The Beale Street Boys ©2004JCMarion


Once upon a time in the nineteen forties there was a vocal group known as The Beale Street Boys. Their name celebrated the main street of the Black community of Memphis where a young W.C. Handy developed his musical skills and traditions. The vocal group of that name is somewhat of a mystery quartet from that time of transition from The Inkspots to the Orioles in defining the style and sound of the Rhythm & Blues vocal groups. This group should not be confused with a nineteen twenties string / jug band led by Gus Cannon (famous for the song "Walk Right In" a hit during the folk music boom in the early sixties by The Rooftop Singers with Eric Darling) and Noah Lewis. Nor should they get mixed up with a vocal-instrumental combo from the late forties with Johnny Ace, B.B. King, and Bobby "Blue" Bland among its members. Nor should they be confused with a tenor sax-organ combo led by Milt Buckner that recorded for Savoy in the mid forties.

No - this was a true vocal quartet in the style that has led to what is commonly referred to as doo wop. These four members of the group were Bob Davis on lead, William Barnes on tenor, James Pugh on baritone, and bass singer David Pugh. The Beale Street Boys were signed to the MGM Record label in late 1947 and soon had their first record out in january of 1948. The songs were "Teach Me Teach Me, Baby" and "Why Does It Always Rain On Sunday?" on MGM #10141. Now the group was entered into a crowded field with these transition groups such as the Deep River Boys, Charioteers, Delta Rhythm Boys, Four Tunes, and others. "Wedding Bells" and "Baby Don't Be Mad At Me" was the second side for MGM on #10197 during the spring of the year. Another nice record but not one to put MGM on the charts. In late September two nice tunes written by the group's lead Bob Davis were released - "Wait Till I Get You In My Dreams Tonight" (almost a take on Leadbelly's "Good Night Irene") and "Home" on #10273. The final Beale Street Boys single for MGM came out in January of 1949 featuring the songs "I've Kept Everything The Same For You" and "I Wish I Had A Dime For Every Heart You've Broken" on #10505.

Four decent sides by the Beale Street Boys for MGM in a little over a year provided no good sellers or even a moderate hit, and the group seemed to disappear during the tumultuous rock 'n roll nineteen fifties. The Beale Street Boys resurfaced in 1959 with a record released on the OBA label with the songs "Next Christmas" and "There Is Nothing Greater Than A Prayer" on OBA# 101. There was reportedly two more releases on this label by the group but it is not known what songs were recorded, or what label number was used. It is also not clear when these sides were actually recorded, and the feeling is that they were unissued songs recorded for MGM Records in the late forties. All other information on this group remains a mystery. The one snippet of fact that is left that proves that the group even existed is a three volume set of CDs called MGM Doo Wop with a number of interesting sides. Among them on volume 2 are two songs by The Beale Street Boys - "Home" and "Teach Me Teach Me Baby".

That is the short and somewhat mysterious history of The Beale Street Boys. Again as with other groups in a similar situation, their importance is that they were a part of the scene and did their part in the evolution of the music.

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