Remembering The Serenaders©2006JCMarion


The Serenaders are recognized by hard core vocal group fans as one of those foundation units that helped to define the sound of an era. They are not that well known mainly because they recorded under a few different names and for different labels during the early nineteen fifties. They have connections to two more identified groups from Detroit, The Royals (soon to become known as The Midnighters) and The Royal Jokers. The Serenaders began as a streetcorner vocal group in the late forties around the main street of Black Detroit in those years, Hastings Street. The members of the group were Theron Hill, Norman Thrasher, Ike Reese, and Noah Howell. A one time member of the group was Henry Booth who was soon to become a member of The Royals (Midnighters).

As was the case with so many fledgling vocal combos of the time, the way to a recording session was a good showing in a local talent show, and The Serenaders took that route.This led to a meeting with Joe Von Battle who was a Detroit musical personality with a record store and his own small independent record label called JVB Records.The group decided on two tunes that had been around for a number of years, "Tomorrow Night", and, "Why Don't You Do Right?", which was released on JVB # 2001 in late 1951. The record had little impact in the local area and soon a record surfaced on the Detroit label Roxy, of which very little is known. The songs were, "Love Me Til My Dying Day" and "Goodbye My Love", on # 801.The record today is as obscure as it seemed to be when it was originally released. After these two local failures for small independent labels, it is amazing that the next session by the group would be for the largest and oldest of the American major recording companies.

Decca Records and its subsidiary label Coral Records were mostly known for standard pop music (Teresa Brewer and Alan Dale for example), but did take a chance now and then with R & B vocal groups. Because of some positive responses to The Serenaders for their in person appearances at places such as the Flame Show Bar in Detroit, they had a shot to record for Coral Records. In May of 1952 the label released "Confession Is Good For The Soul", and "It's Funny", on # 60720. A second release for Coral was issued on # 65093 with the tunes "But I Forgive You", and "Misery". Both of these sides failed to sell for the group. In June of 1953 Bobby Robinson's Red Robin Records in New York recorded the Serenaders on # 115 with the songs "I Want To Love You Baby" and "Will She Know". The Serenaders also found themselves called The Muskateers on a record issued by SwingTime Records of Los Angeles which bought a number of masters from a number of small independent labels, including the mysterious Roxy label from Detroit. The previous Roxy # 801 of "Love Me Til My Dying Day", and "Goodbye My Loveā", was reissued as SwingTime # 331 as by The Muskateers.

In early 1954 The Serenaders now had two records on different labels to add to the confusion. "Maybell", and "Ain't Gonna Cry No More" was released on SwingTime # 347 which were obviously from a Detroit session possibly for JVB Records. A new session for Cincinnati based DeLuxe Records resulted in "Please Forgive Me" and "Baby" on # 6022. In October of that year The Serenaders underwent another name change. This time they became The Royals ānot to be confused with The 5 Royales, or The Royals who became The Midnighters. Recording for a Detroit based small indie label again, this time Venus Records, the group recorded "Someday We'll Meet Again" and "I Want You To Be My Baby (Mambo)", which was released on # 103. As with all their previous recordings, The Serenaders in all of the different identities failed to catch fire on the hit charts or in radio airplay. The group however was soon to get a boost with another change of identity, as they became known as The Royal Jokers. But, that is a separate story. For now this is a look at the early history of The Serenaders.

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