Kodaks or Kodoks - Who Cares ? ©2003JCMarion


An interesting vocal group came together in the city of Newark, New Jersey in the mid fifties. The group was originally known as The Supremes and consisted of James Patrick and William Franklin - tenors, Larry Davis - baritone, William Miller - bass, and female lead singer Pearl McKinnion. Working out their harmonies and sound, they came up with a good rendition of a song called "Teenager's Dream". They secured an audition for record man extroadinaire Bobby Robinson and his new enterprise called Fury Records. Bobby liked what he heard especially the fact that lead singer Pearl had a sound much like the high tenor lead by young boys that was so much the rage since the tremendous popularity of Frankie Lymon. Soon "Teenager's Dream" was paired with a song called "Little Boy And Girl" and released in the fall of 1957 on Fury #1007. The group had dropped the Supremes name and adopted the name The Kodaks from the line of cameras and film. Soon when Fury released "Teenager's Dream" some of the labels had the name misspelled as Kodoks adding some confusion to the scene. The ballad side was a radio favorite for Jocko, Hal Jackson, and Dr. Jive in the New York area. The group was now the newest rave from an area that had produced The Five Pennies, Terracetones, and Monotones.

Soon in the following spring, the Kodaks were ready for their second try for Fury Records. This time they planned to feature an up tempo bouncer that Pearl McKinnion had written while at Robert Trent Junior High School in Newark. The tune was "Oh Gee Oh Gosh", and so the rehearsing began . The group soon started making appearances in the region such as a Hal Jackson - Jack Walker show at Hunt's Point Palace in the Bronx on November 1, 1957. Early the following year, "Oh Gee Oh Gosh" was recorded with "A Make Believe World" as the flip side of the release on Fury #1015. "Oh Gee Oh Gosh" started to take off in the Northeast, especially in the New York area. Part of the popularity of the song is the straightforward lyrics by McKinnion - "loving you will be my happiness", "I will be forever loving you", and "I will love you dear until I die". The record was a featured dance tune on the Jocko television show seen daily on then commercial channel 13 from Newark (WATV and then WNTA). By early June the record was a certifiable hit as proclaimed by Fury Records.

By the time the record had run its course it had sold somewhere in the vicinity of a half million copies, not bad for female led vocal group from New Jersey. The group now billed as The Kodoks featuring Pearl McKinnion were in demand at many venues in the Northeast. The group made the usual rounds - the Apollo in New York, the Uptown in Philly, the Royal in Baltimore, and Howard in D.C. Although almost all of the Kodoks tunes were recorded at the original session, Bobby Robinson picked the tunes as they were released on his label. The third recording was on Fury #1019 and consisted of the tunes "Kingless Castle" and "My baby And Me". There was originally a feeling that "Kingless Castle" might make some noise with radio play in the metropolitan area, that was not the case. By now there was the inevitable personnel changes as the group struggled to win back an audience with some new sounds. Harold Jenkins and Rich Dixon had replaced William Franklin and Larry Davis as the Kodoks readied another release from Fury Records.

A good jump tune in the style of "Oh Gee Oh Gosh" was the 'A' side of Fury #1020. It was called "Runaround Baby" and was paired with "Guardian Angel", but once again sales and airplay were less than hoped for. One of the last appearances by the group came in October of 1959 at an anniversary show saluting WNJR radio's George Hudson and his sixth year of hosting the Downbeat Club at the station. The big show was held at Newark's Mosque Theater and also featured the Isley Brothers, The Shirelles, and Imperials. The time was right for Pearl McKinnion to call it a day as vocalist with The Kodoks, as James Patrick also left joining The Monotones alongside his brother. That left William Miller and his wife Jean, Ronaldo Gamble, and Harold Jenkins to carry on as The Kodaks. They recorded one record for Zell Sanders J & S label - "Don't Want No Teasing" and "Look Up To The Sky" on #1683 with Jean Miller singing lead. There were two last efforts by this version of the group - "Twista Twisting" and "Let's Rock" on Wink#1004, and "Mr. Magoo" and "Love Wouldn't Mean A Thing" on Wink #1006 with Jean Miller again on lead.

In 1961 Bobby Robinson re-released "Teenager's Dream" with another tune on the flip side - "Dance Dance Dance" and changed the name on the label to Pearl and The Deltars on Fury #1048. This side is only of interest to record collectors today as it was lost without a trace at the time of its release. After they all went their separate ways, Pearl McKinnion surfaced as a member of a newly reformed Kodaks, part of a vocal-instrumental ensemble called The Second Verse, and as lead singer for a tribute vocal group billed as Frankie Lymon's Teenagers. But it is those wonderful days back in the late fifties that we remember Pearl and the group singing their tunes and living out their short but sweet history in the times of our lives.

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