Remembering The Beavers©2006JCMarion

Of all the vocal groups that passed through the musical conciousness of the country during the golden age of Rhythm & Blues, one of the most obscure of them all was a group called The Beavers. The group was apparently the organized and coached in the intracacies of vocalizing by Joe Thomas. Thomas was a noted composer, arranger, and saxophone player whose credentials went back to te days of Jelly Roll Morton. Born in Oklahoma Thomas was a mainstay in jazz circles through the thirties and also served as arranger for such White swing bands as Woody Herman and Raymond Scott. Switching his interests to the ever expanding field of R & B in the post war forties, Thomas by 1950 had become the director of R & B for Decca Records, the biggest major of them all.

In 1949 while teaching composition and voice at his own music school in New York City, he put together a vocal quartet that he felt would be a successful unit in the recording world. The members of the group that he organized were John Wilson (baritone), Fred Hamilton and Dick Palmer tenors, and Ray Johmson on bass. Palmer was formerly a member of The Palmer Brothers vocal group that also included Clarence, who would lead the Jive Bombers in the mid fifties. The group worked on some songs and arrangements and polished their act as they sought a recording contract or at least an opportunity to do a session bnefore the microphones. In late 1949 they had their chance as Thomas got the group signed to Decca subsidiary Coral Records.

The first release by the group for Coral was # 65018 and the songs were "If You See Tears In My Eyes" and "I Gotta Do It". "Eyes" was a moderate hit for The Delta Rhythm Boys on Atlantic and that might have stolen some of the sales away from the Beavers. A second recording for the Coral label was released in March of 1950 on # 65026 with the songs "I'd Rather Be Wrong Than Blue" and the jump blues "Big Mouth Mama". Neither of the records for Coral did much of anything on the sales charts. The Beavers were also an uncredited part of a decent selling record at the time - Herb lance had a R & B version of Frankie Laine's pop hit "That Lucky Old Sun" on the Sittin In label and the group performed the background vocals on the tune. Another part of the short strange history of The Beavers was the part they played on another R & B cover of a pop and country hit "Rag Mop" (or as in the lyrics "RAGG MOPP"). The song originally by Johnny Lee Wills was covered by The Ames Brothers for Coral selling in huge numbers. So the parent label Decca tried their hand with a version by Lionel Hampton's band. The vocal group that did the vocals on the record were listed on the label as The Hamp-Tones, but in reality were The Beavers.

The Beavers called it quits in mid 1950 and soon Ray Johnson and Dick Palmer became members of the early R & B vocal group The Blenders. That is the short and interesting history of The Beavers. Perhaps just an afterthought or a passing word or two in the true story of the music, however they were a part of all that is left for the rest of us all these years later to remember and enjoy.


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