The Kool Gents

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One of the most interesting groups to emerge from Chicago in the '50s was the Kool Gents. An early incarnation called the Golden Tones had a couple of releases on two fly-by-night labels. The original…
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One of the most interesting groups to emerge from Chicago in the '50s was the Kool Gents. An early incarnation called the Golden Tones had a couple of releases on two fly-by-night labels. The original members consisted of Cicero Blake, James Harper, Howard McClain, Teddy Long, and John Carter. Delecta "Dee" Clark, John McCall, and Doug Brown replaced Harper, McClain, and Blake. McCall, not Clark originally sung lead until Vee Jay's A&R man Calvin Carter recommended that Clark sing lead. Long served as the groups' main songwriter. Clark, from Arkansas, had previously recorded "Hambone" with the Red Saunders Orchestra as a member of the Hambone Kids.

They renamed themselves after disk jockey Herb "Kool Gent" Kent, who introduced them to Calvin Carter and Vee Jay Records. Their first release, "This Is the Night" b/w "Do Ya Do" sold locally in 1956. A second release, "I Just Can't Help Myself" b/w "You Know" did fine in Chicago also, but failed to make any inroads outside the city.

The Kool Gents didn't burn up the charts, but they sounded good, so Calvin Carter and Ewart Abner decided to spoof the Democratic National Convention by releasing "The Convention" as "the Delegates" (aka the Kool Gents). It received a tremendous amount of airplay, which unfortunately didn't transform into a tremendous amount of sales. A second Delegates single, "Mother's Son" b/w Teddy Long's "I'm Gonna Be Glad" didn't even excite Chicagoans.

In 1957, Dee Clark decided to go solo (with Calvin Carter's OK), and the Kool Gents and the Delegates recording activity ended. Some members of labelmates the El Dorados ("At My Front Door") left the group, leaving only lead Pirkle Lee Moses, so Calvin crowned the Kool Gents the New El Dorados and they backed Moses for two fruitless years.

John Carter resurrected the Kool Gents and they gigged until 1965 but never had any other recordings released. Dee Clark recorded several successful singles including "Rain Drops" (number two Pop), "Just Keep It Up," "Your Friends," "Nobody But You," and "Hey Little Girl." Dee recorded for many labels before suffering a fatal heart attack in Atlanta, GA in 1990, at the age of 52. Cicero Blake, an original member of the Golden Tones, also went solo, but never received the chart popularity Clark did, though he's enjoyed a long career. Blake recorded some marvelous records, including "You Got Me Walking," "Sad Feelings," and "Love Is Like a Boomerang" on a variety of labels. Solid Smoke Records released His Best Recordings: Dee Clark & the Kool Gents & the Delegates, in 1984, but omitted "The Convention" from the compilation.