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African American
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at NJ Doo Wop Singers Club 2013

 
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2013 Asbury Angels Plaque Dedications
 
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2013 Portsmouth, VA Gospel Concert
 
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at Manchester, NJ

 
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at New Providence Library

 
bulletJohn Moore's Middle Room Records Closes
 
bulletLittle Isidore in Fair Lawn, NJ
 
bulletNJ Doo Wop Singers Club Jan 2013
 
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bulletChuck Berry Honored by the R&R Hall of Fame
 
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bullet Classic Urban Harmony Celebrates Vocal Harmony & the Masqueraders 50th Anniversary
Multi-Part
 
bulletFrankie Lymon Tombstone Finds a New Home
 
bulletStormin Norman Seldin & Return of Ray & Darchaes in Monmouth Beach NJ
 
bullet2012 Portsmouth VA Gospel Concert
 
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bulletSoul of Asbury Park Concert
 
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bulletTymes' Norman & Peggy Burnett BBQ 2011
 
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bullet Morris Museum Acappella & Doo Wop Concert # Two
 
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bulletMorris Museum LaBamba & Quiet Storm Concert
 
bulletMorris Museum Jersey Rocks Exhibit Opening
 
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bulletRe-memberThen Finds Its Echo
 
bulletSteve Applebaum Tribute Concert
 
bulletWFDU Fundraiser, Teaneck, NJ March 2011
 
bullet Four J's Jimmy Testa Tribute & Benefit Concert
 
bulletVic Donna Group Rehearsal at CUH Headquarters
 
bulletPam & Charlie's 5th Anniversary Celebration - Multi Parts
 
bullet2010 Philly Doo Wop Festival
 
bullet"Doll Face" Musical Comedy
 
bulletNJ Doo Wop & Street Corner Harmony Association
 
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bulletLeins Wedding
 
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bulletRichard Nader’s Summer Doowop Reunion XXI
 
bulletPhilly Doo Wop Diner Mural
 
bulletMaking Crossroads 2
 
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bulletVirginia Legends of Gospel Concert
 
bulletS. Philly Stringband Club Jan 13, 2010
 
bulletRemembering Ronnie I. Concert Nov 2009
 
bulletPGHA's Heavenly Harmony XII Concert
 
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bulletFilming a Documentary
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Oct 2009
 
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bulletWVLT Cruisin' 92.1 Concert
 
bulletTymes' Norman & Peggy Burnett 2009 BBQ
 
bullet2009 Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival
 
bulletAcappella Group Choice at Franklin Township Public Library
 
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bulletSilhouettes' John Wilson Visits CUH World Headquarters
 
bulletNJ Doowop Group Harmony Club, 2009.
 
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In Tribute:  The Castelles' Billy Taylor (1937 - 2009)


Billy Taylor, May 2009
(Photo by Pamela Horner)
 

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of Philadelphia’s most talented vocal group singers, Billy Taylor.  Billy died August 5, 2009, while in Washington, DC.  Billy Taylor is best known for his recordings with the Castelles, like “My Girl Awaits Me,” “Over A Cup of Coffee,” “This Silver Ring” and “Wonder Why” (the latter song he led).  He also sang with the Dreams, Spaniels, Sonny Til’s Orioles, Billy Ward’s Dominoes, the Cobras, the Modern Red Caps and the Clovers.

Billy Taylor was born March 29, 1937, in Philadelphia.  He was raised in West Philadelphia and attended Sulzberger Junior High where he was in the choir with other singers who would go on to form the nuclei of the Philadelphia R&B groups, the Castelles, Dreams, Angels, Cherokees and Larks.  Also in the same choir were Lee Andrews and Solomon Burke.  Eventually the Castelles' personnel settled on George Grant, Billy Taylor, Octavius Anthony, Ron Everett and Frank Vance.


Sulzberger Junior High
(Photo courtesy of Weldon A. McDougal, III)
 

Billy Taylor learned harmony by listening to groups like the Orioles, Charioteers, Red Caps and Dominoes on the radio.  The Castelles formed from members of the Sulzberger choir in the early 1950’s.  After a number of personnel changes, the group stabilized with the personnel of George Grant, Billy Taylor, Octavius Anthony and Ron Everett.  They appeared on the Parisian Tailor Kiddie Hour, a local radio show talent showcase, singing Orioles' tunes.  Billy Taylor met neighborhood guitar player, Frank Vance, on the street and brought him into the group.  Frank had written a tune called "My Girl Awaits Me" in answer to the Edna McGriff recording "Heavenly Father."  After recording a penny arcade demo of "My Girl Awaits Me," the Castelles stopped into Treegoobs Furniture Store on Lancaster Avenue to see if they could listen to their recording on one of the store's record machines.  Store owner Herb Slotkin asked the group if it was an original tune and decided to start the Grand Record label to record this young group.


George Grant and Billy Taylor being photographed at the former
location of Treegoobs (Grand Records) in December 2008.
(Photo by and courtesy of Mark del Costello)

 

Billy Taylor was an integral part of the Castelles on the Grand label, singing first and second tenor as well as baritone depending on the song.  Though Billy led only one of the Castelles’ recorded songs (“Wonder Why”), his ability to imitate the vocal stylings of everyone from Sonny Til to Clyde McPhatter made him a more frequent lead in the Castelles’ live appearances.

 


First press of the Castelles' first and biggest selling record.
For those who collect records, the blue label copy is the one to have!
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)



The only Castelles recording that Billy Taylor sang lead on
(seen here as a second press)
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)



The Castelles on Atco label, 1956.
This photo is the only known photo of the Castelles.
It contains (left to right) Clarence Scott, Octavius Anthony, George Grant and Billy Taylor.
The photo was given to Charlie Horner & Steve Applebaum by George Grant in 1972.
Any copies you may have seen of this photo were taken from this original.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)

 

Castelles' George Grant and Billy Taylor, December 2008
(Photo by Pamela Horner)

 

Billy sang on all the Castelles' Grand and Atco label recordings with the exception of "Marcella" b/w "I'm A Fool To Care."  On that record he was replaced by former Re-Vels member, Walt Miller.

Billy Taylor also sang baritone on the Dreams’ recordings of “Darlene” and “Letter to My Girl”.  Billy was also on the Dreams' later recordings under the name Kenny Esquire & the Starlites (Ember label).


Purple vinyl pressing of "Darlene" by the Dreams.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


Pam Horner, Wes Hayes (Dreams), Walt Miller (Castelles), Billy Taylor, Dec. 2008
(Photo by Charlie Horner)

 

Charlie Horner, Wes Hayes (Dreams), Walt Miller (Castelles), Billy Taylor, Dec. 2008
(Photo by Pamela Horner)

 

Billy Taylor loved to sing.  If he saw a group singing on the street corner, he'd stop and help them with their harmony.  All the groups in West Philly knew Billy Taylor and he'd frequently be asked to fill in when a group was short a singer.  As a consequence, Billy Taylor would often find himself harmonizing with groups like the Cherokees or Hideaways. 

In the early 1960's, the Spaniels broke up while performing in Philadelphia.  Pookie Hudson left and bass Gerald Gregory looked to form a new Spaniels group.  After a quick audition, he picked Billy Taylor as the Spaniels new lead, because Billy could imitate Pookie Hudson's voice perfectly.  During one performance in a Philadelphia club, Pookie Hudson dropped by to see who had replaced him in Gerald's group.  After hearing Billy Taylor sing, Pookie told Gerald, "This guy (Billy Taylor) sounds so much like me, you don't need me to come back!"

Shortly after that, Sonny Til asked Gerald Gregory to put together a new Orioles group.  Gerald picked Billy Taylor and Billy recruited his friend Delton McCall, who'd often been a fill in member of the Dreams.  The new Orioles then became Sonny Til, Billy Taylor, Delton McCall and Gerald Gregory, with Billy handling the George Nelson part.  It was this group of Orioles that recorded for the Charlie Parker label.


The Orioles' Charlie Parker label album.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


 

Sonny Til & Orioles on Charlie Parker label
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)




Billy Taylor with Delton McCall at the 2007 Philly Doo Wop Festival.
Billy & Delton sang together in the Dreams and Orioles (Charlie Parker label).
(Photo by Pamela Horner)
 

Also in the early 1960’s Billy Taylor recorded with the Cobras (Swan label) and supplied the floating tenor on the Modern Red Caps' recording of "Golden Teardrops" (Swan label).  Incidentally, the Modern Red Caps record also featured former Castelles' George Grant (lead), former Dreams' George Tindley (tenor), former Valentines' Richard Barrett (producer) and a 16-year-old drummer named Teddy Pendergrass!



Billy Taylor leading the Cobras (actually members of the Cherokees)


Former Castelles' George Grant leads the Modern Red Caps.  Billy Taylor
does the floating tenor.  Group also contains former Dreams' George Tindley.


By the late 1960’s, Billy Taylor was singing with Billy Ward’s Dominoes, including a tour with them through the Far East.  When, at a benefit for U.S. servicemen in Viet Nam, a soldier requested "Have Mercy Baby," Billy Taylor told Billy Ward, "I can do it."  Ward told Taylor not to even attempt it unless he could do it just like Clyde McPhatter.  Billy sang the song perfectly, to a thunderous applause.

In November 1972, all five original Castelles reunited and started rehearsing again, with the intent of performing at a concert in West Philadelphia.  Philadelphia radio personality Charlie Horner publicized the show by interviewing members of the Castelles on WKDU-FM.  A maintenance workers strike at the venue resulted in cancellation of the concert, but Charlie Horner and Steve Applebaum went on to write the first biographic article on the Castelles for Bim Bam Boom magazine in 1973.  While Billy Taylor was not at that original WKDU radio program, over the course of researching the Castelles, Charlie Horner and Billy Taylor became good friends.


The 1972 Castelles reunion concert that never happened.
(Charlie's autographed copy from the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)



Steve Applebaum & Billy Taylor at NYC's Beacon Theater, 1980
(Photo courtesy of Steve Applebaum)

 

In the summer of 1979, Sonny Til put together what would turn out to be his last Orioles group, consisting of himself and several previous Orioles including Billy Taylor, Diz Russell and Gerald Holeman.  The occasion was an R&B vocal group show at Washington, DC's Howard Theater produced by WPFW Radio's Alan Lee.  On July 6th and 7th, Billy Taylor again took the stage as one of the Orioles.  Billy stayed with the Orioles, making appearances at NYC's Beacon Theater and elsewhere.  It was this group that recorded the "Sonny Til & the Orioles Visit Manhattan" album in 1981.  Billy Taylor continued with the Orioles for awhile, even after Sonny’s death in December 1981.


Billy Taylor with Sonny Til's last Orioles group, ca. 1980
Left to right: Gerald Holeman, Diz Russell, Sonny Til, Billy Taylor
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


1981 Album by Sonny Til & the Orioles.  Billy Taylor (far right in the photo)
mastered not only George Nelson's voice but also his stage moves.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)

 

Billy sang with George Grant on several Castelles reunion concerts, beginning with the 1983 Burlington Black Swan Concert.  When the Castelles were inducted into UGHA's Hall of Fame in 1996, Billy, George Grant and Frank Vance accepted the award, presented by Ronnie I. and Charlie Horner (see photo below).


  

Induction of the Castelles into UGHA's Hall of Fame
Left to right: Ronnie I, Charlie Horner, George Grant, Frank Vance, Billy Taylor

 

[New!]In 1987, one of Harold Lucas' Clovers took ill, just as they were booked into the lounge of one of the Atlantic City (NJ) casinos for a one month engagement.  Lucas called the one person he knew in the area who could sing any part and who knew the Clovers' material by heart - Billy Taylor.  Billy showed up and filled in with little or no rehearsal.  He even sang lead on "Love Potion Number Nine."  The following photos are from that month.  We hope you enjoy these pics of Billy Taylor with the Clovers.
 

[New!]

Clovers in Atlantic City, June 1987
(Photo by Charlie Horner)


[New!]

Clovers:  Billy Taylor second from left; Harold Lucas third from Left.
(Photo by Charlie Horner)


[New!]

Clovers
(Photo by Charlie Horner)


[New!]

Billy Taylor leading "Love Potion #9"
(Photo by Charlie Horner)

 

Billy Taylor also sang for the glory of God, harmonizing in church choir and with the gospel group, John Brooks & the Gospel Melodies.
 

Billy Taylor (left) with John Brooks & the Gospel Melodies.
John Brooks is on the right.  His wife, Gloria Brooks is in the center.
(Photo courtesy of Billy Taylor's family.)
(Photo identification by Steve Applebaum.)

 

Billy Taylor’s last vocal group performance was with the Philadelphia “super group” at the 2008 Black Swan Concert.  Also in the group were fellow Castelle, George Grant, and fellow Dream, Wes Hayes.  In December 2008, Black Swan Society's Mark del Costello asked Classic Urban Harmony to assist in conducting detailed interviews with Castelles' members George Grant, Billy Taylor, Walt Miller and Dreams' Wes Hayes.  


Philly Super Group performing at the 2008 Black Swan Concert.
Left to right: George Grant (Castelles), Ron Kennedy (Blue Notes),
Matt Atkinson (Tony & Masquins), Billy Taylor.
See 2008 Black Swan Concert for more photos.)
(Photo by Pamela Horner)

 

Billy Taylor was a deeply religious man and one of the nicest guys in the Philadelphia music scene.  He was also extremely talented, able to sing different parts and sound like almost any singer that he wanted to.  Billy Taylor was a good friend to us and to all who knew him.  He’ll be greatly missed.


Charlie & Billy Taylor at the South Philly String Band Club, May 2009
See South Philly String Band Club page for more photos.
(Photo by Pamela Horner)
 


Ronnie Jones (Classmates), Charlie, Pam, Billy Taylor, Wes Hayes (Dreams)
UGHA 30th Anniversary (2006)


Dreams' Wes Hayes, Walt Miller (Re-Vels and Castelles) and Billy Taylor, December 2008
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Mark del Costello and Billy Taylor, December 2008
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Clowning around after a long interview session, December 2008.
Left to right:  Billy Taylor, Weldon A. McDougal III, George Grant, Mark del Costello
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Internet dj and former member of the Contenders, Jack Strong with Billy Taylor
South Philly String Band Club, May 20, 2009
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Destination Doo Wop and WNJC DJ, King Arthur, and Billy Taylor
South Philly String Band Club, May 20, 2009
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Eddie Natale and Billy Taylor
South Philly String Band Club, May 20, 2009
(Photo by Pamela Horner)


Billy Taylor being greeted by the acappella group, Quiet Storm
South Philly String Band Club, May 20, 2009
(Photo by Pamela Horner)
 

As a parting thought, we'd like to relay this story from our friend Nicky Addeo, himself a great vocalist.  Some years ago, actor Danny DeVito was going through a painful period in his life.  Nicky Addeo bought Danny a record and Danny DeVito credits this record for getting him through those tough times.  The record was the Castelles' "Over A Cup Of Coffee" which Danny still calls one of his favorite records.

R.I.P. Billy.  We miss you.

For another great tribute site to Billy Taylor click Black Swan Society.  Afterwards, use your "Back Arrow" to return to our website.
 

Copyright © Classic Urban Harmony LLC, 2009.  All Rights Reserved.