Still Obscure : The Clefs ©2007 JCMarion


Every fan of the sounds of the Rhythm & Blues vocal groups of the nineteen fifties kows of the Cleftones from New York, and the G-Clefs from New England. Very few however know of a group with a similar name called simply The Clefs. This group actually pre-dates the other mentioned vocalists by close to five years. The Clefs had their beginnings during late 1950 in the greater Washington D. C. area. The members of the original group were Scott Mansfield on lead, tenors Pavel Bess and Frank Newman, baritone Fred Council, and bass Gerald Bullock. They performed at various gigs in and around their home area and put in plenty of time on their harmony and musical presentation.

By the spring of 1952 Leroy Flack had replaced Bullock on bass. Soon The Clefs had the opportunity to record a demo record which was heard by Lillian Clairborn, a D. C. music scout and manager. The demo was shopped to Chess Records in Chicago and soon the group had a session in the studio for the label. By late October Chess Records released two tunes by the group with the Frank Motley combo. The songs were "We Three" which had been a huge hit for the pioneering group The Inkspots in the early forties, and a 'B' side jump tune called "Ride On". Chess # 1521 got a decent review in the trade press and so The Clefs had their first recorded effort on the street. Radio airplay was limited mostly to the Chicago area, and in their home city of Washington D.C., there wasn't much of a ripple for the group's record.

For the next year and a half the group kept at it until in 1954. By then they were a foursome as Leroy Flack had left and Bess became the new bass for the group. Somehow, even though there was some interest from Vee-Jay, they were subsequently hooked up with Don Robey in Houston Texas and his Peacock label. The group had a record on Peacock by the end of the year : "I'll Be Waiting" and "Please Don't Leave Me" released on # 1643. When that single by the group did not do much in sales or airplay, the group changed their name to Scotty Mann & The Masters. With their new identity the group had one release for Peacock on # 1665 : "The Mystery Man" and "Just A Little Bit Of Loving". As with their previous attempts, this one was not successful.

For a time the Clefs had some success as a live act mostly around Washington D.C., but with not much cooking in the recording and radio fronts the group decided to call it a career in the late fifties. A recorded performance of the song "Sorry" by The Clefs showed up on the Baron label in the early nineteen seventies (The Ontarios were on the flip side). That is the short and bittersweet history of one of the fifties more obscure vocal groups - The Clefs.

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