- short takes -

Strange Love : The Native Boys

The Native Boys had their origin in a group called The Mellotears based in Los Angeles, and formed in the spring of 1954. Most of the members of the group were students at Cathedral Catholic High School. The group consisted of Vince Weaver lead singer, tenors Ed Saunders and Charles Mathis, baritone Fred Romain, and bass Harry Rosemont. The group began to practice their songs and concentrated on two originals written by Weaver called “Native Girl” and “It Won’t Take Very Long”. Now they began to search for an opportunity to record their tunes. They came in contact with session tenor sax player Maxwell Davis who was well connected in LA’s R & B circles. After a couple of false starts they got their chance with Modern Records, one of the top Los Angeles independent labels. The group got into the studio and rehearsed their two original numbers and were set to record. When the resulting single came out on Modern # 939 the group was in for two very big surprises. First, Vince Weaver the composer of both songs, was not listed on the credits. The only name there was that of J.Josea who in reality was label president Joe Bihari. That was the usual m.o. in those days – appropriating writer’s credits as part of the cost of doing business along with disappearing royalties. The second big shock to the group was their name – they had suddenly become “The Native Boys”. Someone at Modern must have thought that it would look cute on the label with the connection to the song. Modern did next to nothing to promote the record and it soon disappeared from sight. Exasperated by the seeming dishonesty in the business Rosemont dropped out of the group. His place was taken by George LeBrune.

After months of inaction on the part of Modern, the group went looking for another contact to help them along in their bid to record a successful single. They now met up with Jake Porter, another session musician who happened to have his own small record label called Combo. Soon Combo # 113 was issued featuring The Native Boys (keeping that name) on the tunes “Strange Love” and “Cherrlynn” both group originals even though they shared composer credit with Porter. This time the group got some results. “Strange Love” was a bouncy dance tune that featured an interesting descending chimes riff on the bridge that became a real hook and made the song great for radio play. It also featured a dynamite squealing tenor sax solo that was such a hallmark during the mid fifties vocal group era. Despite being a West Coast group on a local Los Angeles label, the record began selling on the east Coast from Boston to Washington D.C. Porter then decided to release anything else he had in the can by the group. So “Tears” and “When I Met You” on Combo # 115, “Laughing Love” and “Valley Of Lovers” on # 119, and “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Oh Let Me Dream” on Combo # 120 all were issued within days of each other. . Whatever the reason for this strategy on the part of Jake Porter, the effort was a failure as none of these three releases did much of anything for the group or the label. After this debacle Vince Weaver left and joined The Flairs Cornell Gunter’s group. Fred Romaine also left and joined a group called The Ebbtones named after the Ebb label for whom they recorded. While that was the end of The Native Boys, Weaver and Romaine kept at it in the music business with varying degrees of success into the nineteen sixties. Despite their short and mostly unremarkable history, “Strange Love” remains, as a perfect exhibit of why the music of the time was unique and timeless. It is there to be enjoyed forever.

I Still Remember : The Romancers

The Romancers were a vocal group from the bay area of San Francisco. The original members of the group were Woodrow Blake, Alvin Thomas, Jimmy Shelbourne, Tyrone French, and Bobby Freeman. Feeling that the group was ready for a recording date they went "label shopping" and wound up in contact with Dootsie Williams who had already made a name for himself with the Fremont High School groups The Penguins, Medallions, Dootones, Calvanes, and Don Julian & The Meadowlarks. The Dootone label released "I Still Remember" and "House Cat" with an instrumental combo led by Chuck "Motorhead" Higgins on Dootone # 381. That side was followed up by "This Is Goodbye" and "Jump And Hop" on # 404. Neither side did much in sales or airplay, and it was almost two years before The Romancers had another record. This time it was for a record label owned by their manager Brad Taylor. The label was called Baytone Records and "Baby I Love You So" and "You Don't Understand" was released on # 101 in December of 1958. With the failure of that record The Romancers were no more. Bobby Freeman went out on his own and had two huge hits in the late fifties - "Do You Wanna Dance" and "Do The Swim".

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