage music scene. Now with Wells the real work had begun. The new group worked on a number of songs written by Wells and as soon as he was satisfied with the sound and presentation, he felt that it was time to make a move and sign on to a recording session. At about that time they were put in contact with Max Feirtag who was head of a local label called Flip Records. As they were setting up the session and running through the songs, it was decided that young Trudy would be the lead singer on the first song called "A Casual Look". The flip side called "Teenage Promise" was originally a mid tempo song but it was redone to be presented as a ballad. It was a very unusual sound because it had virtually three female leads backed up with three male voices singing the back ground with a baritone heavy sound. Many listeners preferred that song to the determined 'A' side "A Casual Look". The record was released in April of 1956 on Flip # 315.

Pushed in Los Angeles by Hunter Hancock and Zeke Manners, the record was an immediate top seller in the area. Soon as airplay spread across the country, "A Casual Look" became one of the big selling records of the spring of 1956. By July the group was booked to do a big stage show at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona for Al Jarvis. Also on the show were The Platters, Shirley Gunter, The Turks, and the Joe Houston band. The record had a good run throughout the summer and in September Flip Records announced the release of # 317 with the songs "Send Me Flowers" and "Afar Into The Night". Later in the month the Six Teens are signed to a three year recording contract with Flip Records. At this time the group appeared at the Shrine Auditorium in L. A. for radio personality Earl McDaniel in a show that headlined Gene Vincent and The Coasters. The group did appearances throughout Southern California on weekends to allow for school requirements. At year's end the group is reported to be filming a short for Universal that will be used for a charity appeal for funds.

During the year end holidays the group appears at a show presented by Dick Hugg at the UA Theater which also starred Richard Berry. In January of 1957 The Six Teens new record is released by Flip. The songs are "Only Jim" and "My Special Guy" and are issued on # 320. Both sides of the record were somewhat of an echo of their first release. "Only Jim" is a love song crossed by the seperation caused by military commitment (this time the navy) and the flip side is a lovely ballad featuring three part female lead and three male voices singing backup. It is a singular sound from the era of the R & B vocal groups and that is why it is so unique. The record did well in many parts of the country (not as widespread as their first release however) and Flip did not wait as long to issue a follow up record. That came in late April with the release of Flip # 322 - "Arrow Of Love" and "Was It A Dream Of Mine? ". "Arrow" was a solid up tempo tune (for a change) and Trudy Williams lead voice began to take on a sound of increasing maturity despite her young age ( now all of fourteen). The group made a number of in person appearances on radio, television, and at area shows throughout the summer as "Arrow" does well for them.

In September of 1957 Flip Records issues # 326 with the songs "My Surprise" and "Baby, You're Dynamite" and they are billed as "The Six Teens & Trudy Williams". Also in advertising in the trade press, Flip points out the lead singing of Trudy as a marketing promotion. The record makes an initial impression to the reviewers of Cash Box, as they designate the record as "Sleeper Of The Week". As hard as Flip pushes, the new record does not make much headway among record buyers. And so at the end of the year Flip releases a further effort by the group with the tunes "Stop Playing Ping Pong With My Heart" and "My Secret" on # 329. Once again the group is billed as just The Six Teens. Over the holiday season the group makes a number of appearances throughout the area as school is out. In May of 1958 Flip tries to get the group back on the hit list with "Loves A Funny That Way" and "Danny (This Is The Last Dance)" on # 333 with the group now billed as Trudy Williams with The Six Teens. During the summer the group signs on for a number of shows presented by local radio personality Art Laboe.

In August the Six Teens record again and this time the songs are "Oh It's Crazy" and "Baby-O" on Flip # 338, both written by long time West Coast R & B performer Richard Berry (whom Trudy Williams recorded with stepping out from the Six Teens). The group did a turn with a big end of summer show at the Hollywood Bowl hosted by Dick Clark. The Trudy Williams "solo" side backed by Richard Berry & The Pharaohs was released on Flip # 340 with the songs "You're My Boy Friend" and "A Foolish Little Girl". At about this time Ken Sinclair left the group and was replaced by first, Richard Owens and then Jim Smith. In the spring of 1959 Flip Records released "Why Do I Go To School" and "Heaven Knows I Love Him" on # 346. "School" was an up tempo tune and it seemed like the group was trying to duplicate their success with "Arrow Of Love" but this song did not have the great sound of the earlier record. In October of the year Flip releases an LP album called "Flip Hits" with one side by The Six Teens and the other songs by Richard Berry (including the original "Louie Louie") and Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires "Death Of An Angel".

In 1960 there was a final recording session for the group at Flip Records. The session yielded two records, neither of which produced any memorable history for the vocalists. The first of these was "So happy" and "That Wonderful Secret Of Love" on # 350. The second release on # 351 contained the songs "Little Prayer" and "Suddenly In Love". Soon after during that year The Six Teens were no more. The members of the group went their seperate ways after that with Ken Sinclair the most prominent with the groups The Elgins, Elements, and Bagdads. The Six Teens did however provide a wonderful set of memories for those that were there to experience their unique sound and songs, and to listen to their singular presentation that did so much to make the dreams of Ed Wells come true.

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