I See The Moon : The Mariners©2007JCMarion


The vocal group known as The Mariners deserves special mention because of the groundbreaking establishment of a racially mixed ensemble singing pop music in the mid and late 1940s. They were not much of an influence on the music that would transform the world's listening habits in the fifties, but by proving that race was not a factor in the presentation of popular entertainment, opened the door to many performers that would follow them and achieve national acclaim. That presence is very much in the realm of Benny Goodman's inclusion of Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson as part of the BG Quartet during the swing era.

The Mariners got their start as a vocal quartet while they were in the US Coast Guard during WW II, and were known quite conveniently, as The Coast Guard Quartet. The members were James Lewis, Martin Karl, Thomas Lockhard, and Nathaniel Dickerson. All four were accomplished solo vocalists with experience in opera and stage presentations. After the end of the war they decided to keep the quartet together and made many appearances in the Northeast. They did a radio spot in New York in December of 1945 and made a positive impression which resulted in the group getting their own radio program for the NBC affiliate in New York City WEAF. In 1949 the group signed on with Columbia Records and a recording session was set up. At about this time they had a great opportunity come their way. They were heard by Arthur Godfrey who wanted to add them to the cast of his nationally broadcast radio program on weekday mornings for CBS. The Ames Brothers had been part of the show but they were leaving as their recording career was building momentum. So now The Mariners became one of the "little Godfreys" on the morning broadcast. The group remained with Godfrey for seven years and also made the transition into television where the racial makeup of the group was now evident.

The first release by the group for Columbia was "On The Island of Oahu" and "Leprechuan Lullabye" on 38724. In the summer of 1950 the vocal quartet got onto the pop charts with "Sometime" (the flip side was "The Stars" ) on # 38781. It was a solid top fifteen seller and remained on the charts for two and a half months. The song was recorded with the orchestra of Archie Bleyer who was the musical director for the Godfrey shows. The Mariners did record many inspirational songs and also recorded "Mighty Navy Wings" and "The Mariners Song" on # 39515. The second chart hit for the group was a song from the Broadway musical "Paint Your Wagon" that was called "They Call The Wind Maria" (also with Bleyer) on # 39568. It charted briefly for the group at number thirty. The foursome's final chart hit was a solid seller for them in the fall of 1953. This time they recorded with the orchestra of David Rhodes on the songs "I Just Want You" and "I See The Moon" on # 40047. "Moon" got wide national airplay and was a top fifteen seller and a chart mainstay for almost four months on the pop charts.

From 1953 on, the group recorded a variety of songs moving away from spirituals barbershop quartet styles into a more contemporary sound. They recorded covers such as "Sweet mama Treetop Tall" on # 40104, "Steam Heat" (from the show "The Pajama Game") on # 40241, and "In The Chapel In The Moonlight" on # 40271. In the mid nineteen fifties, The Mariners like many other members of the Arthur Godfrey show, went to Cadence Records owned and operated by Archie Bleyer. After initial success with another Godfrey regular Julius LaRosa, the label hit the big time with the Everly Brothers. The mariners never had any success with Cadence and soon went their seperate ways in the late 1950s.

The group with their racial makeup was a true rarity in the mid forties, but led to the possibility of groups such as Don Julian & The Meadowlarks, Teenchords, Crests, and Impalas, among others. The idea of judging one by their talent alone was not a given at one time. Every movement has its pioneers and The Mariners filled that position with pride and professionalism. That is why it is important to remember their contribution.

Amazingly there is a cd featuring the group put out by Jasmine called "In Command". A wonderful job by the company which features every thing you would ever want to hear by this group. A 2 disc set with 65 ( ! ) recordings giving a complete retrospective of the years of recordings by The Mariners which includes the pop hits, covers, spirituals, novelties, and Christmas carols.

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