Classic Urban Harmony, LLC

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[New!]Wally Osborne & Starfires

Satan & the Angels - Blue Eyed Soul

Tony Talent & the Coalitions

Golden Bells & Contessas

Sweet Delights

Sammy Strain & the Imperials, 1964 -, Part 4 in the series

Sammy Strain & the Imperials, 1961 - 1963 Part 3

Sammy Strain & the Fantastics Part 2

Sammy Strain & the Chips Part 1

Asbury Park Vocal Groups Pt. 2

Asbury Park Vocal Groups, Pt.1

Philly's Original Capris

Little Jimmy & The Tops

Teddy & Twilights, Deckers

Groups from Philly's Francisville - Belltones, Joe Cook's Thrillers, Royal Demons, Madison Brothers

Sensations - Part 1

Sensations - Part 2

Johnny Maestro, the Crests & Brooklyn Bridge

Johnny Stiles & the Medallions on Essex

The Plurals

The Vic Donna Story

Orioles' Deborah Chessler

Tyrone & the Nu-Ports

Windy City Harmony: Calvaes, Blenders & Accents

        The Del Larks

Richard Barrett Part 1: The Valentines

Richard Barrett
Part 2:
Frankie Lymon & Teenagers

Richard Barrett
Part 3: The Chantels, Clickettes,
Fashions Veneers

Richard Barrett
Part 4:

Little Anthony & Imperials

Richard Barrett
Part 5: Lewis Lymon
Teenchords Jimmy Castor & Juniors

Richard Barrett
Part 6: The Channels,
Isley Bros, Del Knights

Richard Barrett Part 7: The 3 Degrees, Showmen

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Our Photo Gallery:
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CUH Archives

Renovations to the Classic Urban Harmony Library

    Concert Reviews,
    Photos & Events

bullet [New!]Choice at Roxy & Dukes
bullet [New!]Philly Ringtones at Franklin Township Library
[New!]Curators Talk, Spirituals to Soul Exhibit
bullet [New!]Sonny Til's son & grandson visit Classic Urban Harmony Headquarters
bullet [New!]Re-MedmberThen at Roxy & Dukes
bullet [New!]Quiet Storm at Roxy & Dukes
bullet [New!]Spirituals to Soul Museum Exhibit, Freehold
bulletVelvet Candles in Barcelona, Spain
bulletFilming Doo Wop Documentary
bullet2015 Portsmouth VA Gospel Concert
bullet Monmouth University West Side Music Exhibit
bulletAsbury Park West Side Music Exhibit Monmouth University - Set Up
bulletAsbury Park West Side Music Exhibit, Heaven Gallery
bullet2014 Philly Doo Wop Festival
bulletTNT with Vic Donna Group & Charlie Horner
bulletAsbury Angels 2014, Bobby Thomas
bulletRichard Nader Doo Wop Concert XXV
bullet2014 Portsmouth VA Gospel Concert
bullet Billy Vera Big Band at the Cutting Room NYC
bullet VGHA Extravaganza III
bullet Asbury Park Gospel Explosion

African American
Museum Philadelphia
Gospel Awards Ceremony

bullet Ray Goodman & Brown in Plainfield
at NJ Doo Wop Singers Club 2013

bulletEncounters at Somerset Run
bulletRichard Nader's Doo Wop Celebration XXVI
2013 Asbury Angels Plaque Dedications
bullet VGHA Acappella Extravaganza II
bullet2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
bullet Time Capsule Show 50th Anniversary
2013 Portsmouth, VA Gospel Concert
at Manchester, NJ

at New Providence Library

bulletJohn Moore's Middle Room Records Closes
bulletLittle Isidore in Fair Lawn, NJ
bulletNJ Doo Wop Singers Club Jan 2013
bulletCelebrating Asbury Park's West Side Harmony
bulletDoo Wop Singers Club 4th Anniversary
bulletChuck Berry Honored by the R&R Hall of Fame
bulletQuiet Storm at Somerset Run
bulletAsbury Angels 2012 Induction Ceremony
bullet2012 Philly Doo Wop Festival
bullet2012 Lead East
bulletTNT R&B and Doo Wop Party, Aug 2012
bulletPam Nardella's Frankie Lymon Tombstone BBQ
bullet Classic Urban Harmony Celebrates Vocal Harmony & the Masqueraders 50th Anniversary
bulletFrankie Lymon Tombstone Finds a New Home
bulletStormin Norman Seldin & Return of Ray & Darchaes in Monmouth Beach NJ
bullet2012 Portsmouth VA Gospel Concert
bulletTNT North Jersey R&B and Doo Wop Party - 2nd Anniversary
bulletAcappella Extravaganza at Molloy College 2011
bulletDoo Wop Singers Club (NJ) Third Anniversary
bulletSoul of Asbury Park Concert
bulletMasqueraders Silver Star Competition
bullet6th Annual Philly Doo Wop Festival
bulletSouth Philly String Band Club After Party to 6th Philly Doo Wop Festival
bulletTymes' Norman & Peggy Burnett BBQ 2011
bullet2011 Lead East
bullet Morris Museum Acappella & Doo Wop Concert # Two
bullet Morris Museum Acappella Concert # One
bulletClassic Urban Harmony Presentation NJ Doo Wop Groups Part 2
bulletClassic Urban Harmony Presentation NJ Doo Wop Groups Part 1
bulletMorris Museum LaBamba & Quiet Storm Concert
bulletMorris Museum Jersey Rocks Exhibit Opening
bulletMorris Museum Jersey Rocks Launch Party
bulletEvening With Vocal Group Legends Concert
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
bulletNick @ Nite Open Mic Night
bulletLeins Wedding
bullet"Fun-Raiser" at South Philly String Band Club
bulletRichard Nader’s Summer Doowop Reunion XXI
bulletPhilly Doo Wop Diner Mural
bulletMaking Crossroads 2
bulletCornerstone CD Release Party
bulletVirginia Legends of Gospel Concert
bulletS. Philly Stringband Club Jan 13, 2010
bulletRemembering Ronnie I. Concert Nov 2009
bulletPGHA's Heavenly Harmony XII Concert
bulletS. Philly Stringband
bulletFilming a Documentary
on Acappella
bulletAcappella Group Soul'D
Out on
Oct 2009
bulletBattleship New Jersey Dance & Concert
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
bullet American Bandstand Studio Fundraiser
bulletAcappella at the South Philly String Band Club Revisited
bulletFour Man Trio at At Dover NJ's Attilio's Tavern
bulletNicky Addeo at Asbury Park's Wonder Bar
bulletASAP's First Acappella Concert
bulletAcappella at the South Philly String Band Club
bulletVisiting Radio's Past & Present at WDVR-FM
bullet Chicago SoulTrip USA
bulletR&R Hall
of Fame
Interview with
Orioles' Deborah

bulletSilhouettes' John Wilson Visits CUH World Headquarters
bulletNJ Doowop Group Harmony Club, 2009.
bullet New Years Eve 2008 with Nicky Addeo & Nite Owls
bullet 2008 European Road Trip: Deep River Quartet & Golden Gate Quartet
bullet 2008 Black Swan Burlington Concert
bullet 2008 Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival
bullet Mills Bros,
Ink Spots
Beach Haven

bulletPhilly Doo Wop
Festival 2008

bullet Philly Doo Wop
Festival 2006


    In Tribute

bullet Dick Rietveld, Deep River Quartet
bullet Robert Murphy, Neighbors Complaint
bullet Walter McNeil, Gospel Nobleaires
bullet Jewel Akens, 4 Dots
bulletVirgil Johnson, Velvets
bulletCleotha Staples, Staple Singers
bulletDarlene McCrae, Cookies, Raeletts
bulletGregory Carroll, Four Buddies, Orioles, Dappers, Ink Spots
bulletJerome Ramos, Velours
bulletMickey "Guitar" Baker
bulletEarl Speedo Carroll, Cadillacs
bulletMajor Harris, Delfonics, Nat Turner Rebellion, R&B Soloist
bulletBilly Scott, Prophets
bulletCleve Duncan, Penguins
bulletDeborah Chessler, Songwriter,Mentor to the Orioles
bulletWilla Ward, Ward Singers, Gay Charmers
bulletBobby Thomas, Vibranaires, Vibes, V-Eights, Orioles
bulletJohn Jones, Moments Pleasure, Norristones, Copians
bulletChester Brown. The Counts
bulletJimmy Ellis, Trammps, Cordells, Exceptions
bulletJimmy Castor
bulletJack Scandura
bullet Cadillacs' Bobby Phillips
bulletBobby Robinson
bulletRobins' Grady Chapman
bullet Blue Notes' Roosevelt Brodie
bullet Moonglows' Harvey Fuqua
bulletCrests' & Brooklyn Bridge's Johnny Maestro
bulletDelroys' Reggie Walker
bulletSolitaires' & Vocaleers' Herman Dunham
bulletValentines' & Del-Knights' Eddie Edgehill
bulletChris Bartley
bulletSilhouettes' John Wilson
bulletLes Paul
bullet Castelles' Billy Taylor

    1950's R&B &
    Doo Wop


The Academics 


The Avalons


The Avons


The Blue Notes (original)


Claude Robinson & Creations


The 5 Embers


The Juveniles/ Twilights/ Embers


The Silhouettes

    1960's Soul

bulletThe Ad-Libs
bullet Jackson Five (Pre-Motown & Other Rarities)

    Carolina Beach Music

bullet The Poor Souls

    Modern Era
    Doo Wop Groups

bullet40 Years of Group Harmony: Ray Block's Photos of Vintage, Ad-Libs, Reunion, Bon-Aires, East River Drive
bulletYounger Dayz

    Gospel Groups

Angelic Gospel

bulletClaude Jeter & the Swan Silvertones

    Early Black
    Vocal Groups
    1870 -1930


The American
Jubilee Singers



The Dinwiddie Quartet

   History of


The 60th Anniversary of the Vinyl 45 RPM Single

    Rare Record

bulletHico Label

   Holiday Harmony

bullet Vocalaries' White Christmas
bulletPenguins' A Christmas Prayer
bulletDominoes' Christmas In Heaven
bulletCameos' Merry Christmas
bulletDrifters' White Christmas
Lonely Christmas


bullet Philadelphia Area Doo Wop & Acappella Groups
bulletBermuda Vocal Groups


Unknown Vocal Groups

     Great LINKS



The Five Embers



The Five Embers, Owensboro, KY, 1959.  Left to right: Sonny Rates (2nd tenor), Melvin Smith (bass), Richard Brown (lead, 1st tenor), Raymond Johnson (baritone), Charles Brown (lead, 1st tenor).  Courtesy of Phil Schwartz.


Fifth and Elm streets was the center of action in Owensboro, Kentucky.  The year was 1956.  "Everything you've heard about 5th Street wasn't a lie," Charles Brown says with a chuckle at the street's reputation as a walk on the wild side.  "You'd dress up to come out and lay back to watch the action," adds younger brother Richard. Street corner groups were plentiful in this section of the city in the mid-50s. ''There'd be eight or nine of us ... sometimes even girls," Charles recalls.  The police would come and run us off.  But after awhile, they started coming around just to listen."

The Five Embers came about from a loosely organized group of individual talents who were part of this scene in the northern Kentucky town of Owensboro, not far from the home of the Everly Brothers and Merle Travis.  The members all attended Western High, an all-black school in the area.  An early version of the group had a brush with success in 1957 when they won a NFA competition at Tennessee State College.  Part of the prize was an appearance on WLAC radio, Nashville, with Roy Acuff.  On the chartered bus which took them to the engagement, they received their first taste of the life of black entertainers in segregated America.  It wouldn't be their last.  "All that was on that bus was four of us singers and our sponsor ... and a white bus driver,” says Charles Brown.  "And we still had to sit in the back."  The group performed "Sincerely" on the live show, and they recall Roy Acuff as being very cordial.

In 1958, the act was organized under the management of Gerald Emberton.  The groups' name was derived from the manager's last name.  Besides Charles and Richard Brown, Raymond Johnson, baritone; Mel Smith, bass; and Delmar "Sonny" Rates, second tenor, rounded out the group. Richard and Charles generally alternated leads.  Richard was the youngest, and often had to get permission to play in the local clubs, which included the Savoy Club and the Little Brown Jug in Owensboro, as well as several regular appearances in neighboring Indiana.  Evansville's Roberts Stadium provided them with one of their larger audiences.  As the group developed their stage act, Richard became known as "Crazy Legs".  He was the dancer in the act, with more moves than Elvis.  Richard vividly recalls one night in the Rustic Club in Jasper, Indiana, where his moves inspired some white girls to jump up on to the stage to dance with him.  ''The owner stopped the music," he says.  Times weren't changing very fast."

Their manager felt that the Embers needed a record, and, in 1959 contacted Royce Morgan.  Royce and his partner Bobby Anderson were operating a label out of the State (movie) Theater in Central City.  Bobby worked at the local radio station, WMTA-AM, where they were recording acts late at night.  Bobby was a partner at Summit records and, when he discontinued that label in 1958, he took on Royce as his new partner, and they began marketing under the Royce banner.  Royce was actually more of a recording service.  For $300.00, you could get two sides recorded, and receive most of the run of 300 45's.  The rest were mailed to area disc jockeys and promoters.  For material, they chose "I'm Free", penned by Bobby Anderson and Bill Russ.  It's a fine up-tempo side with shades of Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One".  The ballad side was written by Harold and Irene Clark of Owensboro.  They operated a furniture store in the area, and wrote songs as a sideline.  The song, entitled "My Fragile Heart" has a haunting melody, possibly inspired, in part, by Hank Snow's "Yellow Roses".  Richard sang the lead on the jump side, and Charles handled the lead on the ballad.  Other musicians on the session included Royce Morgan, guitar; "Boots" Brown (the third brother), drums; and Tura Carson, keyboard.  Both Charles and Richard recall the session as being very long, with many takes to achieve the sound they wanted.  This was mainly due to the small recording space and lack of high-tech equipment.  In the end, Bobby and Royce ended up with 2 cuts which were undoubtedly the best of their label's material.


One of 300 copies pressed.
From the CUH Archives.


Released in early 1960, local reaction was excellent, with many jukebox plays, and heavy promotion from LeRoy Woodward, who operated a local record store called the "Wax Works", and had a weekly radio show on WVGS, Owensboro.  The record got as far as Louisville, where Charles recalls it being a pick-of -the week on WHAS.

A session at a Nashville studio (near the Ryman Auditorium) followed, and produced a few demos, including a tune called "Marie".  They even cut a background track for Elvis in Nashville, which was, apparently, never used.  In 1961, Richard enlisted in the Army.  Sonny Rates followed.  By 1963, the Embers were no more. “We had to survive”, Charles Brown laments.  “We had to get real jobs.”



In 1995, five hundred copies of their sole single were pressed on the X-BAT label, with a picture sleeve of the group, as they appeared in 1959.

Following their service stints, the group occasionally performed for weddings, and for Western High reunions.  But the heyday of the sound was gone.  Richard became a Kentucky probation officer.  Charles was a fire fighter in Owensboro for 25 years.  Mel Smith became steel worker. Sonny Rates was a metallurgist in Hammond, Indiana and Raymond Johnson was with U.P.S. in Atlanta.

Previously unpublished article by Dr. Phil Schwartz, 1996, printed here with the author’s permission.

Based on interviews with Charles Brown, Richard Brown and Bobby Anderson and excerpts from Keith Lawrence of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer from interviews 9/3/95.


Update:  Delmar “Sonny” Rates died September 10. 2007, in Michigan City, IN, after a long battle with cancer.