Tommy Grate

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A great bass vocalist in at least three different doo wop groups, Tommy Grate was the brother of female vocalist Miriam Grate, also known as Miriam Sneed following her marraige to James Sneed, her associate…
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A great bass vocalist in at least three different doo wop groups, Tommy Grate was the brother of female vocalist Miriam Grate, also known as Miriam Sneed following her marraige to James Sneed, her associate onstage in The Dovers. Tommy Grate continued singing professionally for at least a few years after his sister's career as both a lead combo vocalist and solo artist had washed down the grate. His career began in the Five Stars, one of many doo wop quintets but one of the elite from the neighborhood of Harlem bordered by 129th Street and 7th Avenue. The group evolved into the Five Wings and featured lead singer Jackie Rue, eventually to front Jackie and the Starlights.

The Five Wings recorded but hits did not fly off. Attrition resulted; there were only really three members after awhile, still including Grate as well as Butch Hamilton, whose voice had formerly resounded in the Sonics. Final sessions involving this group from 1955 still credit the group as Five Wings, one of many examples of inferior accounting in the music business. For Grate business at least improved to good when he became part of The Marvels, an ensemble drawing members from the Scale-Tones as well as two of the three remaining Five Wings. Another group for which Grate gets discographical credit was called The Dubs but was initially just a concoction of producer Hiram Johnson. Johnson decided to finally release material by The Marvels that had previously been considered not marvelous enough to actually inflict on the public.

The wisdom of that initial relucatance can certainly be questioned following the 1957 success of "Don't Ask Me To Be Lonely" by The Dubs. Things seemed to pick up that year for Grate but the group's acceptance lacked grandeur after all and by late 1958 The Dubs had been erased. While one member, Richard Blandon, moved on to yet another group, for others including Grate this seemed like life decision time. Grate went to work as a garbegeman, a move that can be interpreted as extremely sympathetic toward future biographers wishing to make puns about his name. Near the end of the '50s, Blandon got his old bandmates going again for a revived version of The Dubs which included the opportunity of recording for ABC-Paramount. In the early '60s Grate was responsible for the excellent bass parts on recordings such as the free-falling "Down, Down, Down I Go" and the liberating "You're Free To Go". The group's final recordings were done in 1965