Butchie Saunders & The Buddies, ElChords, and Vels©2005JCMarion


Beginning in 1956, every young singing prodigy in urban areas in the Northeast was following the lead position set by Frankie Lymon and his vocal group called The Teenagers. Because of the great success of the Lymon group, every independent record label was looking for their own "Frankie Lymon". One of the many hopefuls back in 1956 was nine year old John Brown in the city of Newark, New Jersey. When Brown felt that he was ready for professional direction and a shot at a record session, he went out and looked for contacts in the busy record industry in New York. He began using a stage name and he was known as Butchie Saunders. He eventually found his way to Herald Records in New York and soon had a vocal group surrounding him called The Buddies. He was being managed by Elroy Peace, a long time song and dance performer. In August a jump tune called "Lindy Lou" was picked for the group and the flip side was "Rock & Roll Indian Dance" on Herald # 485. The record got good airplay and sales in the New York and Philadelphia areas. The record starts to sell in Chicago thanks to The Great Montague that city's top radio personality. In late August, Butchie and The Buddies appeared at the Apollo Theater with Doctor Jive (Tommy Smalls). In November of 1956, now billed as Little Butchie Saunders, Herald releases "Great Big Heart" and "I Wanna Holler" on # 491. This time there was no magic for Butchie, and the record did not sell much despite a concentrated effort in Washington D.C. and the Virginia Tidewater area of Norfolk and Portsmouth. Herald Records had second thoughts on continuing with the group. The label felt that the onslaught of Lymon sound-alikes was a glut on the scene. Subsequently Herald Records dropped the group from their recording roster and Butchie was out on his own again.

Butchie went back to making the rounds of the smaller New York independents looking for a break. He was eventually led to a man named Al Tate who had begun a new recording enterprise called Good Records. A vocal quartet was quickly thrown together including Ronald Talbert, David Ballot, and a now forgotten member of the group. They were called The Elchords and worked on two songs that were prepared for the group. The tunes were "Peppermint Stick" and "Gee I'm In Love" and were soon released on Good # 544. The record picked up radio airplay almost immediately, and was a good sized hit in the urban Northeast during the spring of 1958. Unfortunately for the group, some internal dissension coupled with problems with the record label ended the career of The Elchords after one record. Both sides were reissued a year later on the MusicTone label (# 1107). But that was not the end of the line for Butchie Saunders. After a try to hook up with George Goldner (who had Frankie Lymon and his group) came to nothing, Saunders did make a connection with AngleTone Records most known for a number of hits by The Fi-Tones. The label had a group called The Vels, and they had the idea to front the group with Butchie as the lead singer. The combined group had one release for the label "Sometimes Little Girl" and "Over The Rainbow" on AngleTone # 535 in 1959. It was not a successful record for the group and soon Butchie Saunders faded with the oncoming nineteen sixties.

Later, Saunders made a couple of attempts on record using his real name John Brown and also concentrated on writing and producing. But for a time back in the mid fifties, Little Butchie Saunders was another talented high tenor singer in the shadow of Frankie Lymon and part of the sound of our youth.

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