Baby Oh Baby - The Shells©2007JCMarion


Another one hit wonder among the vocal groups of the fifties is a group known as The Shells. They were from the borough of Brooklyn and consisted of lead singer Nathaniel Bouknight, tenors Bobby Nurse and Randy Alston, baritone Gus Jeter, and bass Danny Small. After a bit of practice to make their presentation for a shot at recording, they came in contact with Hiram Johnson (brother of Buddy Johnson) who headed his own label named naturally enough, Johnson Records. In August of 1957 Johnson releases # 104 with the songs "Baby Oh Baby" and "Angel Eyes" featured. The record immediately finds favor with airplay and sales in the Northeast and the trade press reports that George Goldner will acquire the master recording. With the popularity of their first record, The Shells appear with Jocko Henderson at a big R & B stage show at Laurel gardens in New Jersey in mid September. In early November The Shells appear with famed New York dee-jay Hal Jackson for a big R & B vocal group extravaganza at the Hunt's Point Palace in The Bronx. Also on the show are The Bobbettes, Rays, Chantels, Rob Roys, Dubs, Deltairs, Bop Chords, Kodoks, and the Al Sears band. The follow up for the Johnson label was "Pleading No More" and "Don't Say Goodbye" on # 106.

In June of 1958 "Sippin Soda" and " and "Pretty Little Girl" was released on George Goldner's End # 1022. Roy Jones had replaced Nathaniel Boulnight on lead on some sides such as "She Wasn't Meant For Me" and "The Thief" recorded for Roulette on # 4156. The Shells never had a big seller but records continued to see the light of day during the early nineteen sixties. Some of their work was on a number of recordings on the Johnson label such as "An Island Unknown" and "Explain It To Me" on # 107, "Better Forget Him" and "I Can't Take It" on # 109, "In The Dim Light Of The Dark" and "Oh-Mi Yum-I" on # 110, "Baby Walk On It" and a cover of The Crests "Sweetest One" on # 112, "Happy Holiday" and "Deep In My Heart" on # 119, "A Toast To Your Birthday" and "Drive" on # 120, and "My Royal Love" and "On My Honor" on # 127. The group also had one release for the Josie label - a re-release of "Deep In My Heart" and "Our Wedding Day" on # 912. There was also a mid sixties a capella LP album for producer Wayne Stierle, and that was it for the group. However it was their very first recording of the ballad "Baby Oh Baby" that had then, and has today a life of its own. The song was a moderate seller at the time and got decent airplay, but has become a legend through the years for just having that certain "something" that makes it a signature tune of the times itself. It has become an example (along with, for instance "Come Go With Me" by The Del Vikings) as a "perfect" record presenting the art of the R & B vocal group. It has become a natural choice for every compilation album and oldies playlist. Almost fifty years later - what could be better than that ?

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