Crazy For You - The Hearbeats : Part Two©2006JCMarion


In June of 1957 Rama releases "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "I Want To Know" on # 231. Once again the 'B' side jump tune is a throwaway but the ballad side excels. "Fool" features all the individual talents of the group that together make them one of the top recording vocalists of the era. On this song they produce a very under rated performance. Sheppard again sounds entirely all knowing and world weary as he sings about some of life's shortcomings. Everything pales in comparison to an absolute killer bridge. Roker's mellow bass begins by a recitation in French translated into English by the warbling tenors (very clever) and halfway through Shep picks it up and gives a dramatic reading finishing with the line "like a thorn through my aching heart" . . . . . .a bit Shakespearian don't you think ? Just a great record by the group. In support of their new single the group signs up for another week at the Apollo Theater with a Doctor Jive revue during the July 4th week.

Later on during the summer, the Morris Levy group decided to do away with the Rama label and in so doing switched The Heartbeats over to the Gee label. The first release for the group on Gee was "When I Found You" and "Hands Off My Baby" on # 1043. The record was uninspired and disappeared almost immediately. The group kept up its personal appearances including another week at the Apollo in an all star show, this time produced by New York radio personality Evelyn Robinson. At year's end Gee released the seasonal song "After New Year's Eve" coupled with "500 Miles To Go" a sort of sequel to "A Thousand Miles Away" on # 1047. "New Year's Eve" was another superior performance by the group with all of the signature sounds that made them such a top notch vocal group. James Sheppard was again outstanding on lead, Wally Roker's mellow bottom sound anchoring the group, and the baritone-tenor background making some super harmony. A nice feature on this recording is the high tenor lead taken by Albert Crump on the second bridge.

In early February the team at Morris Levy Inc. moved the group again, this time to Roulette Records their big pop music outlet. Supposedly they had big hopes for "I Found A Job", an up tempo song that was an "answer" to the Silhouettes monster hit "Get A Job". This even though the group never developed a following for anything other than ballad tunes. The flip side was "Down On My Knees" a gospel influenced tune that featured the group for the first time fronting a strong piano accompaniment similar to the style used by Dave Cortez (Clowney) with Paul Winley for The Paragons and Jesters. The record on Roulette # 4054 was released in March and the jump side got lost in the spate of similar "answer" records, and so most of the airplay was for "Down On My Knees". Shep once again was on the money with his strong lead on the tune. The tenors are the stars of the song especially hitting the high end on the bridge, and Roker's bass is up front and ends the song alone with the piano for a fitting close to a great performance. The record has a nice run in the Northeast for the group.

During the summer Roulette releases # 4091 with The Heartbeats. This time the group couples two ballads - "Sometimes I Wonder" has a gospel feel similar to "Down On My Knees" with strong tenor work complementing Sheppard's lead and Roker's bass. The flip side was "One Day Next Year" again featuring the strong up front piano backing playing off the lead of James Sheppard. Roulette put in time promoting the record and "One Day" did pop up on sales charts in Newark, N.J., and Pittsburgh, but sales for the record over all were disappointing. Late in the year the powers that be decided to once again move The Heartbeats to another label in the Morris Levy group. This time it was Guyden Records out of Philadelphia and in early January of 1959 "One Million Years" and "Darling I Want To Get Married" were released on # 2011.

Soon after there were personal problems that arose between James and the rest of the group. These differences could not be straightened out and The Heartbeats were no more. Sheppard went out on his own and later formed The Limelights which is a separate story. The rest of The Heartbeats called it a career and never performed again. According to R & B vocal group historian Marv Goldberg, the four original members of the group (Sheppard passed away in 1970) joined by Walter Crump (brother of Albert) performed at a UGHA (United in Group Harmony Association - formed by Ronnie I (Italiano) ) in December of 2003 and could still hit notes.

The Heartbeats were one of the finest vocal groups of the golden era of the nineteen fifties. Their ballad performances were a joy to listen to, and even now almost a half century later, they seem to age like fine wine. There are two cds that fit the bill for delivering the sound of the group after all these years. "The Best of The Heartbeats" (Rhino)is a twenty track cd (five tracks by The Limelights) that have all the great tunes by the group with the exception of "Oh Baby Don't" (which would have made a better inclusion than "500 Miles To Go" in my opinion ). For a more finalized and completist outlook there is "For Collectors Only - The Heartbeats" for Collectables. This has thirty tracks (ten by The Limelights) and includes some unreleased gems by the group. Either one would make a fine addition to the history of the music and lend to the process of preserving this now lost American art form.

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