In the same manner as the novelty title Ooh Bop Sha Boo kicked off the first King Vocal Groups collection, Voo-Vee Ah Bee by the Platters is the opening track on the second volume of group sounds from Syd Nathan's King Federal and Deluxe labels (KING VOCAL GROUPS - VOL 2). Recorded in late 1954, the biography on the label of dee jay copies, (a feature specific to Nathan's family of labels), claims that "The Platters are fast gaining the showmanship that will shoot them to the top shortly". For once, a promotional claim that turned out to be the truth!
In a mixture that has been well received by Ace customers in the past, this compilation blends better-known groups like the Platters, Hurricanes, Royals and the Five Keys with less well-known but nevertheless worthy acts such as the Interludes, Companions, Johnny Darling (with an un-named group), Joe Perkins & The Rookies, the Fascinators and the Five Wings, each of whom are represented by two tracks. In all there are 24 tracks by 17 different artist spanning the time-frame from 1952 though to 1963.
The Companions included in their line-up the singer and songwriter Larry Banks, who had previously performed and hit the charts with the group the Four Fellows. Perhaps his best claim to fame was as the writer of the soul classic Go Now in 1964. First recorded by his wife Bessie Banks on Lieber & Stoller's Tiger label, it can be heard on Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Vol 2 (CDKEND 158). In the following year, of course, it became a world-wide hit for the Moody Blues. Larry, along with the Four Fellows can be heard on another track, backing up Cathy Ryan on 24 Hours A Day (365 Days A Year). When the record was issued in 1955, the backing group was credited as being the 'Admirals'. Often a pseudonym had to be used, especially if the act used was currently signed to another label. This is one of a number of cases of 'mistaken identity' investigated by Gordon Skadberg in his detailed notes to the CD.
If radio play, either on air or more recently on the Internet, is anything to go by, then certain doo wop songs seem to be perennially popular on collectors' or specialist shows. Into that category fall several of the tracks featured here, including the second world war standard White Cliffs Of Dover by the Checkers-.-Moonrise (in an alternate take) by the Royals, who were later to become Hank Ballard and the Midnighters-.-and the catchy up-tempo Cuddle Up With Carolyn by the Fascinators. Despite the fact that these recordings are 40 to 50 years old and that the collectors of such music are often as old if not a little older, it may seem surprising that the price tag of vocal group recordings continues its inexorable rise. The doo wop collector's price bible, Jeff Kreiter's Vocal Group Record Guide, has recently clocked up its eighth edition and shows that at least half the numbers on this compilation are valued in three figures or more (measured in US $) and that collecting the whole repertoire would cost, if the records could be found, something in the order of $3000. The CD does seem to be an economical investment by comparison.
The King vaults hold many more goodies in this mould and we hope to be able to feature further volumes in the series including some previously unissued group recordings.
By Peter Gibbon