It's A Miracle : The Capris of Philadelphia©2004JCMarion


The Capris remain mostly unknown except to the most diehard fans of the sounds of the R & B vocal groups. Most listeners when they hear the name of the group immediately think of the great standard "There's A Moon Out Tonight" from the early sixties. These Capris are a whole other story - a group comprised of young Black teenagers from the city of Philadelphia. They got organized in 1953 and were : Harrison Scott and Ed Warner tenors, Reuben Wright baritone, and Bobby Smart bass. The original lead singer left the group early on, and so the remaining members went on a search for someone to take his place. They found their new lead voice in the spring of 1954 from a local girl's quartet called The Lovettes. Her name was Renee Hinton and the rest of the group were sold on the fact that a lead female voice would distinguish them from the number of vocal groups in the city. Some of the boys played musical instruments and so their practice sessions resulted in a fuller sound than usual. The unnamed quintet now thought about a name for their group, and favoring a car name they settled on The Capris (as in Lincoln) for their new identity.

Now it was time for The Capris to get down to business and hone their act and style so they could sell their sound to record industry hopefuls. They were put in touch with a local Philadelphia label called Gotham Records and worked on a hastily written original song called "God Only Knows" and a cover of The Dominos "That's What You're Doing To Me". The two songs were released by Gotham on #304 in early September. By early October "God Only Knows" was getting good airplay not only in their hometown, but also in Baltimore and Washington D.C. By October New York City was also making the tune a favorite among vocal group fans. By the end of November, Los Angeles is starting to hear The Capris on local radio and Cash Box calls the record a West Coast pick hit of the week on November 20. This despite the fact that there is a group from L.A. who also call themselves The Capris and have a record out called "Ooh Wah" on the Rage Records label.

In 1955 The Capris hoped to capitalize on the promise of their first record. "God Only Knows" came very close to becoming a breakout hit for the group. Somehow it just came up short, whether it was lack of national distribution, or lack of support from the small independent label Gotham, it did not have what it takes to "go national". The second release by The Capris on Gotham was "It Was Moonglow" and "Too Poor To Love" on #306. Despite another great ballad in "Moonglow", and a heartfelt lead from Renee Hinton, the record failed to generate airplay or sales in any great numbers. The group had one more release for the label (all six songs had been recorded at one session in New York City) and in late 1955 Gotham released "Let's Linger Awhile" and "It's A Miracle" on #308. Unfortunately, this record also failed to catch on with the public despite another fine example of what is now known as "doo wop singing".

By now some of the guys in the group felt that their efforts were not worth the sparse rewards and some of them went into military service and Harrison Scott joined a vocal-instrumental group and went out on the road. Renee Hinton re-joined The Lovettes and continued in music locally in Philadelphia. However, there was one more go-round for The Capris. In the late 1950s Warner, Wright, Smart, and Renee got together again with fill in singer Fred Hale and recorded for 20th Century Records which was part of Gotham and also owned by Irv Ballen. The result was "My Weakness" and "Yes My Baby Please" on #1201 which went nowhere and truly ended the recording career of The Capris.

Once again modern technology comes to the rescue in helping the music from being lost to history. There are two CDs that feature the Capris recordings - "The Capris : Gotham Recording Stars" from Collectables with 22 cuts that includes five outtakes, and "The Capris, 1954 - 1958" which has twenty takes, only three which were released. This CD is from Flyright. For an overview of the Philadelphia scene there is "Philadelphia Doo Wop" from Collectables that contains "God Only Knows" and "It Was Moonglow", their two best sides.

That is the short but interesting story of The Capris, a pioneer vocal group from Philadelphia that was short on hits but long on very pleasant memories.

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