The Tidewater area of Virginia
(Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach) has
long been a hotbed for quartet singing. From it's roots with the Norfolk
Jubilee Singers and Golden Gate Quartet to the Five Keys, the Avalons and
Chateaus of the 1950's, the area has been known for it's great singers.
The Avalon's George Cox began singing
during the late 1940's in Booker T. Washington High School's school choir, the
same Norfolk high school attended years earlier by several members of the Golden
Gate Quartet. At the same time, he started a vocal group there called the
Bob-O-Links. Besides George, the group contains Bernard Branch, a fellow
called Bachelor D. and a couple of other members whose names have been lost with
time. The Bob-O-Links soon landed their own weekly radio show on station
WRAP, hosted by Bob King and aired every Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, across the river in Newport
News, two other singing groups were attracting attention. The Sentimental
Four, a group that would eventually evolve into the Five Keys, consisted of two
pairs of brothers, Rudy and Bernie West and Rafael and Ripley Ingram. They
added Edwin Hall as a fifth member.
A second Newport News group formed,
initially consisting of Bernard Purdie, his brother-in-law Charles "Bobby"
Crawley, Ulysses Hicks and George Leroy Harris. At some point Maryland
Pierce replaced Ulysses Hicks. This group was at
different times called the Chimes, the Four Bees and the Five Chimes. It
would eventually evolve into Encores and then be renamed the Avalons.
As is often the case with
groups from the same locale, the Sentimental Four and Four Bees ended up
exchanging members frequently. This was not done intentionally. It's
just that when one singer found himself out of one group and another needed a
singer, things happened. Thus, at one time or another, Edwin Hall and
Rafael Ingram sang in the Four Bees, while Ulysses Hicks and Maryland Pierce
ended up in the Five Keys.
Thus the Encores ended up
composed of James Dozier (tenor), George Cox (tenor), Bobby Crawley (baritone)
and Bernard Purdie (bass). In the early 1950's, the Encores joined the
Silas Green tent show which took them into Canada for the first time. Even
after leaving Silas Green some months later, the Encores decided to remain in
Canada, playing clubs there, mostly in Montreal and Quebec.
In 1955 the Encores acquired
Fanny Wolff as manager and she got them a recording contract with RCA's Groove
label subsidiary. At Groove, the group would change its name to the Avalons and record the classics "Chain Around My Heart" and "It's Funny But It's
In 1955, the Avalons joined
the Hortice Allen Dance Troop and toured Canada and the eastern United States.
In 1956, they joined the Raymon Bruce Rock & Roll Review that toured New Jersey
with the Spiders, Sensations, Clovers, Gloria Mann and many other acts.
One of the most memorable shows was at the Stanley Warner Theater in Camden NJ
on April 8, 1956.
The Avalons eventually left
Canada for an extended gig at the Club Harlem in Atlantic City (NJ) with stars
like Eartha Kitt, Billy Daniels and Richard Pryor. Meanwhile, songs that they
had recorded both in Canada and the U.S. began finding their way onto vinyl.
"Hearts Desire," first released in Canada on the Sandryon label, was
re-recorded and released on Unart. It was to become their most
endearing song. Barry Golder and Jocko Henderson, who leased "Hearts
Desire" to United Artists, also released "You Can Count On Me" on their
own Casino label.
Sometime around 1959, Bobby Crawley left the
Avalons while they were playing Atlantic City and was replaced by Huey Lewis.
Lewis was a friend who often traveled with the group, so he knew all the
By the early 1960's the original Avalons had broken
up. George Cox formed a new Avalons group that recorded "Picture of You"
on Ernest Kendricks and Viviane Green's Ken-Gren label. The Avalons then changed their name to the Squires and
released the George Cox composition, "Why Should I Suffer" for the Herald label.
(Label photo courtesy of George
During this period, the group joined the Leon
Claxton Road Show and toured throughout the United States. Claxton
produced the black side show for the traveling Royal American Carnival.
The Royal American Carnival, one of the country's biggest traveling shows,
maintained separate black and white shows for when they were in the segregated
When the Avalons broke up in the late 1960's,
George Cox joined Bernard Purdie's New Century Platters. Purdie had left
the Avalons around 1960 and began singing with a Platters group. He then
formed his own New Century Platters consisting of Gene Moore, George Cox, Joe
Odom, Laurie Anderson and himself. Laurie Anderson, wife of Gary "U.S.
Bonds" Anderson, was also Lucy Cedano of the Love Notes (Holiday label)
and Lucy Rivera (End label).
In the late 1970's George Cox left the New Century
Platters to tour the Rock & Roll Revival Circuit with his own group, Cox,
Wiggins and Moore. After that, he sang with Ray Richardson's Ink Spots in
Canada before rejoining Bernard Purdie's Salute to the Platters (Bernard Purdie,
George Cox, Billy Lee Hughes and Laurie Anderson) in the 1980's.
Today George Cox, Rafael Ingram and Bobby Crawley
have all passed away. In 2006, James Dozier performed at the United In
Group Harmony's Collector's Show, backed by the Four Dots. On May 16, 2007
the Avalons reunited for a PBS Special in Elizabeth, NJ. They sang
James Dozier (backed by the Four Dots), UGHA 2006
Charlie, Pam and James Dozier (2006)
As the Avalons
– Chains Around My Heart / Ooh She Flew
- It's Funny But It's True / Sugar Sugar
- You Are My Heart's Desire / Dear One
- Hearts Desire / Ebbtide
- You Can Count On Me / You Do Something To Me
- Picture Of You / I Need Your Loving
Bim Bam Boom 106 - You Can
Count On Me / You Do Something To Me (Reissue of Casino 108)
- What's Wrong / You Do Something For Me
(Side A unreleased Casino, Side B same as Casino 108)
As the Squires
- Why Should I Suffer / Walkin'