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The Silhouettes

 

 

 

 

    I originally wrote Part 1 of this article with Don Leins back in 1980.  It was first published in Harmony Tymes (Issue 32) in 1981.  At that time all four original members of the Silhouettes had just reunited, (thanks in part to my encouragement) and were embarking on a rejuvenated musical career.

 

    Much has happened in the past 28 years, making me want to finish this story.  While all four Silhouettes have now departed this world, their legacy in song will always be with us.  I’ve purposely left Part 1 as it was written, adding only some newly acquired photos.  Much more detail has been uncovered by others in recent years (see the end of the article) but what I wrote in 1980 withstands the test of time.

 

    In Part 2, I pick up the story in 1979 and take it to its completion.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.

 

Charlie Horner

 

Part 1

 

 

The Silhouettes
          Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

"Get A Job" was one of the Top 10 rock & roll records of the 1950's.  So enormous was the tune, that it generally overshadowed the very group that created it.

The Silhouettes story actually began in Hickory, North Carolina, where William Horton, the Silhouettes lead, was born and raised.  It was there that Bill began singing in the church and became involved with a quartet singing spiritual harmony. In 1954, Bill Horton moved to Philadelphia and there, within a year, was singing with a new gospel group.

In the Gospel Tornadoes, Bill Horton was joined by native Philadelphians Earl Beale, Raymond Edwards and a fourth member remembered only as Shorty.  In the beginning the group stuck religiously to church singing, but as time went by they began doing some club and cabaret work.  The transition from spiritual to pop group was a gradual one for the Gospel Tornadoes.  On Sunday they would sing in the churches and during the week they would sing in the clubs.  When singing secular music the group began using a new name, the Thunderbirds.  The reason for the crossover was survival. As much as the group loved singing gospel, they could not make a living at it.

In 1956, Shorty left the group and was replaced for a short time by James Jenkins.  Jenkins was drafted into the service and was replaced by Richard Lewis, who was from the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

 

Click on Photos to Enlarge!  Then click Back Arrow to return to the Profile.

Bill Horton

Rick Lewis

Raymond Edwards

Earl Beal

Photos Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

Though a young man, Richard (Rick) Lewis was already a veteran of the Phila­delphia pop music scene.  While in the service Richard was stationed in Germany where he met entertainers Jesse Belvin and Philadelphian Eddie Fisher.  Both encouraged Rick's song writing talents and he began working on material to present to them when he returned home.  Upon his release from the service, Rick found that success would not come that easily.  After some struggling, Richard Lewis began singing with a Philadelphia group called the Parakeets.  They did some traveling, mostly playing the carnival circuit.  Rick spent this time singing other artists' material instead of recording his own.  When the Parakeets returned to Philadelphia, Richard joined the Turbans as their road manager.  The Turbans were riding high at that time on the success of "When You Dance" (Herald #458) and were getting their share of bookings.  With the Turbans, Rick toured extensively.  Upon returning to Philadelphia Rick became associated with the Thunderbirds, replacing James Jenkins as the group's tenor.  At that time the group consisted of Bill Horton (lead), Richard Lewis (tenor), Earl Beal (baritone) and Raymond Edwards (bass).

Rick Lewis tried to encourage the group to sing rock and roll rather than Gospel.  They performed at supper clubs (such as "Tony’s" on Germantown Ave.), bars and cabarets.  In the beginning the Thunderbirds were influenced by groups like the Dominoes, Drifters and Spaniels, but they soon developed their own style.

 

 

 

While in the service, Rick had written a song called "Get A Job.”  "Get A Job" was not intended to be any kind of socioeconomic statement of the times.  It was merely a lighthearted look at one man's frustration at having a nagging wife and no job.  In the days to come, however, the song was to become much more than that.  To the rebellious teenagers of the mid 1950' s who grew up on James Dean movies, Alan Freed stage shows, and their own form of music - rock & roll, the song "Get A Job" symbolized their very struggle against authority (in this case their parents who repeatedly lectured them on the virtues of working for a living).  It was this appeal that probably made hits of many other songs from that era such as the Coasters' "Yakety Yak", Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues", etc.

Although the teenage public was ready for a song like "Get A Job", the music industry was not.  The Thunderbirds rehearsed the song and then went to numerous record companies around Philadelphia with the hope of recording it and their other material.  Local DJ Hy Lit was busy working with Lee Andrew's Hearts and didn't have time to do anything with the group.  Bernie Lowe, owner of Cameo records said the song "Get A Job" was "nothing".  The group even traveled to New York City in an unsuccessful attempt to interest record companies in their songs.  In the car, on the way to New York, they wrote "Bing Bong" which they would later record.

Finally in 1957, the group got their first real break.  As Rick Lewis recalled, "Robert Williams, a theater technician, caught one of (our) performances at a local club and was so enthusiastic about the group that he secured an engagement for (us) where he worked, which was none other than the famous Uptown Theater.  The M.C. of the show, Kae Williams, a record company owner and local DJ on radio station WDAS, expressed interest in managing the group.

Kae Williams decided to record the group for his Junior label but was dissatisfied with the group's name.  Earl Beale came up with the name Silhouettes, possibly derived from the 1957 hit single by the Rays.

 

Kae Williams (1956)

 

Kae made arrangements for the group to record "Get A Job" and "I'm Lonely" at Robinson Recording Laboratories in the studios of radio station WIP.  At that time, WIP was located in the old Gimbels Department store building at 9th & Market Streets in Philadelphia. Howard Biggs, Junior's arranger at the session worked with the Silhouettes to develop a unique style.  What they came up with, was an introduction to "Get A Job" which utilized Raymond Edward's ability to vocalize the rapid-fire bass line "yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom" as well as the group’s rhythmic chanting of "Sha na na na, Sha na na na na".  The outstanding sax break in the record was performed by local artist Rollie McGill.

 

 


    In the late 1957 "Get A Job"/"I’m Lonely" was released on the Junior label.  The beautiful ballad "I’m Lonely" was intended to be the A-side.  Kae Williams began playing the record on his radio show and it soon became a local hit.

What happened next with the record remains a matter of some conjecture.  Rick Lewis explained, "We were made privy only to information that we needed to know. We produced the music and he (Kae) took care of the business end."  The Silhouettes were led to believe at the time that Kae Williams swung a deal giving half of the publishing rights of "Get A Job" to Dick Clark.  Dick Clark's American Bandstand, filmed live at WFIL-TV's 46th and Market studio (Philadelphia) expanded from a local program to a network show in mid 1957.  At the time of "Get A Job”’s release, Bandstand was popular enough to turn a local hit into a national one, almost overnight.  To verify or refute this story, one first looks at the publishing companies on the record labels.  When "Get A Job" was first released on the Junior label, the publishers were listed as Ulysses and Bagby (Junior's publishers).  The record next appeared on the Ember label, listing Ulysses and Bagby along with a second company, Wildcat Music.  Dick Clark's involvement in the record industry has been explored in depth by the Congressional Subcommittee investigating the payola scandal.  Although Clark was known to have financial ties to several publishing companies, Wildcat was not listed as one of them.  On the other hand, Tony Marmmarella, co-producer (with Clark) of American Bandstand, testified before the subcommittee that Wildcat Music was owned by Milton Kellem Music Co. of which he (Mammarella) was a part owner.  It should be pointed out that in 1958 there was nothing illegal about giving air play to a record you had financial interest in, or even accepting consideration for playing a record.

 

"Get A Job" Label Variations

Click on Photos to Enlarge!  Then click Back Arrow to return to the Profile.

 

Junior 78

Junior 45, Maroon label

Junior 45, Blue label

Ember 45, Red label

Ember 45, Canadian, Blue label

 

 

Al Silver, owner of Herald-Ember records, once told F. Bailen how "Get A Job" carne into his possession.

 “ … I received a call from Ed Cohen, a distributor in Philadelphia.  He had (distributed) a local label called Junior on which he had sold 9,000 copies of a record in a few days.  Kae Williams, the owner of Junior didn't have enough money to distribute it, and he air-mailed me a copy to convince me to take over distribution.  I stalled for a few days and after I heard that ABC and MGM were hot on the record, I purchased it from Kae and put it on the Ember label.  Dick Clark played this record, "Get A Job" by the Silhouettes, and the next day we had orders for 300,000 records, which were not yet pressed.  That record sold one million copies in an incredible three week period."

 

 

"Get A Job" became a number one record on both the R&B and Pop charts by February, 1958.  It remained on Billboard's Pop Charts for fifteen straight weeks.  It was one of the first R&B records to cross over into pop music and become #1.  "Get A Job" sold well over a million copies. The exact sales figures will prob­ably never be known since the record was subjected to large scale bootlegging while it was on the charts.  While the Silhouettes received some royalties for writing and singing the song, Kae Williams' royalties for publishing rights were held up by a law suit.  One of the small labels that the Silhouettes had first taken material to, produced a tape of the group singing an early version of "Get A Job" (nearly acappella with only Rick Lewis on guitar) and demanded a share of the royalties.  The outcome of the suit is unknown to the group.

Another factor that cut into the record's sales was the covering of "Get A Job" by the Mills Brothers (Dot #15695) in January of 1958. The Silhouettes were angered that an older group like the Mills Brothers would try to profit at. the expense of a young group trying to establish themselves.  Bill Horton stated, "I wouldn't have minded if they had been a younger group, but the Mills Brothers had it made.  They shouldn't have covered anybody".  The Silhouettes believed the Mills Brothers cover cost them an overseas tour.

On the other hand, the Silhouettes were flattered by the large number of answer records to "Get A Job" that began appearing in 1958.  A partial list of these answer records follows this article.  The most memorable answers included "I Found A Job" by the Heartbeats (Roulette #4054) and "Got A Job" (End #1016), the first record by a young Detroit group called the Miracles. The success of these records was carried by the sales of "Get A Job".

Throughout 1958, the Silhouettes were in great demand. All but a few days during the year were spent touring.  The group did the Sam Cooke tour, the Clyde McPhatter tour, an 82 day Alan Freed tour and Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars tour.  They played the Apollo Theater.  They appeared on Dick Clark's Bandstand and Saturday night TV show numerous times.  They appeared on the Patty Page TV Show.  In virtually every town the Silhouettes toured, there was a local TV dance show that wanted them.  For Rick Lewis it was gratifying to return to the cities he had toured with the Turbans - this time with a number one record.  In the various bus tours, the Silhouettes traveled and performed with stars like Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter and the Monotones.  

Click on Photos to Enlarge!  Then click Back Arrow to return to the Profile.

Biggest Show of Stars 1958 Tour Program

 

During one tour, Raymond Edwards was temporarily replaced by Alphonso Howell, the bass of another Kae Williams group, the Sensations.  Alphonso never recorded with the Silhouettes and rejoined the Sensations a few weeks later with the return of Raymond Edwards to the Silhouettes.

Alphonso Howell

On one tour in North Carolina the Silhouettes heard "For Your Precious Love" by Jerry Butler and the Impressions being played on the radio.  This was before the record was well known.  They began working with the tune in their hotel room since its gospel flavor suited Bill Horton's style.  The Silhouettes actually recorded the tune and sent it to Kae Williams but he would not release it because of his friendship with Vee Jay executive Ewart Abner.  For the same reason a Sil­houettes cover of the Spaniels' "Stormy Weather" was never released.

Back in the 9th and Market Streets studio, the Silhouettes recorded their second release, "Heading For The Poor­house" b/w "Miss Thing".  This time the record came out strictly on Al Silver's Ember label.  Writing "Heading For The Poorhouse" was a group effort because, as Bill said, "We collaborated on it because we felt that if everyone had some input, they'd be able to put out a lot more.”  The tune was meant as an answer to what would happen if you didn't 'get a job'.  Both sides of this release were up-tempo, sealing the group into a "Get A Job" style.  Rick Lewis explained how up-tempo sides became a Silhouettes trademark.  "The record company owner had a lot of input as to the kind of material you do.  You present to him the songs you have in your repertoire and he decides what he likes and this is what he is wil­ling to spend his money on to produce.  The track records of other groups had been if they'd came up with something that sounded like their hit record it would be saleable ... whether it would be as phenomenal as the original hit or not.  It did not work in our case."

The Silhouettes believed another factor led to the bombing of "Poorhouse" - lack of promotion and exposure.  They recognized that Bandstand was responsible for the success of "Get A Job" and they expected it to do the same for their second record.  The Silhouettes and Kae Williams were scheduled to appear on Dick Clark's Saturday night TV show to publicly be presented with a Gold Record for "Get A Job".  They were to sing "Get A Job" and "Heading For The Poorhouse".  Shortly before the show, Kae Williams and Dick Clark had an argument.  To the Silhouettes shock and dismay, they were hustled off the stage after the award without the chance to sing “Poorhouse".  Instead Jackie Wilson was brought on to sing "Lonely Teardrops" and the Silhouettes lost their best chance to promote their new record.

 

 

The Silhouettes third record, "Bing Bong" b/w "Voo Doo Eyes" was recorded in Al Silver's New York studio and again released only on Ember.  It was probably the final record in a package deal between Kae Williams and Al Silver.  Unlike "Poorhouse" which utilized a bass lead, "Bing Bong" returned to the Horton led up-tempo style.  The record did not sell when it was out.  (Six years later Philadelphia disc jockey Jerry Blavat started playing "Bing Bong" and it became quite popular locally.)
    By late 1958, the Silhouettes were concerned over the lack of sales of the previous two records and decided to try another ballad. Although originally intended as a "B" side, "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman" was a strong ballad that overshadowed the up-tempo side "What Would You Do".  The record was first issued on the Junior label but stirred enough action for Kae Williams to sell it to the Ace label. Unfortunately it did not sell well enough to return the Silhouettes to the spotlight they had grown accustomed to.
    In 1959 the Silhouettes recorded "Evelyn" b/w "Never Will Part" for Junior Records.  "Evelyn" was an up-tempo side written by the groups' arranger Dave McRae while "Never Will Part" was a pretty ballad.  Kae Williams also sold another Silhouettes record, "Never" b/w "Bull Frog" to the 20th Fox label but neither record sold very well.

 

Click on Photos to Enlarge!  Then click Back Arrow to return to the Profile.

 


    We now come to a time in the career of the group when "Get A Job", a phrase which had brought to the group national recognition, was returning to haunt them with a meaning much closer to home.  The release of "Rent Man", backed with "Your Love" on the Junior label, was another attempt to utilize what had been a successful formula at the beginning of their career.  Where the 1957 ballad, "I Am Lonely" originally was intended to be the hit side rather than "Get A Job", there was no mistaking that "Rent Man", and not the ballad "Your Love", was to be the side to once again stir up action for the group.  The recording, "Rent Man" usually draws a smile from one hearing it for the first time with the inevitable statement, "that sounds like "Get A Job" doesn't it?".  Well, it does, but the surprising fact is that neither the lead singer of "Get A Job", Bill Horton, nor the prominent bass, Raymond Edwards, sang on "Rent Man"!

All the talent in the world wouldn't pay the bills - if one didn't have a hit record, and with what the group felt was less than total effort by the promoters to push their material, (which, by its own merit was as good as ever), came the exit of original members Bill Horton and Raymond Edwards and the emergence of the new group. Although the original group also sang a never-recorded song called “Rent Man”, the released “Rent Man” recording found Horton and Edwards replaced by Cornelius Brown and John Wilson who, along with the original members Richard Lewis and Earl Beal, comprised the second Silhouettes vocal group.  Familiar with the Silhouettes and their earlier work, the new members easily made the transition while maintain­ing the integrity of the Silhouettes' unique style.

 

Click Here to see photos of when John Wilson visited Classic Urban Harmony LLC World Headquarters.

 

 

 

The New Silhouettes: (l->r) Earl Beal,
    John Wilson, Cornelius Brown, Rick Lewis

 

 

 

The New Silhouettes
       Courtesy of Elaine Lewis


    The failure of "Rent Man" to stir more than local action brought the final split between the group and Kae Williams Productions.  Though the group personally had no contact with Philadelphia's Grand Records, acquaintances of the group arranged to record some of their material for Grand.  With John Wilson singing lead came two sides on Grand, "Wish I Could Be There" backed with "Move On Over".  The record appeared on Philadelphia's WIBG “Top 99” chart on August 20, 1962 and remained for four weeks reaching #61.  Grand record producer Jerry Ragovoy, with the aid of Van McCoy was enjoying success at Imperial Records with the Majors.  It was through Ragovoy and Van McCoy that the Silhouettes released their next recording with Imperial.  In the midst of an era which saw endless dance records came out of Philadelphia, the contemporary side, "The Push", represented quite a style change for the Silhouettes.  Backed with "Which Way Did She Go" (a tune which Ragavoy would later record again with the Majors) the Imperial record hit the WIBG charts on December 24, 1962, reaching the number 64 position during its four week stay.  Though record sales for the Imperial record were low, the dance sound generated work for the group.

The most popular release by the second Silhouettes group was not a single, but the 1968 LP called "The Original and New Silhouettes - '58/68 Get A Job" LP on Goodway Records.  The LP was certainly unique for a number of reasons and it is now actively sought by collectors of both '50's and '60' s sounds.  A clever idea that has since been done by other artists, the LP combined material from the original group with new releases by the second group.  The first side featured previously released sides by both groups.  What is called "Bing Bong Lover" is actually the original Ember release of "Bing Bong".  Side two features the 1968 version of "Get A Job" which may be best described as a mixture of a little bit of Detroit and a little bit of Philly.  The next two sides, "Not Me Baby" and "Gaucho Serenade" were also packaged in the LP as a single ala some of the Cameo-Parkway LP's of the '60's.  "Climb Every Mountain" and "We Belong Together" round out the LP.  These sides were released as a single by Jamie Records as the "New Silhouettes".

 

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    Adding to the uniqueness of the LP was the fact that it was marketed nationally by Sears Department stores, making it an in­stant coast-to-coast seller.  For the Goodway Company it was a new venture into the record business since they were actually printers.  Those readers having the LP may notice that instead of Cornelius Brown listed as personnel in the second group, the liner notes list an Otis Lewis.  Actually, it is Cornelius on all the sides as well as the LP photo.  When Cornelius left the group, Otis Lewis took his place for a short time to do live performances.  At the time the LP was being compiled, the group didn't know that Cornelius would soon return.  For that reason, Otis Lewis was listed in current personnel.

 

 

In 1964 Bill Horton recorded the first of two records with a new group called the Dawns.  Bill had been friends with Frank Virtue of Virtue Studios in Philadelphia and at Frank's suggestion, Bill cut some songs that Virtue had at the studio.  The Dawns were friends of Bill who enjoyed getting together occasionally to sing.  The group's members were Joe Moody, George Willis, Robert Byrd and Bill Horton.  Their first record was released on Swan's subsidiary label, Lawn, giving credit to Bill Harton and the Dawns.  The misspelling of Horton's name goes unexplained.
    The Lawn record contains two smooth ballads with Horton's ever strong lead and nice backup work by the group.  "Like To See You In That Mood" is obviously the stronger side, however "Shadow", (not to be confused with the Five Satins' song, "Shadows"), is also a nice ballad.  Never promoted seriously, the record may exist only as promotional copies.
    The second Dawns record was, according to Bill Horton, done in the late sixties or early seventies.  Not known to be released when we interviewed Horton, copies were then located on the Kayden label out of Philadelphia.  The sides were probably sold by Virtue to Kayden to recover some of the production cost.  As with the Lawn record, copies have been seen only in promotional form.  Although Horton sings on both sides of the Kayden record, he is backed by the Dawns only on "I Wanna Know", an up-tempo side with a solid sixties sound. The flip, "No One Can Take Your Place", is a ballad which was recorded solo by Horton with female backing dubbed in at a later time.

 

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The Silhouettes disbanded after the Goodway album to pursue their individual careers.

 

 

 

Silhouettes Card
         From the CUH Archives

 

 

The Silhouettes
Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

Part 2

 

In 1979, my radio show on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia was going strong.  At the time, my partner on the show was Don Leins.  Don and I would open the phone lines to take requests and get feedback from our audience.  To our pleasant surprise, a lot of former singers began calling in.  So, we’d invite them to come down to the radio station and we’d interview them on the air.  We also asked members of our audience if they knew the whereabouts of certain group members, to let us know.  The response was terrific.  Word went around the community that we were trying to preserve the history of Philly R&B groups and with the help of our listeners we were able to locate dozens of singers.

 

One group we were anxious to locate was the Silhouettes.  One of our listeners named Elaine, told us she’d met a man years back, when she was very young, who’d claimed to have been one of the Silhouettes.  Elaine then put an ad in the Philadelphia Tribune (the local black newspaper) saying, “Members of the Silhouettes… local dj wants to interview you…”  Elaine never did find the man she had met, and it’s likely his credentials were shaky.  However, Elaine did get a call from Rick Lewis, original tenor of the Silhouettes.  Rick and Elaine were married ten years later (on the 10th anniversary of their first face-to-face meeting at my radio program).  Meanwhile, at the same time that Elaine had located Rick Lewis, my friend Charlie Stroud, an early member of the Capris (“God Only Knows”) told me his cousin was Bill Horton, lead of the Silhouettes.  Charlie Stroud gave me Bill Horton’s number and I phoned him in September 1979.  Bill and I had a long talk about the Silhouettes and we made arrangements for him to come down to the show a couple weeks later.  Rick called Bill and the two of them came down to the radio station together.  Bill and Rick hadn’t been in touch for some time, and the WXPN interview on October 20, 1979, started them thinking about getting the Silhouettes back together.  Don and I told Bill and Rick about the great response we had with an acappella concert we’d produced earlier in the year in Philadelphia and about the group harmony revival shows that were being produced in New York City.  We also told them about Ronnie I’s United in Group Harmony Association (UGHA) that was really beginning to take off in North Jersey.  The Silhouettes knew the song “Get A Job” still had the public’s ear with the group Sha Na Na taking its name from Silhouettes' lyrics.

Shortly after the WXPN interview, all four original Silhouettes began rehearsing.  The first public appearance I can recall by the reunited Silhouettes was at a Bucks County (suburban Philadelphia) indoor shopping mall.  Though the set was hosted by Steve Levi, a well-known local TV news personality, it was far from a triumphant reappearance.  The event was sparsely attended and the group merely used it as a warm-up for their comeback.  It was a chance for the four original members, Bill Horton, Rick Lewis, Earl Beal and Raymond Edwards to sing together again in front of a live audience, after such a long absence from the public eye.

 

 

Earl Beal, Don Leins, Steve Levi & Charlie
           at the Silhouettes first comeback appearance
          in Bucks County (Photo courtesy of Elaine Lewis)

 

By the end of 1980, the Silhouettes comeback was in full swing.  Popular New York City radio dee jay, Norm N. Nite, called the Silhouettes and asked them if they’d be interested in playing an “oldies show” at the famed Beacon Theatre.  On the weekend of October 17-18, 1980, the Silhouettes appeared on both nights of the Royal New York Doo Wop Show at the Beacon (74th & Broadway).  The show also featured Rudy West & the Five Keys, Sonny Til & the Orioles, the Earls, the Cleftones, the Tuneweavers, the acappella group Yesterday’s Today, Johnny Maestro & Brooklyn Bridge (Friday only) and the Jyve Five (Saturday only).  I was at the Saturday night show that also presented a surprise guest group, the Kingtones from Japan.  The Silhouettes followed the Earls and were given a thunderous applause.  The audience stomped their feet until the Silhouettes came back out for an encore.

 

 

 

A month later (November 28, 1980), I arranged for the Silhouettes to appear at UGHA in North Bergen, NJ.  At UGHA, the group had the opportunity to do a much longer set than at the Beacon.  Again, to say the group was enthusiastically received would be an understatement.  Also making their first appearance at UGHA on that night was the standout Philly acappella group, Neighbors Complaint.  At the time, Neighbor’s Complaint consisted of Bob “Big Murph” Murphy, “Golden Voice” Harry Schmitt (now leading Cornerstone), John Jones (now with the Norristones) and Bob Reilly.  I’d also arranged for Neighbors Complaint to be at that UGHA show, hoping to give the night a Philadelphia flavor.  But the competition was strong.  That night’s show also featured the Charts, the Five Jades, the Attributes, Playground and six other groups.  UGHA founder Ronnie I. commented in the next newsletter that the November meeting/show had been the “best one yet”.

 

 

The Silhouettes
          Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

Throughout the early 1980’s, the Silhouettes did occasional big “oldies” shows but kept their act sharp by working local clubs around Philadelphia.  Ronnie I. and I discussed the possibility of either forming a Philadelphia chapter of UGHA or holding semi-regular UGHA shows in Philly.  Neither of those ideas ever came to fruition because by 1981 I had moved to central New Jersey and only returned to Philadelphia on weekends to do the radio show.  We did, however, hold one UGHA show in Philly and the Silhouettes were the headline group.  On September 12, 1981, the Silhouettes, the Ecstasies, Neighbor’s Complaint, New Emage and the Gospel Noble-Aires performed at a club called Eagles on Frankford Avenue, hosted by Ronnie I. and myself.

 

 

 

 

Also in 1981, the Silhouettes came up with the concept for a new album – their first recordings in thirteen years.  The title track, “Workin’ hard,” was meant to be an answer to “Get A Job.”  The album contained nine original numbers and came out on the C.R.S. label in 1982.  The material was good, but the album failed to sell.

 

 

 

 

In 1982, the Silhouettes appeared on a network TV show called “Whatever Became Of…”.  The show updated the audience on the lives of stars of yesteryear.  The executive producer of the show was Dick Clark.  

The Silhouettes continued appearing in diverse venues from small clubs like Philadelphia’s Little Bourse Cafe to Mark del Costello’s 1983 Burlington NJ Black Swan Concert.  They taped an appearance for the motion picture Joey in 1983 with the Teenagers, Limelights, Ad-Libs, Elegants, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Vito Balsalmo.  It was released in 1985.

 

 

 
Silhouettes performing at the Little Bourse Cafe
Philadelphia, 1982.  From CUH Archives.
 
 

 

Bill Horton at Little Bourse Cafe
      1982.  From CUH Archives

 

 

 

Bill Horton at Little Bourse Cafe
        1982.  Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

On October 15, 1983 they again played the Royal N.Y. Doo Wop Show, this time at Radio City Music Hall with the Spaniels, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, the Tymes, the Earls, the Mystics and the Regents.  Prior to that show, Earl Beal had broken his leg and ended up performing with a cast.  Earl also wore the cast for a Philadelphia Academy of Music appearance.

 

 

In 1986, the Silhouettes again did a Black Swan concert, this one at the African-American Museum in Philadelphia.  The show featured Philadelphia groups from the 1950’s including the Capris, Turbans, Keystoners, Brenda & the Tabulations and many others.  The show was MC’s by former silhouettes’ manager, Kae Williams.  After the show, Kae and I shared a restaurant table and talked.  We’d known each other since he’d been a guest on my radio show five years earlier.  It was the last time I saw him before he passed away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand finale at 1986 Black Swan concert in Philly.
Rene Hinton (Capris) in center.  Rick Lewis to the left of her.
Courtesy of Elaine Lewis.

 

By 1987, the Silhouettes found themselves in Bowzer’s original Doo Wop Party Volume II, appearing at the Valley Forge Music Fair, outside of Philadelphia on March 8.  Bowzer, of course, rose to fame with the group Sha Na Na, that named themselves after the lyrics in “Get A Job.”

 

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Flamingos' Jake Carey & Rick Lewis

Jive Five's Eugene Pitt & Rick Lewis

Baby Washington & Rick Lewis

Rick Lewis (center) with the Cardinals' Melvin Coles, Herman Denby, Jack Johnson, Ernie Warren

 

Photos courtesy of Elaine Lewis.

 

 

 

On October 20, 1989, on the tenth anniversary of when they first met on my radio show, Rick and Elaine were married.  Elaine sent us the following photos from their wedding.  Click on Photos to Enlarge!  Then click Back Arrow to return to the Profile.

 

 

 

In 1990, Bill Horton suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for quite awhile.  While Bill eventually did recover, this effectively ended the Silhouettes performing days.

Bill Horton passed away in 1995; Raymond Edwards in 1997; Earl Beal in 2001; Rick Lewis in 2005.

For those of us who loved the Silhouettes and their music, the ten year second musical career of the group meant a lot.  Many, myself included, never got to see the Silhouettes perform during the glory years of the 1950’s.  The group’s comeback gave us our only opportunity to see and hear the group live.  And I, for one, believe the Silhouettes of the eighties were every bit as good as the Silhouettes in the fifties.

In preparation for this web profile, Elaine Lewis shared with us her feelings on what made the Silhouettes unique.  “What was special about them was that they stuck together, never replaced any of the original members, despite all the ups and downs that groups have.  You'd be hard-pressed to name even a single other doo-wop group from the 50's that was still performing with all their original members in the 80's.”

For those wishing to read more about the Silhouettes, we highly recommend two great resources:

Todd R. Baptista’s Group Harmony: Echoes of the Rhythm & Blues Era, (Collectables: Narberth, PA) 2007, provides the most detailed bio of the Silhouettes to date.  It also contains great bios of the Cardinals, Spiders, Channels, Larks, Jacks, Flairs and Mellows.

Elaine Lewis’s fascinating website on the Silhouettes can be reached from our Links Page.  Elaine has been a tremendous help in putting together our website’s Silhouettes’ Profile, including refreshing my memory on many of the events and supplying quite a few of the photos, for which we are very grateful.

 

Charlie Horner

 

 

 

Courtesy of Elaine Lewis

 

This page is dedicated to the memory of Bill Horton, Rick Lewis, Earl Beal, Raymond Edwards, Alphonso Howell and James “Tony” Jenkins.

  

 

 

Silhouettes Singles Discography

 

Junior 391               - Get A Job / I Am Lonely                                              11/57

Ember 1029             - Get A Job / I Am Lonely                                              12/57

Ember 1032             - Headin’ For The Poorhouse / Miss Thing                         3/58

Ember 1037             - Bing Bong / Voodoo Eyes                                            8/58

Junior 396               - I Sold My Heart To The Junkman / What Would You Do     58

Ace 552                  - I Sold My Heart To The Junkman / What Would You Do     9/58

Junior 400               - Never Will Part / Evelyn                                              59

Ace 563                  - Never Will Part / Evelyn                                              4/59

20th Fox 240           - Never / Bull Frog                                                        61

Grand 142               - Move On Over (To Another Land) / Wish I Could Be There 62

Imperial 5899           - Push, The / Which Way Did She Go                              12/62

Junior 992               - Rent Man / Your Love (Is All I Need)                             63

Jamie 1333              - Climb Every Mountain / We Belong Together                   66

Goodway 101           - Not Me Baby / Gaucho Serenade                                  68

 

 

          Bill Horton Singles

 

As Bill Harton & the Dawns

Lawn 241                - Like To See You In That Mood / Shadow                       64

 

As Bill Horton

Kayden 403             - I Wanna know / No One Can Take Your Place                 70

 

 

 

Raymond Edwards Recordings Without the Silhouettes

 

In the early 1980’s my friend John Moore uncovered a copy of a record by the Dicky Howard Quintette on the Nestor label which stated on the label, “Ray Edwards - Vocal”.  When we asked Raymond Edwards about the record, he confirmed that that was a recording he made in 1954.  Classic Urban Harmony’s archives has since acquired that record, seen here.

 

In addition, Raymond Edwards voice is found on two other records from the early 1960’s.  At the time, Raymond had moved to Reading, PA, where he joined the vocal group, the Invictors.  The Invictors released one record on the Bee label, “I’ll Always Care For You” b/w I Don’t Wanna Go”.  The group also recorded “Carrie Lou” as the Termites on Bee, though the flip is reportedly by another group. 

   

        

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Dicky Howard Quintette

Invictors

Termites

 

 

             Raymond Edwards Singles

 

As The Dicky Howards Quintette, Ray Edwards, vocal

Nestor 17                - Going Down To The River / Rolling Down the Highway  54

 

As The Invictors

Bee 1117                 - I’ll Always Care For You / I Don’t Wanna Go               61

 

As The Termites

Bee 1825                 - Carrie Lou / [flip is a different group]                       63

 

 

 

“Not Me Baby” and Northern Soul

 

 

 

 

The Silhouettes’ 1968 recording of “Not Me Baby” has now become a sought after Northern Soul classic in the U.K., fetching as much as $1500 for the 45 RPM single.  It was not always so highly prized.  The 45 was issued only as a bonus single, packaged inside of the Goodway LP.  Thus, the only way one could get the single was to buy the LP.  Today the Goodway album is also highly desirable.

Goodway Records lists an address on Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia, about a mile from where I was born and raised.  I was unaware of the record when it coming out.  About a year after its release I recall going into a local Kresge Department store that frequently had cut-out (discontinued) records.  On a large table at the back of the store I saw a big table with close to 100 copies of the album (with the 45’s included).  All the copies were new and sealed.  They were selling for $1 a piece.  Being just a teenager, I pulled out a dollar and bought only one copy for my collection.  That’s the copy (45 & LP) in our CUH archive, pictured here.

 

 

 

 

Booklet issued by Rick & Elaine Lewis, 1980
Classic Urban Harmony Archives

 

A limited number of copies of the above pictured 24-page historical booklet are still available from Elaine Lewis.  It contains great photos from the Silhouettes' career.  Elaine also has a number of 8"X10" photos of the group for sale.  Email her at LEWRA@aol.com

All Label Photos Scanned from Records in the Classic Urban Harmony Archives
Copyright © 2008, Classic Urban Harmony LLC.  All Rights Reserved.