Milestones : The Paradons and The Bluejays©2008JCMarion


Werley Fairburn was a country singer who was born in Folsom Louisiana in 1924. He recorded for Trumpet Records in 1953, then with Capitol, Columbia, and Savoy labels as a rockabilly performer. Not limited to performing, he decided to go into the record company business and founded Milestone Records in 1959 with Madelon Baker. Besides recording himself for his own label he looked to record R & B singing groups who were still in favor in the late nineteen fifties. The first group he heard that he felt had a shot at the big time was a quartet from Bakersfield, California called The Paradons.

The group consisted of Bill Meyers, Chuck Weldon, William Powers, and Wes Tyler. The Paradons went into the session and resulted in one of the top tunes of 1960 with "Diamonds And Pearls". The flip side was the throwaway tune "I Want Love" and was released on Milestone # 2003. It was a runaway hit for the group getting into the top twenty best sellers in the country on the pop music charts. So now the Milestone label had a national hit record on their hands. After "Diamonds" had run its course on the best sellers and the nation's radio airwaves, the group had their second release for the label. "Please Tell Me" and "Bells Ring" was issued by Milestone on # 2005. This time however, the record failed to generate much interest at all. Hoping not to fall into the "one hit wonders" category Milestone tried again with "I Had A Dream" and "Never Never" on # 2015. Once again success was not to come to The Paradons. By now the partnership with Milestone Records was at an end over the lack of sales and other issues between the group and the label. There was one further record by the group on Warner Brothers Records with the songs "Take All Of Me" and "So Fine So Fine So Fine" on # 5186.

Back to 1961 at the offices of Milestone, Fairburn and company after their success with the initial record by The Paradons, came up with a second vocal group from the Santa Monica area. This quartet known as The Bluejays was comprised of Van Earl Richardson, Alex Manigo, Leonard Davidson, and lead singer Leon Peels. The powers that be at Milestone liked a tune that was an original by the group and it became their first record. The song was "Lover's Island", and it was paired with "You're Gonna Cry" and released on # 2008. It became an immediate hit across the country and by September became a top thirty seller on the pop music charts. By the end of the year The Bluejays as The Paradons before them, tried for the successful follow up record. And - like the Paradons, they found it difficult to achieve.

"Tears Are Falling" and "Tall Tree Len" on Milestone # 2009 was the first try that did not do well. This was followed by "Let's Make Love" and "Rock Rock Rock" on # 2010 and "The Right To Love" and a second try with "Rock Rock Rock" on # 2012. The final attempt by The Bluejays for Milestone was in late 1962 with "Venus My Love" and "Tall Tree Len" also a second try. That was the end for The Bluejays and also the end for Milestone Records. But not the end of the story for the alliance of Werley Fairburn and Leon Peels.

A new label was founded called Whirlybird Records in 1963 and Leon Peels was recorded listed as a solo artist, with the tunes "A Casual Kiss" and "Cottonhead Joe" on # 2002. Peels was backed up on the record by a group called The Hi Tensions. This was also a Southern California group with a lineup of Bobby Parker, Jack Johnson, David Cook, Sonny Allen, and Roy Haggins. They had recorded for Milestone on # 2018 with "The Ebbing Of The Tide" and "Got A Good Feeling". There was one last recording, this time listed as by Leon Peels & The Hi Tensions with "Darlene" and "A Magic Island" on Whirlybird # 2008.

There were a few later recordings, most of them unissued. Leon Peels would appear at some oldie shows in California mostly for the Doo Wop Society of Southern California. Peels passed away in April of 1999.

The CD recording covering all the important sides by these two groups is "The Bluejays Meet The Paradons" for Collectables from 1998. It contains eighteen tracks and recaptures the sound of these two groups from their Milestone Records days when they were among the last of the classic R & B vocal groups.

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