A Short History of The Leaders©2007JCMarion


The group that became known as The Leaders began their career as The Five Swans. They were from Newport News, Virginia, best known as the home base of The Five Keys. The members of The Five Swans were Harry Burton lead, Nelson Shields and Ed Alston on tenors, Ronald Judge on baritone, and Charles Simpson on bass. Because of the proximity to the stardom in the R & B field enjoyed by the Five Keys, it was natural for The Swans to emulate their local heros.
The venue where The Swans competed in amateur shows was called The Jefferson Theater, and they held their own against local competition often. A local businessman named Mel Lachman heard the group and thought they showed promise, and soon gave the Swans an offer to become the group’s manager. Soon he had the group taking on all comers in a battle of the groups in the Southeast Virginia area and The Swans prevailed. They soon gave the Apollo Theater in New York a shot and did quite well and showed promise as an up and coming attraction on the R & B circuit.
Their success against the notorious tough Apollo audiences resulted in a week’s appearance at the famed Harlem show place and a further result was a meeting with Phil Rose the owner of Glory Records in New York. It was Rose who suggested a name change for the group, and they came up with the name The Leaders. Now they were ready for their very first recording session. The songs that were picked for the group were the American standard “Stormy Weather” and a blues ballad called “A Lover Of The Time”. The tunes were soon released on Glory # 235 in early October of 1955. Within a month the record is listed as a top R & B seller in Los Angeles. Once the group got some action on radio airplay and sales, they began to get a moderate number of in person appearances, mostly in the Northeast in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
In January of 1956 while “Stormy Weather” was still getting some action on the sales charts, Glory released their second record – “Dearest Beloved Darling” and “Nobody Loves Me” on # 239. This time the record totally tanked with very little in the way of airplay or sales. The group tried again that spring with the songs “Can’t Help Lovin That Girl Of Mine” from the classic stage musical “Showboat”. The flip side was “Lovers” and released by Glory on # 243 in early June of 1956. This side also failed to do much of anything, and so the history of The Leaders was at an end.
Two of the members of the group, Shields and Judge, kept at the music business and recorded a few tunes in the earky 1960s as The Corvairs, but very little success would follow them. The Leaders short recording history remains a footnote to the story of the music, but their initial record on Glory is a time tested classic that reflects the styles of the times.

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