Various Artists

The Golden Era of Doo-Wops: Herald Records

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The Golden Era of Doo-Wops: Herald Records Review

by Bruce Eder

Herald Records existed for a good deal longer than most independent R&B labels, 1953 through 1963. Founded by Freddie Mendelsohn, the company started off with a pair of hard blues recordings by Eddie Boyd and Little Walter Jacobs, but soon after, pressing plant owner Al Silver came aboard with another new partner -- later buying out Mendelsohn -- and transformed Herald into an R&B specialty label. The company began recording R&B harmony groups, including the Rocketeers and the Five Willows; it was in 1955 that they had their first success with the Nutmegs' "Story Untold," and later that year scored a major hit with "When You Dance" by the Turbans. Later acts included the Mint Juleps, Little Butchie Saunders and His Buddies, and the Debonaires. Beginning in 1958, the company began courting the rock & roll market with acts such as the Mello Kings, the Desires, and the Loungers, but it was Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs with "Stay," a monster hit in 1960, who did the best for the label. This 28-song collection includes all of Herald's biggest R&B and rock & roll hits, starting with the mid-1950s doo wop classic "Story Untold," driven by Leroy Griffin's impassioned lead singing. The Debonaires sing well enough on "Darling," but the most notable attribute of the pleasant midtempo ballad is the searing guitar solo by arranger Wesley L. Jackson. The Heralds, formed out of the Billy Dawn Quartet and the Four Dukes, offer more of a bluesy sound, complete with a raunchy band sound on "Gonna Love You Everyday," which, properly speaking, belongs on a blues rather than a doo wop anthology. From later in he label's history, "Teenage Bells" by the Loungers is a surprise, a lively and pleasing number that might easily have been a hit, but went unreleased until now. "Betty My Own" by the Dynamics is another diamond in the rough, a soaring, impassioned ballad with a gentle, unobtrusive orchestral accompaniment. "I Wanna Holler" and "Lindy Lou" by Little Butchie Saunders and His Buddies were well-intentioned attempt to treads on Frankie Lymon territory, and the latter, in particular, was a pretty fair rock & roll number, and rather catchy. The sound on this collection is, as with most of Relic Records' releases, extraordinary.

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