Doll Face : The Vibranaires©2006JCMarion

The Vibranaires was the original name used by the group that became The Orioles, arguably the most influential vocal group of them all. With that thought in mind and that Asbury Park, New Jersey’s place in music history is not limited to the Stone Pony, Linda & The Runaways and Bruce Springsteen, this is a story of another group called The Vibranaires. A young would-be vocalist named Bobby Thomas got a group of like minded friends together from Asbury Park and formed a vocal group called The Crooners. After a few personnel changes the group consisted of Thomas, Herbie Cole, Roosevelt McDuffie, Mike Robinson, and Jim Roache.

Along the way the vocalists decided they needed a name change and so became The Vibranaires. They began to pick up some singing gigs in and around northern New Jersey. The group gad a chance meeting with Esther Navarro (who became manager of The Cadillacs) but nothing positive became of that meeting. In April of 1954, the group was part of a show called “The Big Battle Royal : New Jersey vs. New York” at The Three Towers Inn. Instrumentally it was Joe Holiday vs. Charlie Ferguson, and in the vocal group category it was The Vibranaires vs. The Solitaires. Al Clark with Sticks Evans Combo rounded out the program. The Vibranaires had recently gotten the attention of New York dj and talent scout Joel Turnero, who in turn had put them in touch with Harlem music personality Lexie Hanford (known as “Flap”) who had a small record company called After Hours.

In May of 1954 The Vibranaires recording of “Doll Face” and “Ooh I Feel So Good” was released on After Hours # 103. Initial sales and airplay were good for this local production both in New York and Philadelphia. With a decent showing and a few more singing appearances around the area, in the fall of the year the group was ready for a second record. From their initial recording session came “Stop Torturing Me” and “Stop Jiving Baby” now listed as by The Vibes on After Hours # 105. Soon the record was released on Hanford’s Chariot label with the same release number. Chariot also issued “Doll Face” on # 103. Again initial response was positive, but some little local indie labels just did not have the resources or know how to effectively promote their product and they get lost in the number of new record releases week by week. That was the fate of The Vibranaires/Vibes , as they never recorded again as their 1954 unit.

Over the years various members of The Vibranaires came and went in different forms including Lenny Welch who had some success as a solo performer in the sixties, and Thomas heading a revival group under the name of The Orioles. The Asbury Park Vibranaires history consists of two great ballad sides that are truly representative of the sound of the early fifties and remain a wonderful memory of the music and the time.


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