The Golden Tones

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The sheer number of combos named in claim of some kind of "golden" status is perhaps proof of musicians' inherent greed. Among dozens of acts in genres as diverse as gospel and hip-hop, some settled on…
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The sheer number of combos named in claim of some kind of "golden" status is perhaps proof of musicians' inherent greed. Among dozens of acts in genres as diverse as gospel and hip-hop, some settled on gilded tones; others would of course covet golden jewelry, horses, even toes. These Golden Tones or Goldentones -- the variations seem to be used interchangeably, creating much confusion -- initially seem to have fanned out across the United States during the rise of vocal groups and, inevitably, doo wop. The name has also been used in the '60s and again in the '90s; perhaps the new wave rockers made a collective decision to avoid it entirely. A few Goldtones are also out there.

Referred to as the Goldentones in a biography of producer and record label manager Joe Davis, a mid-'50s combo out of Brooklyn nevertheless is the Golden Tones on reissue material that has come under the radar. Davis cut the explanatory "The Meaning of Love" and the jogging "Run Pretty Baby" with these Goldentones in 1955, four years before a west coast group using the same name made its recording debut featuring soul hitmaker Joe Simon in the cast. There was apparently another Golden Tones based out of Chicago, overlapping the career of at least the earlier band if not both. That group eventually changed its name to the Kool Gents, but supposedly released sides on local labels before doing that.

Probably there's even more Goldentones in them thar hills. Gospel singer Isaac Freeman tells this heavily edited anecdote: "I heard a group singin' across the alley one night, so I said to my auntie, ‘Mind if I go check 'em out?' And she said, ‘No, go ahead. They might want you to join 'em.' So I went over and knocked on the door and introduced myself. . . At the time, this particular group -- they called themselves the Golden Tones -- didn't have a bass singer. So later on their manager came down to the house and invited me to start singin' with 'em." This event apparently involves neither the Brooklyn, Chicago nor west coast bands.

Perhaps anxious about potential title wars, a member of the Brooklyn group approached their producer with a request for a contract release. Davis made no fuss at all and also agreed to turn over a pair of as yet unreleased tracks to the group, the lovely "Diana" and the warming "Heater." Based on Davis' track record, the decision may reflect on the quality of the Brooklyn Golden Tones or at least his perception of same; in other cases, Davis was willing to take legal action regarding any contract monkey business, and was furthermore hardly freewheeling about handing over outtakes. The singer who was involved in these negotiations has been identified as Everett Winder. Researchers into the rhythm & blues scene of the era may simply be blinded by the gold, but in terms of band membership there seems to be more interest in the instrumental accompaniment at the sessions Davis produced. It was a classic rhythm section: Panama Francis on drums, Jimmy Shirley on guitar, and Al Williams on piano. One horn was added to add asides to the vocalizing, an interesting decision that it turns out to be the baritone sax, not an alto or tenor as would normally be expected. Usually the baritone only got the call if there were two or more horns on the session; again, considering Davis' production style, this might have meant somebody didn't show up, a frequent reasoning behind great artistic decisions.