Early Motown : The Royal Jokers©2008 JCMarion


The Royal Jokers were a Detroit based vocal group that had their beginnings as The Serenaders and then The Royals. These vocal groups were covered historically in issue # 45. By 1945 the members of the group were Theron Hill, Norman Thrasher, Willie Jones, Ted Green, and Noah Howell. The first mention of the Royal Jokers comes in November of 1954 from their manager Chuck Darwin who has them recording for Venus Records in the motor city. That month Venus # 103 is released featuring the Royal Jokers on the songs "Someday We'll Meet Again" and "I Want You To Be My Baby". This record remains an obscurity as it does not make any appreciable inroads on the R & B sales charts.

In May of 1955 it is announced that the group will be recording for Atlantic Records in the near future. In July of 1955 it is written in the trade press that The Royal Jokers will record for a new Atlantic subsidiary label to be called Atlas Records. During the summer the execs at Atlantic realized the existence of a R & B record label called Atlas, and so the new label will be called Atco (ATlantic COmpany). The Jokers have their first record in September for the new label with "You Tickle Me Baby" and "Stay Here" on Atco # 6052. The novelty jump tune "Tickle" is certainly the 'A' side and in a few weeks it is a good seller in the group's home town of Detroit. Through the fall the record makes inroads in the R & B markets of the East and Midwest and by the end of the year it is breaking into the pop market in Detroit and Chicago.

In January of 1956, the Royal Jokers have their newest release for Atco containing the tunes "Don't Leave Me Fanny" and "Rocks In My Pillow" on Atco # 6062. The group appears at a huge all star rock 'n roll revue at the Fox Theater in the city of Detroit in late January. Once again the jump tune is the 'A' side with "Fanny" once again becoming a good seller in the group's home area of Detroit. Riding the success og their newest record the group makes a number of personal appearances throughout the Midwest including their "home away from home" Detroit's famous Flame Show Bar. That September they record for Atco again and the newest songs are "She's Mine All Mine" and "Ride On Little Girl" on # 6077. At the end of the year The Royal Jokers will once again play a big all star show at the Fox Theater to run through the holiday season.

In 1957 two songs by the group will be part of a rare album called "Rock and Roll Spectacular" to be released on the Dawn record label. The group does not record for the rest of the year but does make a number of in person appearances. In late 1958 Ewart Abner of Vee-Jay Records announces the signing of The Royal Jokers to that label, however no recordings by the group were forthcoming. By now there were a number of personnel changes within the Jokers as Billy Lyons and Ray Dorsey joined Green, Howell, and Jones in the lineup. From that time on the Royal Jokers recorded for a number of small labels such as Metro (MGM), Big Top, Hi-Q, and Detroit's own well known Fortune Records without much success. By the early nineteen sixties that seemed to spell the end for the group which had been around for more than a decade in their various identities. The Royal Jokers are a part of the wonderful history of Detroit's presentation of music to the world.

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