Remembering The Silhouettes ©2005JCMarion


In Philadelphia in 1955 there was a gospel vocal group known as The Gospel Tornados. The members were Richard Lewis, Billy Horton, Raymond Edwards, and Earl Beal. Although they enjoyed the gospel tunes they realized that the monetary rewards were nothing compared to making it in the secular music field. So now the gospel group started to work on some snappy R & B numbers. One of these was a song written by Lewis while a member of the U.S. Army. The song was called "Get A Job". The group worked on the tune and a few others and then started making the rounds of record companies, radio contacts, and the like. No one it seemed, was interested in the song or the group. No one that is until they met Kae Williams a well known Philadelphia disc jockey and record company owner. He saw promise in the group and their song, and soon set up a recording session for the group known as The Thunderbirds at his record company called Junior Records.

"Get A Job" and "I Am Lonely" by the newly named Silhouettes (from the Philly based hit by The Rays) is released on Junior # 391 is released late in 1957. The record hits the air and is immediately a hot item. Dick Clark has the record featured on American Bandstand, and it quickly breaks out across the country. Al Silver of Herald-Ember Records picks up the master from Junior for national distribution and The Silhouettes are on their way. "Get A Job" is released on Ember # 1029 and sells big across the country. The group signs up for a six week tour with an all star show which headlines Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly & The Crickets. In February "Get A Job" hits the number one spot in sales in the nation. It is also poised to become the first million seller for the label. In March The Miracles record an answer record to The Silhouettes called "Got A Job" to be released on End Records.

In early March The Silhouettes appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand TV show to receive their gold record for selling over one million records of "Get A Job". Later that month "Heading For The Poorhouse" and "Miss Thing" are released on Ember # 1032. "Miss Thing" shows some initial success but soon fades away and the group waits until late August when "Bing Bong" and "Voodoo Eyes" are released on Ember # 1037. The record sold only locally in Philadelphia and soon Herald-Ember ended the distribution deal/ When The Silhouettes recorded "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" and "What Would You Do" it was released on Junior # 306 and then picked up by Mississippi based Ace Records and released on # 552.

In June of 1959 "Evelyn" and "Never Will Part" was released on Junior # 400 as by Billy Horton & The Silhouettes, and picked up on Ace # 563. A few more unsuccessful singles came forth - "Bull Frog" / "Never" on 20th Century # 240, "The Push" / "Which Way Did She Go" on Imperial # 5899, and finally "Your Love" and "Rent Man" on Junior # 993. So that is the story of The Silhouettes, a true one hit wonder. Their version of "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" inspired a girl group called The Bluebelles which produced long time R & B star Patti LaBelle and the group's monster hit created the name for Sha-Na-Na the comedy-music act that kept the music of the fifties front and center for many years.

The last remaining member of the group, Richard Lewis, passed away earlier this year (2005). If you are going to be remembered as a one hit wonder, this is the way to do it - a million seller that defined an era and will live forever as the sound of the times.

Dear I Swear : The Plants©2005JCMarion


Back in the year 1954, there were four young men who decided to try their hand at vocalizing following in the footsteps of many prominent groups that came out of Baltimore including The Orioles, Cardinals, Swallows, and Baltineers. The name of these new hopefuls was The Equadors and the members of the group were George Jackson, James Lawson, Thurman Thrower, and Steven McDowell. Starting out with neighborhood appearances at schools and talent searches, the group began to make a name for themselves in the local area. They came to the attention of New York record company producer Zell Sanders who had started her own label called J & S Records located in the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx. By the time the summer was over in 1957 the new group was ready to enter the recording studio for their first session. The first order of business for Zell Sanders was to change the name of her new group. The name she chose was The Plants and that's how they were billed on their first release on the songs "This I Swear" and "It's You" on J & S # 1602.

In the first few weeks of 1958 "Dear I Swear" gets airplay on local radio stations along the Northeast corridor and sells decently in the same area. In May "From Me" and "My Girl" are released by J & S on # 1617 and the label announces that the new promotional head for J & S is Morty Wax who will work with The Plants on their new release. Unfortunately for the group the new release goes nowhere and they are more or less in limbo for the rest of the year. In 1959 The Plants get a call to do backing vocals for "Baby" Washington on her new recording for the Neptune label from New Jersey that is part of the recording enterprise of Zell Sanders. The songs are "Let's Love In The Moonlight" and "Work Out" on # 107. There is one further release for the group on J & S with two interlocking yunes called "I Took A Trip Way Over The Sea" and "I Searched The Seven Seas" on # 249.

In 1962 J & S Records re-released "Dear I Swear" and "It's You" (again on # 1602) to little success and by now The Plants had called it quits. Lead singer George Jackson kept at it however with a record fronting The Unisons on "Watching The Rainbow" and "Miss Frankenstein" on Lescay # 3006. He continued in the mid sixties with two records with the Jive Five for Double R records and two solo sides for Mercury. That is the short and mostly unremarkable history of the Baltimore group called The Plants remembered for a decent recording of a song called "Dear I Swear".

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