The Golden Tones

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Not to be confused with an earlier Golden Tones that was based out of Brooklyn, this vocal group using that name is best known for featuring soul singer Joe Simon prior to the launch of his solo career.…
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Not to be confused with an earlier Golden Tones that was based out of Brooklyn, this vocal group using that name is best known for featuring soul singer Joe Simon prior to the launch of his solo career. Simply, Simon seized the time following the release of two singles by the Golden Tones on a West Coast label named Hush that was quietly making its reputation. Simon's early career as a solo artist on Hush is actually hard to separate from the Golden Tones recordings, beginning in 1959 with "Little Island Girl." Bandmember Johnny Heartsman wrote some of the material recorded under the Golden Tones name as well as later Simon efforts such as "I Keep Remembering," providing a solid aesthetic link. Another of the former sides to achieve success was "It's a Miracle," a title that perhaps reflects the probability of scoring a regional hit of its type.

It has been said that commercial concerns of this nature prompted the already well-known Golden West Gospel Singers to effect a transformation, which was how the West Coast version of the Golden Tones were born. No discussion of that combo name would be complete without mentioning the extent to which it has been used -- like "Joker," this is a name that has been printed on many flyers, marquees, and bass drum heads, not always to promote the same group. This discussion can be held in tandem with the familiar theme of performers such as Simon, Heartsman and bandmates flowing from gospel to secular music.

Gospel singer Isaac Freeman, whose career moves ran in the opposite direction, found a Golden Tones simply by strolling across the street. "I heard a group singin' across the alley one night," he recalled in an interview, "...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."

The Golden Tones he sang in is not the same one that Simon was in, however. It is also not the same one that was based out of Chicago at roughly the same time, later to become The Kool Gents. Other groups called the Golden Tones existed in the '60s and '90s; there are also Goldtones as well as interchangeable use of Goldentones and Golden Tones in discographies, liner notes and other print media.