Most Of All : The Moonglows - part two©2004JCMarion


In 1956 The Moonglows make personal appearances in the Midwest including an extended engagement at Gleason's ion Cleveland. In march the new Chess release by The Moonglows is out. It pairs the tunes "We Go Together" and "Chickie Um Bah" on #1619. The ballad side is a good song that appeals to the teenage listeners who are now recognized as the major purchasers pf 45 rpm single records. In march the group signs on for a big Easter week show at the Apollo Theater in New York with Tommy "Dr. Jive" Smalls. After that the group will do a show with Larry Dixon in Hartford, Connecticut. In April "We Go Together" is the biggest selling record by The Moonglows since "Most Of All". Sales are good in all major areas of the country. In late April the group plays some dates in Buffalo and Rochester New York. The group signs for a series of one nighters with Lowell Fulson on the West coast including opening at the 5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles. In June The Moonglows appear at a big "sock hop" at Chicago's Trianon Ballroom. In July as "We Go Together" is ending its run, the new Moonglows single is out - "See Saw" ( with backing by James Moody and his jazz combo) and "When I'm With You" are released on Chess #1629. By September both sides of the record are selling big. For instance "See Saw" the up tempo tune with Harvey Fuqua on lead is a top seller in Atlanta and Miami, while the Bobby Lester ballad "When I'm With You" is a top seller in Kansas City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In late October the record passes the 300,000 mark in sales. Pete Walton has replaced the military bound Pete Graves. In late October The Moonglows are filmed for the Alan Freed motion picture "Rock Rock Rock" which will open in early December. The group does two original tunes for the film - "I Knew From The Start" and "Over And Over Again". There is great demand for the tunes even though they are not released, but are included on a promotional LP album of all tunes from the film sent to radio stations around the country. The film opens nationally on December 8, and the two movie tunes by The Moonglows are released by Chess on #1646. In early December the group appears in Memphis at the annual WDIA Goodwill Revue. Late in the year The Moonglows do a session for Chess in which the group is backed up by a large string section. About this time the "Rock Rock Rock" LP is released with Chess stars The Moonglows, Flamingos, and Chuck Berry. Over the Christmas holiday, The Moonglows appeared with Alan Freed's big show at the Brooklyn Paramount which also featured the movie "Rock Rock Rock". The gross for the week long show was huge.

In January of 1957 The Moonglows sign on for the "Greatest Show of 1957 a huge barnstorming R & B revue that will criss cross the country for six weeks beginning in February. They will start out in Pittsburgh with a huge cast that includes LaVern baker, Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, Bill Doggett, Fats Domino, Charles Brown, Ann Cole, The Five Satins, Schoolboys, Five Keys, Eddie Cooley & The Dimples, and paul Williams band. Both ballad tunes from the film by The Moonglows on #1646 are selling well in various parts of the country. In early March "Don't Say Goodbye" and "I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over" are released on Chess #1651. "Goodbye" is recorded with strings, one of the very first vocal group records to do so. However both sides fail to generate any decent sales figures or drum up support on radio programs. In June Chess releases "Mr. Engineer Bring Her Back To Me" and a rare (up until then) Harvey Fuqua lead on a ballad side - "Please Send Me Someone To Love" on #1661. The group enjoys good sales for its newest record, and sets up for an October tour with the "Fantabulous Rock and Roll Show of 1957" to kick off in Roanoke, Virginia. They spend the Labor Day week at the Brooklyn Paramount, once again with Alan Freed. late September sees the latest Chess record on #1669 - "The Beating Of My Heart" and "Confess It To Your Heart". The Moonglows make another appearance in a movie with Alan Freed - this one called "Mister Rock And Roll" and they sing an easily forgotten song that they never recorded. In October the group has time for an appearance on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" television show. The latest record by the group seems to be pulling a disappearing act, and two out of the last three Chess records by the group have not sold at all. By now there was growing tension between old friends Bobby Lester and Harvey Fuqua about the direction the group was taking, and Harvey already writer, producer, and part time manager of the group was now taking over the lead vocals of the group.

It was early in 1958 and The Moonglows seemed to be on a losing streak for the first time in their careers. The face of the music was certainly changing. The fall of Alan Freed was being engineered, and the big time labels were steering toward a more controlled, more mainstreamed type of music propelled by the "teen idol" type of performer. Elvis was about to go into the army and be transformed into the boy next door. American Bandstand was leading the way in the narrowing of the musical and life style look of the teenager in America in the late 1950s. The Moonglows, now a veteran R & B group were on the outside looking in. In February "Too Late" and "Here I Am" were released by Chess on #1681, and neither tune clicked with the record buying public. In April, "Soda Pop" and "In The Middle Of The Night" were out on Chess #1689 and hardly anyone noticed. Herb "the Cool Gent" Kent was very generous when he claimed "Soda Pop" as one of the top ten records among his listeners in the Chicago-Gary, Indiana area. The Moonglows still had their "name" from all their past hits and could still wow an audience as they showed in September on the bill at a four day show in Charlotte, North Carolina. The headliners were Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley & The Comets and the huge crowds made the biggest show ever in North carolina. The group follows up that appearance with a month long series of one nighters in a show called "Hellzapoppin" with Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey & Sylvia, Lee Allen, and others. The show will tour the middle Atlantic states and the Northeast. It was at about this time that the differences within the group came to a head. In September a Chess release is listed as by HARVEY and The Moonglows on a song called "The Ten Commandments Of Love". Some say it was Harvey doing a spoken recitation behind the rest of the group, and others think it was a pick up group put together just for the session, while others think it was a local D.C. group known as The Marquees featuring a young Marvin Gaye. Whoever it was this side released on Chess # 1705 with a flip side called "Mean Old Blues". Interestingly enough the record takes off immediately and soon becomes the biggest hit for the group in two years. The Moonglows are back with good sales and radio play, but are they ?

Late in the year Chess releases a new side listed as by Harvey (formerly of The Moonglows) on the label. The songs are "I Want Somebody" and "Da Da Goo Goo" on #1713. Now it was time for 1959. The first week of the new year of 1958 has a Chess recording by The Moonglows - "Love Is A River" and "I'll Never Stop Wanting You". This record went nowhere and soon after its release, Harvey leaves The Moonglows and the group is officially disbanded. The group meanwhile did backup vocals for Chuck Berry on the songs "Almost Grown" and "Back In The U.S.A.". While both Harvey and Bobby Lester are contemplating solo records, Harvey joins up with The Marquees (Marvin Gaye, James Nolan, Reese Palmer, and Chester Simmons) and adds former Dells member Chuck Barksdale and presents the group to Chess Records as a "new" version of The Moonglows. This group goes out on tour with a series of one nighters for Jolly Joyce along with Dave "Baby" Cortez, The Virtues, Valerie Carr, and Sonny Thompson's Band with Lula Reed. Bobby Lester has his solo effort released on the Checker label on #921 with the songs "Am I The Man" and "Lonely Hearts". During the summer Harvey does a solo turn for Chess on the songs "Twelve Months Of The Year" and "Don't Be Afraid Of Love" on #1725. Neither solo effort goes anywhere. The "new" Moonglows have a new recording out late in the year listed as by Harvey & The Moonglows on #1738. The songs - "Mama Loochie" (with lead by Marvin Gaye) and "Unemployment" do not inspire any sales or serious airplay. Bobby Lester had left the music business for a while, and Harvey disbanded the "new" Moonglows as he and Marvin Gaye headed for Detroit and a whole new career in the music that the Moonglows had helped define. Just For the record - there was one more original Moonglows record on the shelf that was released by Chess. This was the almost impossible to find (both then and now) "Beatnik" and "Junior" on #1770.

From 1960 on there were sporadic appearances on record under the name The Moonglows. Bobby Lester & The Moonglows recorded "Blue Velvet" and "Penny Arcade" (both originally recorded years earlier) on Chess #1811. In the early 1960s Vee-Jay #423 released "Secret Love" and "Real Gone Mama". In the mid 1960s another group of Moonglows formed by original member Pete Barnes with Dock Green of the Five Crowns and latter day Drifters, and two members from The Red Robin label Velvets-Berle Easton and George Thorpe. Most were recreations of traditional vocal group sides and were recorded for the Lana Records. In the 1970s Bobby and Harvey got back together with Chuck Lewis and Doc Williams and did some new versions of old hits for RCA Victor. The song indeed, does linger on.

There are many different CDs available of the recordings of The Moonglows. Far and away the best and most complete of the lot is "Blue Velvet - The Ultimate Collection" for MCA in 1993, which features 44 tracks from the group's golden era. Others cover much the same ground such as "The Moonglows : 1954-1956" and "The Moonglows : 1956-1959" both from The Dipper in 2002, and features 26 tracks each. "Encore of Golden Hits" and "The Moonglows Acapella" both from 1996 on Digital Starr, "Greatest Hits" from MCA in 1997, and finally a vinyl LP from Relic "On Stage" which features a live performance by a rock revival version of the group with Bobby Lewis from the mid seventies.

The Moonglows stand alone as one of the top vocal groups ever, and certainly stand the teat of time as defining the era and the style. One cannot help but think that without The Moonglows, the history of the music, and possibly the world, may have been very very different.

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