Church Street Five

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The Church Street Five were the house band for Legrand Records, playing on the early-'60s Frank Guida-produced hits by Gary "U.S." Bonds and Jimmy Soul. As their name implies, the Church Street…
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The Church Street Five were the house band for Legrand Records, playing on the early-'60s Frank Guida-produced hits by Gary "U.S." Bonds and Jimmy Soul. As their name implies, the Church Street Five played music rooted in the church, with joyous horns and vocal chants that sounded like a rocked-up revival meeting. The Church Street Five didn't play gospel music, however, but rock & roll, laying down the R&B-charged horns associated with rockers like Little Richard, adding organ and a groove more in tune with early-'60s soul and rock. The most crucial component of the Church Street Five sound was tenor saxophonist Gene Barge, whose rich wails were all over Bonds hits like "Quarter to Three." Other important members of the group were trombonist Leonard Barks and drummer Emmett "Nabs" Shields. Shields had played in the band at the Bishop Grace House of Prayer, a church at the intersection of Church Street and Princess Anne Road in Norfolk, VA. Hence the name the Church Street Five.

The Church Street Five also recorded some singles, mostly instrumental ones, on their own for Guida between 1960 and 1964. More often than not they were billed on these as Daddy "G" & the Church Street Five, rather than as just the Church Street Five, Daddy "G" referring to Gene Barge. They were just the Church Street Five, though, on their debut single, the instrumental "A Night with Daddy "G"." This was the loose model for Gary "U.S." Bonds' number one single "Quarter to Three," which took many of the same riffs and the melody, adding party lyrics and a different arrangement.

The Church Street Five singles were inessential, similar-sounding upbeat party tunes that usually sounded like Gary "U.S." Bonds backing tracks in search of a vocal. Church Street Five musicians were also involved in other Guida productions, again usually instrumental, billed to other names, such as "Baby" Earl & the Trini-Dads, King Coney & the Hot Dogs, and the South Street Six. Recordings by the Church Street Five and several of their variations can be heard on Ace's Church Street Five compilation, A Night with Daddy "G." Daddy "G" himself, Gene Barge, went on to become a producer, session musician, and songwriter of note with Chess Records in the mid- to late '60s.