As we approach the holiday season and the
conclusion of 2012, it's time again for Classic Urban Harmony to spotlight a legendary harmony "Sound of the Season".
The Penguins - "A Christmas
In November 2012 we lost one of our best
known lead singers, Cleveland Duncan, the lead of the Penguins. It's
appropriate and right that this year's "Sound of the Season" belongs to Cleve
and the Penguins. To read our tribute page to Cleve Duncan, click
After their big hit of "Earth Angel" for the
Dootone label in 1954, the Penguins agreed to be managed by songwriter
Buck Ram. Buck Ram had the Penguins sign with Mercury Records,
insisting that the label also sign his other group, the Platters. By
November of 1955, the Penguins had released three singles for Mercury,
none of then selling particularly well nationally. On the other had, the
Platters career had begun to take off, with their Mercury release of "Only
The Penguins were still quite riding high
from "Earth Angel" and were booked into the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas.
On November 12, 1955, the Penguins returned to Los Angeles to record a
Christmas single, "A Christmas Prayer" backed with "Jingle Jangle". The
ballad side, "A Christmas Prayer" was written by Buck Ram.
While the Penguins were off to New York City
to play Small's Paradise and the Christmas show at the Apollo Theatre, "A
Christmas Prayer" was reviewed by Billboard magazine and given a 75
rating (not terrible but not great either). Meanwhile, the Platters' new
release, "The Great Pretender" was beginning to take off.
The Penguins' "Christmas Prayer" never
did made the charts, though their previous Mercury release, "Devil That
I See" made the regional charts in their home town of Los Angeles.
Never-the-less, "A Christmas Prayer" has earned a place, in our minds, as one
of the greatest R&B Christmas sides. Listen to Cleve Duncan's vocal
interpretation of the song by scrolling down and clicking the YouTube below
and see if you agree.
From the Classic Urban
The Penguins, 1954: Clockwise
from top, Curtis Williams, Bruce Tate,
Dexter Tisby, Cleveland Duncan.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
Click the YouTube above to
hear the Penguins''
To see and hear prior Sounds of the
Dominoes, Cameos, Drifters
Again, happy holidays. -
Charlie & Pam
(c) 2012, Classic Urban
Harmony LLC. All rights reserved.