In Our Hearts : The Valentines©2005JCMarion

In Harlem in the early nineteen fifties, one of many aspiring vocal groups practiced their sound on the street corners, tenement hallways, and even the public restrooms in the neighborhood. This group was known as The Dreamers and consisted of Mickey Francis, Ray Briggs, Carl Hogan, and Ronnie Bright. One day they came in contact with an aspiring song writer originally from Philadelphia named Richard Barrett. He soon became part of the group and began to sing lead on some of the songs the Dreamers were working on. Barrett attempted to get the group to work on original material, most of which he had written. One of the early efforts written by Barrett was a song called "Tonight Kathleen".

The members of the group decided on a name change and the one they came up with was The Valentines. They felt at that time in the spring of 1954 that they were ready for a recording session. They were put in contact with Monte Bruce the head of Bruce Records which was having success with The Harptones, another group from the Harlem area. The group had no commercial recordings for the Bruce label, and soon inquired about recording for the Old Town label. The group got a shot with the label and signed on in September of 1954. The Valentines recorded "Tonight Kathleen" and "Summer Love" and Old Town released the record on # 1009 in mid November. At this time there was a change in the personnel of the group as Eddie Edgehill replaced Carl Hogan. "Tonight Kathleen" was a classic R & B vocal group side and got much airplay in the New York area but sales were not much outside of the group's home area. There was not much else in The Valentines future with the Old Town label and so in September of 1955 the group signed on with George Goldner's Rama label.

In October Rama Records released "Lily Maebelle" and "Falling For You" on # 171, and the up tempo side immediately sold well in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. In late November The Valentines are signed on as part of Alan Freed's Christmas show at the New York Academy Of Music along with The Heartbeats, Wrens, Cadillacs, and LaVern Baker among others. In another stage show before the Freed event, The Valentines appear for a week at Philadelphia's Mastbaum Theater with LaVern Baker, Red Prysock, and many other stars of the day.

In January of 1956, Rama Records proclaims "Lily Maebelle" a national hit in their trade ads. The group takes part in a series of shows across New Jersey theaters called the "Rock & Roll Bandwagon" and hosted by Ramon Bruce. Over the Valentines Day weekend (great name recognition) the group appears at The Bronx Opera House for a big R & B Revue hosted by Hal Jackson of WLIB radio. During the month Rama releases "I Love You Darling" and "Hand Me Down Love" on # 181. In April The Valentines return to the stage with Alan Freed at the Brooklyn Paramount for the "Easter Jubilee of Stars". In late March Rama releases "The Woo Woo Train" and "Why" on # 196. "Train" got good airplay in the East and featuring a frantic sax break by Jimmy Wright was a solid favorite. Boston area radio dj's pick the song as a top ten favorite.

In June The Valentines join label mates Teenagers, Cleftones, Mabel King, and Pretenders on stage at the Apollo Theater. In June Rama releases "Twenty Minutes Before The Hour" and "I'll Never Let You Go" on # 201. In late August the group returns once more to the stage of the Apollo Theater. This time they share the stage with The Clovers, Bo Diddley, Five Satins, and others. The latest record by The Valentines is not successful and in November Rama comes out with "Nature's Creation" and "My Story Of Love" on # 208. At this time Eddie Edgehill and Ray Briggs leave the group. They were replaced by Carl Hogan (back in the group) and David Cortez (sometimes known as Clowney), a most interesting figure in R & B music circles. He once was a member of The Pearls, and after his stint with The Valentines would join Harold Winley and be on keyboard for the great recordings by The Paragons and Jesters, and become a world wide hit maker on Clock in 1959 as "Baby" Cortez with "The Happy Organ".

In 1957 The Valentines continue their stage presence with another week's engagement at the Apollo, and in February at the Empire Theater in Brooklyn. In the spring Rama releases "Don't Say Goodnight" and "I Cried Oh Oh" on # 228. "Goodnight" is one of the top group records of the fifties marred only by a ragged ending, which features a great lead by Carl Hogan. The group appears one last time at the Apollo Theater in May and soon after called it quits. They felt that they were the victims of poor promotion and lack of support by their record company. Richard Barrett went into the management side of things - first with The Chantels and then with The Three Degrees. Carl Hogan who had also recorded as part of the duo Charles & Carl ("You Are My Lucky Star" / "One More Chance" for Red Robin # 137), sung with other groups and did some writing and arranging, and Eddie Edgehill also stayed in music for a while. Ronnie Bright appeared as the bass voice on Johnny Cymbal's "Mister Bass Man" in the early sixties, and sang for years with The Coasters.

The Valentines were one of New York City's greatest vocal groups of the fifties. That they never got the national recognition of other vocalists did should not be a reason to overlook their contribution to the history of the music. For a glimpse of the Valentines in their prime listen to the live version of "Woo Woo Train" with Alan Freed. There is one CD (which may be out of print) "The Best Of . . . . ." on Collectables.

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