The Avalons©2004JCMarion


The Avalons were a pioneering Rhythm & Blues vocal group that was formed in the months after the end of World War II. The original members of this group were all from the Tidewater area of Virginia. The connecting cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News, were the location of the singers - Bernard Purdie who formed the group, James Dozier, George Cox, Maryland Pierce, and Charles Crowley. After a short time of organizing, planning, laying out songs, and perfecting a style, Purdie was drafted into the army and the group broke up. Two years later, the dream still was a strong force for Purdie and he was back at it reforming the group called The Chimes, this time less the voice of Maryland Pierce who had joined another vocal group from the area called The Five Keys. At this time a sometimes member of The Chimes was Ray Ingram the brother of Ripley Ingram also of the Five Keys. You can see the inter-group relationship between The Avalons and the Five Keys existed, and this was also true of another Tidewater vocal group called The Leaders who would gain a certain amount of fame in later years.

By the dawn of the decade of the 1950s, The Chimes now known as the Four Bees, were a touring group especially in Canada which was a great change from the usual stops along the circuit of small clubs in the South and Midwest, and the TOBA network of theaters in the cities of the Northeast and Midwest (such as the Howard in D.C., Royal in Baltimore, Apollo in New York, etc.). In 1950 another name change for the group was at hand - this time they would be called The Encores (not the group with that name that recorded for Checker Records in 1952. They remained doing dates mostly in Canada for the first half of the nineteen fifties until the Five Keys connection came to cross their paths again as the group took on Franny Wolff as their manager. Wolff was also personal manager for the Five Keys so maybe The Encores hoped that some of the luck would rub off on them. The first thing the group did at this time was to take on another name change - from now on they would be known as The Avalons.

In January of 1956 Groove Records, an R & B subsidiary of RCA Victor announces the signing of The Avalons to their label. "Chains Around My Heart" is slated to be their first release for the label. The flip side of the recprd is the tune "Ooh She Flew" and are released on Groove # 0141 in late February. "Chains" got some decent airplay, but in the vocal group loaded year of 1956, the record got lost in the shuffle. It did get some recognition in the Northeast, especially in Baltimore and Washington D.C. Continuing to do the majority of their club work in Ontario, Canada, the group returned late in the year to do another recording session for RCA. The result was a November release of "It's Funny But It's True" and "Sugar Sugar" on Groove # 0174. This recording got little airplay and negligable sales. Later on there was one release by the group for the Unart label - "My Heart's Desire" and their version of the pop standard "Ebb Tide" on # 2007. The Avalons returned to Canada where they continued to perform for another few months until calling it quits in mid 1958. There were reportedly a few sides by the group that saw the light of day in Canada, but nothing that would make them household names. Bernard Purdie continued on during the sixties with a reconstituted group of Platters singing the songs that made that group famous.

The Avalons were together for a dozen years, and in that time really did not make a mark that would generate great memories of hit records and personal appearances. However, they made the effort and were part of that very productive scene in the late forties that gave rise to so many of our favorites for life. We should never forget those that did not quite make a major impact on our life.

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