The Impalas Remembered©2008JCMarion


The group known as The Impalas originated in a neighborhood in the southern part of the borough of Brooklyn known as Canarsie. The group began as a trio with Lenny Renda, Tony Carlucci, and Richard Wagner getting together and hitting some notes hanging out on the streetcorners near their homes. One of the admirers of their sound was one Joe Frazier known by his nickname of "Speedo". He talked to the would be vocalists and thought he could help them polish up their sound. The fact that Frazier was Black and the others White did not seem to be any cause for concern among the singers. Looking for a name for the group was the next step and soon the guys agreed on the name The Impalas, after a popular model of Chevrolet in the late nineteen fifties. Now the next step was to find a record label interested enough in the new group to give them a shot at recording. They soon secured a chance with a small local record label called Hamilton Records and their two songs were "I Was A Fool" and "First Date" which was released on # 5006 in the late summer of 1958. The record went nowhere, but the Impalas did not immediately throw in the towel and decided to try again when they felt the time was right.

Late in the year the group made some important connections that would help them on their way. They were heard by music manager Artie Zwerin and performer "Gino" Giosasi which led to a chance meeting with Alan Freed who still had some clout in the New York recording industry despite his legal troubles and loss of his spot at radio station WINS in the city. Through him the group had a shot at a recording session with MGM Records. The group with Frazier singing lead had a new tune given to them called "Sorry Sorry" which MGM liked and so the recorded version of the song was released on a new subsidiary label called Cub Records on # 9022 in January of 1959. The song "Fool Fool Fool" was on the flip side of the new release. Almost immediately the record was a hit. The 'A' side now known as "Sorry I Ran All The Way Home" took off like a rocket in the Northeast and by the beginning of February it was on everybody's pick hit list. As the sales numbers add up the group is suddenly a hot commodity. They are signed to do the big Easter show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater, and are in demand for television and club appearances.

By the mid spring "Sorry" is one of the top sellers in the country. In May, The Impalas appear at a big benefit concert in Detroit presented by WJBK radio. In June the group goes back into the studio and records a follow up to their smash hit. The result is "Oh What A Fool" and "Sandy Went Away" on Cub # 9033. By August Cub issues a LP album by The Impalas on # 8003 to capitalize of "Sorry". The group's second record for Cub could not duplicate the success of their initial effort and so they tried again. In October Cub Records releases the newest effort by the group with "Bye Bye Everybody" and "Peggy Darling" on # 9053. In November the group appears at a MGM Records promotional tie in with the F.W. Woolworth chain of stores celebrating their long time presence in the Times Square area of New York City. That month The Impalas do a television spot with Clay Cole in New York. Reports in the trade press claim that "Peggy Darling" is selling well in Chicago and Gary, Indiana. However the record does not break nationally on the hit charts.

In 1960 the group has one last release issued by Cub Records. This time they are listed as Speedo & The Impalas. The songs are "All Alone" and "When My Heart Does The Talking" and are issued on Cub # 9066. After that the group reforms at sporadic times through the nineteen sixties, and there is one last forgettable record for Red Boy Records in the mid sixties. And so - that is the story of The Impalas who recorded one of the great songs that defined the late 1950s for all of us. "Sorry I Ran All The Way Home" had that certain something that made it part of the soundtrack of our lives all those years ago.

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