The Avons ©2002JCMarion
The town of Englewood, New Jersey, was the home to the vocal group that was originally called among other names, The Robins. When they learned of the famous West Coast group that had originated the name, they looked for a new identity and settled for The Avons. Whether the idea came from the familiar "Avon calling" tag line of the fifties, or the connection to the "Bard", William Shakespeare, the new name stuck and the New Jersey five voices were on their way, they hoped, for fame and fortune.
The original members of the group included three brothers named Lea - Bob on lead, Wendell on tenor, and Bill the baritone, Irving Watson on second tenor, and Curtis Norris on bass. Now that they had a name, they developed a sound. Many a practice session led to the new group becoming a force in their neighborhood musical scene and they were in demand for area dances and high school affairs. Soon they had a manager from the area named Ed Prindle who put them in touch with Hull Records, most famous for their recordings by The Heartbeats. Blanche (Bea) Kaslin who ran the label liked what she heard after an on the spot audition and they were signed to the label.
In July of 1956 Hull Records releases the first sides by The Avons on #717, two rocking uptempo tunes "I'm Sending S.O.S." and "Our Love Will Never End". The 'A' side was "Our Love" and it took off in the New York area and soon was also a hit in Philadelphia. The rollicking tune with the unique tenor lead of Bob Lea was a good start for the group. The second release for the group on Hull was "Baby" and "Bonnie" on #722. This time it was a beautiful ballad that was produced by the group on "Baby", with the great lead voice of Bob Lea once again providing the public with a great vocal group sound. The Avons were now a "name" group in the New York-New Jersey area and they got great exposure on local radio especially from "Jocko" Henderson on WOV. Although the first two records by the group were solid area hits, they would have trouble keeping up their level of acceptance by the public.
In late 1957 "You Are So Close To Me" and "Gonna Catch You Nappin" were released on Hull #726. This time there was little interest from the public and airplay for the new Hull record was sparse. Less than a year later Hull #728 paired the tunes "Please Come Back To Me" which featured a double lead by Bob and Wendell, and "What Will I Do" also without much success. The Avons did many area appearances including performing on stage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Hull # 731 was released in late 1959 and included the songs "On The Island" and "What Love Can Do".
The Avons moved into the sixties when most of the vocal groups had called it a day and persisted as did Hull Records, keeping their partnership going. The Avons were now a quartet with the three Lea brothers and Irvin Watson. "Whisper Softly" and "If I Just Had My Way" recorded with the Miller Sisters appeared on #744. The last sides recorded by The Avons was released on Hull#754 in 1962 and contained the songs "The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side" and "A Girl To Call My Own". By 1962 The Avons called it a career and their seven singles for Hull did not crack the national charts but were long time favorites in the Northeast. There was an LP consisting of most of their tunes released on Hull and that was it for the group. They will always be remembered for their first two singles that had a lot of us singing along, and we will remember The Avons.
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