Gone Gone Gone : The Hearts ©2005JCMarion


The Hearts was a group formed in New York City in the early fifties.They were one of the very first "girl groups" that had success in the R & B field. Zell Sanders was a budding recording industry entrepreneur bucking the system as a female in a male dominated world. The Hearts consisted of Hazel Crutchfield, Forestine Barnes, Louise Harris, Joyce West, and pianist and male member Rex Garvin. Finding a label to record the group was not easy but soon Sanders had made contact with a small local label named Baton Records and its neophyte president Sol Rabinowitz. He liked what he heard and in the first few days of 1955 "Lonely Nights" and "Oo-Wee" was released on Baton # 208.

In early 1955, the face of Rhythm & Blues had changed. With the impetus of Alan Freed now in the number one market in the country delivering his "Moondog" show at fifty thousand watts of power, the music was heard by a huge White teenage audience because it was not a late night program anymore. High schoolers tuned in nightly in huge numbers to hear a brand of music that was up until then, unknown to them. When they heard the blasting takeoff by tenor sax player Big Al Sears and the smashing cymbals on the downbeat on "Lonely Nights", then the talking recitation by Louise Harris, they were knocked on their collective rear ends. The record was a good seller but even more, had a huge effect on the direction of the music itself. The soulful love ballad was the thing now, not the humorous and sometimes salacious jump sounds that had led the way in the past.

Early in February of 1955, The Hearts make one of their first in person appearances at a show at P.S. 118 for the city's B'Nai Brith organization. The emcee was radio personality Dick "Ricardo" Sugar, and The Cadillacs also appeared along with Alfredito's mambo band. By March the little Baton label was doing well with The Hearts and The Rivileers and pushed ads in the trade press backing their records. By mid March "Lonely Nights" is listed as a top seller in New York City. Riding the crest of the popularity of their first record, The Hearts appear with Tommy "Dr. Jive" Smalls at Harlem's Rockland Palace, along with Roy Hamilton, The Cadillacs, Buddy Johnson's Band, and surprise guest star, Billie Holiday. In June The Hearts are featured on a new release on Baton Records. They sing their version of "All My Love Belongs To You" which was originally recorded by Bull Moose Jackson for King. The song features a dynamic opening with once again, a recitation by Louise Harris. The song also features full group harmony on each bridge verse that is right on the mark. The flip side is called "Talk About Him, Girlie" which is a good jump tune for dancing and is released by Baton on # 211. The new record starts off well again in New York and the group's manager Zell Sanders promotes them throughout the area. In July Baton Records announces that "Lonely Nights" is still selling along with a nice showing for "All My Love Belongs To You".

In September, The Hearts play the Apollo Theater in New York in a big R & B Revue headed by Tommy "Dr. Jive" Smalls. Headliners are Joe Turner and Bo Diddley. Also on the bill are The Five Keys, Spaniels, Buddy & Claudia, and Charlie & Ray. In October Baton releases "Gone Gone Gone" and "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" on Baton # 215. In a few weeks Boston dj's list "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" as one of the most played records in the listening area. The record is a a great representation of the group's talents. "Gone" is a true blues ballad done with great feeling, while "Until The Real Thing" is a jump R & B version of the pop standard that really swings with the house band that includes Big Al Sears on tenor and Haywood Henry on baritone sax.

In March of 1956 The Hearts record "The Disappointed Bride" and "Going Home To Stay" on Baton # 222. This recording contains two slow bluesy numbers and features "Baby" Washington on lead. In May The Hearts have a surprise birthday party for manager Zell Sanders as she announces that she will form her own label to be called J & S Records. The newest record by the group does not catch fire on the sales chart but they continue to do in person appearances including a week at Reindeer's Rest in Atlantic City with J & S recording acts Johnnie & Joe and Freddie Scott. In September Baton Records releases "I Had A Guy" and "He Drives Me Crazy" on # 228. "Guy" is a classic love ballad and the flip is a driving up tempo dance number featuring one chorus each by Haywood Henry and Al Sears, and then a third where they trade sax riffs. Although both sides of the record are top notch performances, the record does not get much in the way of airplay and the group and their manager feel that perhaps a change of labels might help. In February of 1957 The Hearts play a PAL benefit at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem along with The Channels, Bop Chords, Chips, Fi-Tones, and others. During the summer of 1957 The Hearts move from Baton to J & S Records and Zell Sanders also makes changes in the personnel of the group. The four new members of the group are Anna Barnhill, Theresa Chatman, Joyce Peterson, and Justine "Baby" Washington. Rex Garvin remains as the musical director. In October of 1957 J & S releases "So Long Baby" which is a ballad with a throwback sound of the earlier part of the decade, and "You Say You Love Me" with "Baby" Washington on lead on # 1660 (despite the inconsistencies of the numbering system for the label).

In October of 1958 The Hearts are still a recording entity with a J & S release of "I Want Your Love Tonight" an uptempo harmony vocal on # 1627. The flip side is "Like Later, Baby" a part talking part singing "attitude" number. "Dancing In A Dreamworld" a soulful ballad with a gospel feel" and "You Wouldn't Tell" a jump tune with a blues feel, both with leads by "Baby" Washington is released on J & S #1657. By that time The Hearts were an afterthought with J & S following that last record, as "Baby" Washington was enjoying success as a solo artist on Neptune Records ( an offshoot of J & S) with "The Time" and "The Bells". The Hearts cut few records in the early sixties and then somehow morphed into The Jaynettes who had the brooding "Sally Go Round The Roses" in the early sixties, and a single release in 1964. There was a single released by J & S Records listed as by The Jaynettes - "I Want To Be Free" and "Where Are You Tonight", that is in reality The Hearts with "Baby" Washington on lead. "Where" is interesting because it is a virtual remake of "Lonely Nights", recitation and all. Zell Sanders daughter Johnnie, the Johnnie in Johnnie & Joe, was also a sometime member of The Hearts. Rex Garvin went on to record as a solo artist and with a vocal-instrumental group called The Mighty Cravers producing mid sixties soul rockers "Emulsified", "I Gotta Go Now", and "Sock It To 'Em JB", the last a tribute to James Brown. But when all is said and done, the recordings by the group for Baton were some of the best "girl group" music ever put on record. Under the J & S imprint, a CD called simply "The Hearts" has everything the group ever recorded both released and unreleased from Baton and J & S. The CD contains 27 tracks including seven tunes featuring lead singing by "Baby" Washington. "Lonely Nights", "All My Love Belongs To You", "Gone Gone Gone", and "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" are worth the price of the entire CD. Add those 23 other tracks and this is a treasure trove of top flight R & B music the likes of which will never be produced again.

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