Picture Of Love : The Continentals©2005JCMarion

The vocal group known as The Continentals were originally known as The Condors. In the early fifties, students at Brooklyn’s Boys High School formed the group. They were Herman Montgomery, James Gripper, Vincent Cooper, and Buddy Payne. Soon the quartet was hooked up with singer Danny Hicks and the group felt they could now develop their sound. Soon after Hicks joined the group they changed their name to The Continentals ( supposedly taken from the strange television show of the name name in the early fifties). They put together a number of songs, both cover versions and originals, and began to get neighborhood gigs where they developed a good local following. Now they went searching for a record deal among the many small R & B independent labels in the New York City area.

At this point in time, Buddy Payne left the group and was replaced by John Jones known as “Peanut”. The group continuing to work and perfect their music finally got a shot at recording when they were put in touch with Bobby Robinson. After Robinson ceased operation of his Red Robin label, he began a new company called Whirlin Disc. The label set up their first session with two local vocal groups - one was The Channels and the other was The Continentals. In late October of 1956 The Continentals realized their dream by having a new record release on Whirlin Disc # 101 with the songs “Dear Lord” and “Fine Fine Frame”. “Dear Lord” was recorded virtually a capella featuring a memorable open and close using rising vocal notes that framed a lovely song. The tune has become a vocal group standard with just about every new group coming together trying out their version of the song (much like the status of The Cadillacs “Gloria”). The flip side is a joyous up tempo tune that does its irresistible best to get you dancing at once. It was a good two sided record for the promising group.

Unfortunately for The Continentals, the Whirlin Disc release did not do much in the way of record sales. Radio play was also sparse for the new group and so they were to try again in the recording studio. By February of 1957 The Continentals recorded for Whirlin Disc with the tunes “Picture Of Love” and “Soft And Sweet” on # 105. The up tempo side “Picture Of Love” became a local favorite on the radio waves. Vincent Cooper’s rich vibrato bass leads off the tune with an a capella intro that jumps into the rocking song. Good harmony and a unique stop tempo fill at the end of the chorus are part of this great song. The happy sound of The Continentals however, did not do as well as it should have and many people over the years felt that Robinson and Whirlin Disc were too involved with The Channels (who were much more successful for the label). The label was also involved at that time with a new group called The Wheelers who like The Continentals had a rough go at getting publicity.

Whatever the reason, The Continentals shot at the big time never got off the ground and by early 1958 the group was no more. Over the intervening years there have been sporadic reunions of sorts but this is a vocal group from the nineteen fifties whose actual history in the spotlight of the public is far overshadowed by their wide influence on the music scene that they were a part of. Whenever the subject of New York City R & B vocal groups is at the forefront of a discussion, the mention of The Continentals brings a nod of the head and a knowing smile to those that remember what was and more importantly, what should have been. That is the (unfortunately) short history of The Continentals.

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