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Black Swan's 2008 Burlington Concert (October 4, 2008)

By Pamela Horner

 

Concerts like this occur only rarely in a lifetime!  Yet, this concert on October 4, 2008 was the fourth such extraordinary concert that Mark del Costello produced.  2008 marked the 25th Anniversary of the legendary 1983 Burlington concert.  Classic Urban Harmony LLC played a key role in making this year's concert a reality.  We were also invited guests at some of the rehearsals at the Bordentown Ramada Inn on Friday, October 3rd.  Charlie Horner and Todd Baptista were asked to do video interviews with some of the performers for Mark’s Black Swan Productions.  The video interviews will help preserve the history of R&B vocal harmony, a goal Mark del Costello is pursuing in connection with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Museum (more on that later).  While we waited for the technicians to set up the video equipment, we were mesmerized by the groups rehearsing.  We watched in awe as Morris Wade ran through flawless renditions of “Is It Too Late” and “Give Me Your Love” with The Bravados subbing for the Columbus Pharaohs.  We witnessed the practice sessions of the Calvaes' James “Zeke” Brown singing “Born With Rhythm” and the dynamic Lord Luther (Luther McDaniels) leading the Sheps in “WPLJ”.  Chicago's Kool Gents harmonized to "This Is The Night" and "Mother's Son".  Danny Zipfel and all the original Bay Bops ran through "Follow The Rock".  The Hal Keshner band as expected, did a stellar job both at rehearsals and later at the concert.  We were thrilled to be there with so many wonderful performers, most of whom we'd never expected to meet, let alone hear perform.  The much anticipated event was at long last taking shape.

 

 

Morris Wade & his New Columbus Pharaohs (The Bravados)

 

Morris Wade rehearsing with Hal Keshner's Band

 

Cicero Blake leads the Kool Gents in "This Is The Night"

 

Lord Luther teaching the Sheps the choreography to "WPLJ"

 

Mark del Costello (right) looks on as Calvaes' James Brown
and the Sheps sing "Born With Rhythm"

 

Danny Zipfel & original Bay Bops "Follow The Rock"

 

The Sheps

 

Here are some more photos from the rehearsals.  Click on the photo to enlarge.
Then use the back button to return to the Gallery.

Morris Wade

The Kool Gents

Morris Wade & The Bravados

Lord Luther

James "Zeke" Brown of the Calvaes

James Brown & Calvaes

Music Historian Seamus McGarvey & Mark del Costello

Morris Wade & Zeke Brown

 

Todd Baptista & Charlie preparing to interview the Kool Gents

 

Charlie and Todd Baptista first interviewed the Kool Gents (Cicero Blake, Howard McClain, John Carter, Doug Brown and Thomas Williams).  The group started as the Goldentones in Chicago's Marshall High School in 1952.  Cicero Blake, Howard McClain and John Carter were all in the Goldentones, along with James Harper and Teddy Long.  Cicero was the original lead singer, but left to join the air force around 1955.  Howard McLain and James Harper also left at that time.  Their replacements were Dee Clark, John McCall and Doug Brown.

The Goldentones became associated with WGES radio dee jay, Herb Kent, "The Kool Gent".  Kent got the group a contract with Vee Jay records.  There they recorded "This Is The Night" and "I Just Can't Help Myself".  They also recorded "The Convention" and "Mother's Son" as the Delegates.  Dee Clark went on to become a solo artist.  (Remember "Raindrops"?)  His first two records. "Gloria" and "When I Call On You" were actually recoreded by the Kool Gents.

Member of the Kool Gents went on to back Perkel Lee Moses as the second group of El Dorados.  They recorded songs like "There In The Night".  The newest member of the Kool Gents is Thomas Williams, who'd previously recorded with the Turks on the DJO label, who recorded "You Turn Me On" and "The Bad Brought The Good".

 

 

The Kool Gents with Charlie & Pam

 

Next Charlie and Todd interviewed Millard Edwards, last surviving member of the Sheppards.  Millard began singing with the Chicago group, the Belaires who recorded "My Yearbook" with Decca Records.  When the first group of Sheppards ("Mozelle," "Sherry") broke up, manager Bill Sheppard put together a new Sheppards group made up of original Sheppard, Dennis Isaac, Millard Edwards and his step-brother James Allen from the Belaires, and Murrie Eskridge, O. C. Perkins and Kermit Chandler from the Ballads.

This second Sheppards group scored right away with "Island Of Love."  Subsequent hits included "Feel Like Lovin'" and "Tragic".  After the Sheppards, Millard Edwards was the bass of the soul group, the Esquires who recorded "Get On Up".

 

Todd Baptista, Charlie & Sheppards' Millard Edwards

 

Pam, Millard Edwards and Charlie

 

Finally, Charlie interviewed the Columbus Pharaohs' Morris Wade.  Morris formed the Columbus Pharaohs in Columbus, Ohio, in 1955.  The original group consisted of Morris Wade, Bernard Wilson, Ronald Wilson and Bobby Taylor.  Bobby Taylor later went on to record songs like "Does Your Mother Know About Me" as Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers.

The Columbus Pharaohs' first recording was "Give Me Your Love" on Eve Dodd's Esta label.  The also recorded as the Four Pharaohs ("Pray For Me"), as Morris Wade and the Manhattans {"Is It Too Late" b/w "It Was A Night Like This") and the Egyptian Pharaohs ("Give Me Your Love").  Morris told us captivating stories about everyone from Little Willie John to Hank Ballard.  Watch this website for the complete Morris Wade story (coming soon).

 

Morris Wade & Charlie

 

We spent the rest of Friday talking to many of the singers.  We ran into the Castelles' George Grant in the hotel lobby.  Charlie and he have been friends for more than 38 years.  We met Zeke Brown of the Calvaes, Lord Luther of the Four Deuces and Barney Zarzana of the Bay Bops.  We also talked with our friends Leon McClain of the Quinns, Warren Tesaro of the Bravados, Frank Chille, Lou Rallo, Steve & Carol Applebaum, Bob Diskin and Seamus McGarvey who arrived from overseas for the concert.

 

Pam and Leon McClain of the Quinns

 

Castelles' lead George Grant with Pam & Charlie

 

Four Deuces' Lord Luther & Charlie

 

Pam & the Calvaes' Zeke Brown

 

The Bay Bops' Barney Zarzana & Charlie

 

Click on the following photo's to enlarge.
Then use the Back Button to return to this Page.

Castelles' George Grant & Charlie

Kool Gents with Todd & Mark

Charlie & Quinn's Leon McClain

Pam & Sheppards' Millard Edwards

Charlie, Millard Edwards, Todd Baptista

Pam & 4 Deuces' Lord Luther

Charlie & Calvaes' Zeke Brown

Bay Bop's Barney Zarzana & Pam

 

 

The Concert

 

The next day, when we arrived early at the Mayo Theatre at The College of New Jersey.  The College of New Jersey has a beautiful suburban campus in Ewing NJ and the Mayo Theater is a modern 300+ seat theater housed in the music building.  After saying hello to a few friends we entered the theater to find the Castelles/Dreams on the stage doing a sound check.  Down front we ran into our friend Weldon McDougal who introduced us to the very personable Terry Johnson of the Flamingos.  Excitement was building everywhere that this would be quite an event!  As people filed in and took their seats, we recognized many of the faces.  The audience was composed of staunch supporters of vocal group harmony.  They sat as if mesmerized, quietly listening.  Yet once the concert started, there were more standing ovations than we could count.

 

Castelles/Dreams doing a pre-concert sound check

 

Charlie, Pam & Flamingos' Terry Johnson

 

Flamingoes' Terry Johnson & Weldon McDougal of Philly's Larks

 

Del Lark's Sammy Campbell outside the Theatre
(Photo courtesy of Ron Taylor)

Because of our early support for the concert, our seats were on the first row near the center.  Seated next to us was Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (see our Link page for their website).  Nearby we saw Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer (check out their website from our Links page) and farther down the row was Val Shively.

 

Pam and R&R Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart

 

Manhattan Transfer's Tim Hauser & Charlie

 

The show began with a few words from Mark del Costello.  He thanked his associate producers Richard Murray, Bobby Diskin, Frank Chille and Todd Baptista.  He also gave thanks to his supporters who made the show possible, calling them up on stage.  They were Bobby Diskin, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and our own Classic Urban Harmony LLC.  We believed in Mark right from the start.  He accomplished what he set out to do and it was superb.

 

Mark del Costello

 

From top to Bottom: Charlie Horner, Pamela Horner, Mark del Costello, Terry Stewart
(Photo courtesy of Ron Taylor)

 

Charlie, Pam, Mark & Terry
(Photo courtesy of Ron Taylor)

 

Mark and Terry Stewart talked about their desire to start an archive within the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to house much of the research and memorabilia collected over the years on vocal group harmony.  To start the archives out, Mark donated to Terry and the R&R Hall, the first contract between the Voice Masters and Anna Records.  Since the Voice Masters were the first artists to record for Anna Gordy, this might well be the first "Motown" related contract.  Classic Urban Harmony LLC supports and applauds Mark and Terry for their initiatives in this area.  We'll be meeting with Terry and Mark later this year in NYC to discuss how we might assist them.  In the meantime, you can visit the R&R Hall of Fame's website through our LINKS page.

Bobby Jay who sang with The Laddins was the MC for the show.  He introduced the acappella group, The Sheps and we were up.  They were the best that I’ve even seen them!  Their harmony was tight when they sang “There in the Night” a song originally done by some of the Kool Gents when they were part of the El Dorados.  The Sheps were attired in dark suits with yellow shirts.

 

The Sheps

 

The Sheps (Photo courtesy of Ron Taylor)

Next my husband Charlie had the privilege of introducing the Castelles/Dreams group.  Charlie, being a Philly native, knew all the performers.  The Philly groups traded members often in the past.  This was a SUPER Philly group, consisting of Matt Atkinson who sang with Tony & the Masquins, the Troupers, the Bosstones, the Philadelphians, the Dreamlovers and Formations.  Ron Kennedy did some singing with the original Blue Notes.  Wesley Hayes sang with The Dreams, Kenny Esquire & the Starlites and the Coeds.  Billy Taylor sang with the Castelles, the Dreams, the Spaniels, the Dominoes, the Cobras, Sonny Til & Orioles, the Clovers and countless other groups.  George Grant who was the lead singer of the Castelles, also sang with the Modern Red Caps, Sonny Til’s Orioles and the Ink Spots.  Billy Taylor took lead on on the Castelles' tune, “Wonder Why”.  George did the lead on the Castelles' “Over A Cup of Coffee” and “ “Marcella”.  Wesley Hayes who wrote “They Call Me a Dreamer” when he was a member of Kenny Esquire and the Starlites did the lead on that song.  This was truly a SUPER group.

 

Charlie Horner introducing the Castelles/Dreams

 

The Castelles/Dreams
(l to r: George Grant, Ron Kennedy, Matt Atkinson, Billy Taylor, Wes Hayes)

 

More photos of the Philly Super Group.  Click on the photo to enlarge.
Then use the back button to return to this Page.

Philly Super Group (Photo courtesy of Ron Taylor)

Castelles' George Grant

George, Ron, Matt & Billy

Dreams' Wes Hayes

 

Chicago gave us James "Zeke" Brown and the Calvaes.  For this performance, Zeke was backed by members of the Sheps.  Zeke and the group sang three songs the Calvaes recorded for the Cobra label in 1956, “Born with Rhythm,“ "Fine Girl" and “Lonely Lonely Village”.  In talking to Zeke the day before we were surprised to find that Zeke also sang with the Blenders who recorded "Two Loves" b/w "Soda Shop" for Aladdin and with Accents that recorded "Enchanted Garden" for Mercury.  We'll be working with Zeke to post his complete story on this site in the near future.

 

James "Zeke" Brown (far left) & his Calvaes group

 

 

Some performers dropped by for a quick cameo appearance.  Such was the case for Irving Brodsky (Lonnie from Lonnie & the Carollons) and Dean Parrish.  Dean, who's real name is Phil Anastasia recorded some fine vocal group records under the name Anastasia (Stasi and Laurie labels) before becoming a major Northern Soul star.  [Thanks to Bobby Diskin for that info.]

 

Bobby Jay greets Lonnie from Lonnie & the Carollons

 

Bobby Jay and Dean Parrish

 

Eulis Mason from the Martells sounded just like the 45 when he sang “Forgotten Spring” backed by the Bravados.  Bill Witt of the Rocketones led the Sheps on “Dee I” and “Mexico”.

 

Eulis Mason (far right) doing "Forgotten Spring"

 

Eulis Mason of the Martells

 

Bill Witt of the Rocketones (far left)

 

Another of the many highlights of the concert was when two original members of the Charades flew in from California to sing "Close To Me" and "Please Be My Love Tonight".  High tenor Sylvester Grigsby and Ray Baradat filled out their group with the Bravados (Leon McClain, Pat Profito, Warren Tesoro, and Jose Papo Moro).  I especially enjoyed “Close to Me”.

 

Original Charades' Syl Grigsby (far right) and Ray Baradat (3rd from left)

 

When Charlie and Todd Baptista interviewed The Kool Gents on Friday, they had five members.  At rehearsal, Thomas Williams sang lead on the group's "Mother's Son".  Unfortunately Thomas Williams collapsed during the sound check just prior to the concert and had to be rushed to a local hospital.  Fortunately Thomas is alright now and has returned to Chicago.  During the show, Tommie Schider of the Sheps took his part.  Cicero did lead on “This Is The Night” and “I Just Can’t Help Myself”.  The Kool Gents who were video taped and interviewed by Todd and Charlie were: John Carter, Cicero Blake, Howard McClain, Thomas Williams and Douglas Brown.  John Carter now sings with the great Windy City Four Quartette.

 

The Kool Gents

 

It’s always a delight to hear Danny Hicks and the Continentals.  They looked great in grey suits with lavender ties and vests.  They did all their wonderful songs such as “Picture of Love” and “Dear Lord”.  The Continentals were Danny Hicks original Lead, Bill Carey bass of the Four Fellows (Triboro label), Victorians (Selma label) and later the Danleers, Richard Green an original member of the Shells and Harold Gill formerly of the Jive Five.

 

Danny Hicks (far left) and the Continentals

 

The Bay Bops took the stage next with all four original members.  They had Danny Zipfel, Barney Zarzana, George Taylor Jr, and Bobby Serrao.  The group was from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  This was not only their first appearance since 1958, but the first time the group had seen each other in fifty years.  They did an uplifting version of their song “Follow The Rock” along with "Joannie".

 

The Bay Bops

 

The original lead of the Sheppards, Millard Edwards was backed by the Bravados.  At the interview with Millard the day before we learned that he is the last surviving member of the Sheppards.  Millard gave us beautiful renditions of “Island of Love” and "Tragic".

 

The Sheppards' Millard Edwards (far left).

 

The last group of the afternoon before we broke for dinner was Terry Johnson’s Flamingos.  Terry led the group in songs that he made famous with the Flamingos and also with the Whispers and Starglows.  I loved the Whispers material, “Fool Heart” and “Are You Sorry”.  Terry also talked about recording as the Starglows in Pittsburgh.  He then sang "Let's Be Lovers".  Terry Johnson, Theresa Trigg, Joe Mirrone, and Jeff Calloway are the members of the group.  They went on to sing Flamingos standards “Lovers Never Say Goodbye”,” Mio Amore” and many more.  Terry announced the last song of their lengthy and memorable set and joked that it allowed him to leave his apartment and move to a penthouse.  It was “I Only Have Eyes For You”.  What a fabulous group!  The personable Mr. Terry Johnson was smiling all day and night!  He obviously enjoys what he does. [See Terry's Website from our Links page].

 

Terry Johnson

 

Terry Johnson's Flamingos

 

More Flamingos photos.  Click on the photo's to enlarge.
Then use the Back Button to return to this Page.

Terry Johnson's Flamingos

Flamingos' Joe and Jeff with Charlie & Pam

 

After the dinner break we got to enjoy The Sparrows Quartet.  They have not performed much lately but sounded as good as ever.  They are Dominic D’Elia, Sal Mondrone, Bob Friedman, and newest member Vic Donna (of Vic Donna & the Parakeets fame).  They dedicated “This is the Real Thing Now” to the late Bill D’Elia, a longtime member of the group.  The Sparrows were superb singing “Only the Angels Know”.  Another great group that I first saw at UGHA!

 

The Sparrows Quartet

 

Dina Diangelo and The Heartspinners were up next with the addition of Don Cruz from the Solitaires filling in at baritone.  They were dressed 1950’s style and sang “Believe It Or Not” and “I Love You So”.

 

Dino & the Heartspinners

 

Bobby Jay and Dino

 

Bobby Jay introduced Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer.  Tim was a member of the Criterians, earlier in his musical history.  New Jersey radio WRSU personality Lou Rallo then cam on to introduce Lillian Leach the Mellows.  Singing with Lillian was Freddie Barksdale (Solitaires) on bass, Eugene Tompkins, and Waldo Champion.  The Mellows were a late addition to the program and it was a thrill to see them again.  Lillian still sounds great!  The Mellows sang all their well know songs ending with Gene Tomkins doing the Ink Spots' song, “If I Didn’t Care”.

 

Lillain Leach & the Mellows

 

Lillian

 

Next, was a group I had never seen, even though I resided in their home state of Connecticut for many years.  The Academics were well worth the wait. They performed with original lead singer Marty Ganter and Ron Marone, Vinnie Giordino, and John Roddy.  The group sang "Something Cool," "Drive-In Movie" and "To Good To Be True."  For a bio of the group click on the Academics page on our website. They were excellent !

 

The Academics

 

Charlie interviewed Morris Wade for Mark, so I learned what a nice, gentle soul he is.  Hopefully, the DVD of this concert will be for sale soon.  The Bravados backed Morris and all did a great job.  Morris sang songs from when he was the lead singer of The Columbus Pharaohs.  His songs included “Pray For Me”. “Give Me Your Love”, “Is It Too Late”.  Morris recorded the last song with Sonny Til’s band - the Manhattans  (For our complete article on this band who actually began as the vocal group, the Medallions on the Essex label click Johnny Stiles & the Medallions on Essex.  Morris explained on stage that Sonny Til was standing right next to him when he recorded “ It Was A Night Like This”.  Morris also told us he was a big Turbans fan.  What a singer!  [Visit Morris's website through our Links page.]

 

Morris Wade & the New Four Pharaohs (Bravados)

 

Morris Wade

 

An original copy of "Pray For Me"
(From the CUH Archives)

 

Next up were the Wrens, a group we've all admired for many years.  The group consisted of original lead Bobby Mansfield, his son Robby Mansfield, Butch Floyd and Waldo Champion.  The group was fabulous, singing many songs they made famous, including "Come Back My Love," "Serenade of the Bells," "C'est La Vie," "Eleven Roses" and "Love's Something That's Made For Two."

[New!]

The Wrens: Bobby Mansfield, Robby Mansfield, Butch Floyd & Waldo Champion

 

Our friends, Sammy Campbell and Ron Taylor, two original members of the Del Larks ("Remember The Night") were invited on stage to say a few words.

 

Sam Campbell & Ron Taylor of the Del Larks

 

With all we'd seen so far, Mark still had more acts for us to enjoy.  John Carbone & Group was next.  They were John Carbone, Shelly Buchansky, Joel Katz, Jack Scandora, and Mike Stripolli.  This was a very lively and upbeat set they gave us—“I Know My Baby Loves Me”, “Adios, “Never Let You Go” and others. 

John Carbone Group

 

Whew, time for another performer.  Just when we were all overwhelmed we saw Charlies Weldon of the Paradons singing his hit “Diamonds and Pearls”.  He was backed by Joel Katz, Shelly Buchansky, and Bobby Jay, who volunteered to do bass.  What a great performance!

 

Charles Weldon of the Paradons with an all-star group

 

Paradons' Charles Weldon

 

Bobby Jay & our friend Shelly Buchansky,
formerly with Vito & Salutations

 

"Double wow" for Luther McDaniels (Lord Luther), original lead of the 4 Duces.  He entertained us with a couple of dramatic solo songs.  See our photo for his attire!  He closed his set with “WPLJ” backed by members of the Sheps.  The Sheps are Tommie Shider, Johnny Barlow, Richie Comacho, Charles Coleman, and Tommy Lockhart.

 

Lord Luther

 

Lord Luther & 4 Deuces (Sheps)

 

"W-P-L-J" from the CUH Archives

 

The closing act for the evening was the Solitaires reunion.  This was the group Charlie and I choose to have sing at our wedding so I had great expectations.  They were wonderful with seven Solitaires on stage and one in the wings.  It was enjoyable to hear Herman Dunhan and Milton Love share the leads.  The other members on stage were Fred Barksdale, Don Cruz, Al Grant, Frank Morrow, and Ray Goodwin.  We just talked to Milton Love and he’s still on cloud nine!  Pat Gaston was backstage and did the deep bass talking portion on “The Wedding”.  The Solitaires recorded many great songs and they sang quite a few of them.  I especially enjoyed “I Wonder Why”, “Embraceable You”, “Blue Valentine”, “Ghost of a Chance”, “Nothing Like a Little Love” and “Please Remember My Heart”.  This is a group that keeps getting better and more incredible.  They wowed the crowd.  Milton Love just told us that Herman Dunham will be rejoining the group on a permanent basis.

 

The Solitaires

 

Herman Dunham & Milton Love

 

Fred Barksdale

 

Mark and Bobby greet Dr. Pat Gaston

 

We saw and talked to many in the audience.  This list is incomplete, so please email us if you were there so that we can add you to the list.  People in attendance were Terry Stewart CEO of The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and Tim Hauser from Manhattan Transfer.  Kate Karp from California was there.  All The Way from the U.K. we saw Seamus McGarvey.  Philadelphia was well represented with Val Shively, Bob Bosco, Rick Daniels,  Steve Applebaum, Tom Hight, Tom Rowell, Carl Tancredi, Dennis Gillen, Mr. Lee, Jack Strong, John Wisdo,  Joe Grimaldi, Frank Chille, Jimmy Depre Eddie Natale, Bob Campbell, Allan Thomas, Dave Moore, Weldon McDougal, Kenny Thompson, Frank Torpey, and many more.  Many New Jersey and New York fans were there too.  We saw K.J. O’Doherty, Jim Bakay, Christine Vitale, D. Vail, Joe Loud, Lou Rallo, Paul Ressler, Charlie LaRocco, Tom Hartford, Pam Nardella, Buzzy Garland, Dennie the doo Wop Cop, Frank Gengaro, Gordon Skadberg, Lou Silvani, Tony O, Frank Cassi and Joanne Maquire, Mike Bauer, Seymour Simon, Hank Feigenbaum and Jeff Beckman.  From New England there were the Yaffe Brothers with their mom, Jim Santa Barbara, and Sal Ardigliani.  From the Baltimore/Washinton DC area, we saw George Frunzi, Ron Lockwood and Sam Carson.  From Central and Western Pennsylvania there were Dr. Phil Schwartz, Bruce (Doc) Dixon and Doo-wop Donna Whitworth.

 

 

Thank you Mark for this history making vocal group concert!  Like your previous concerts, this will be talked about for many years.

Be sure to check out the Black Swan Society website on our Links Page for more great photos of this concert and how to get the DVD.

 

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