James Crawford

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James "Pee Wee" Crawford and his high-school chums seemed to have a fixation concerning the extremes of geography, harmonizing their sweet voices in doo wop combos named Otis & the Siberians…
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James "Pee Wee" Crawford and his high-school chums seemed to have a fixation concerning the extremes of geography, harmonizing their sweet voices in doo wop combos named Otis & the Siberians and the Distants. Far away is also an apt description of Crawford's distance from the hit record charts; he is a member of the large auxiliary cast of performers who made space between themselves and certain groups before they went on to make it big. In his case the could-have, should-have action concerns the Temptations, the eventual glorious outcome of Otis Williams' ambitions as a performer and purported to be the most popular vocal group in music history.

Williams began his Siberian model of the doo wop style in 1958; Crawford initially joined Otis & the Siberians alongside Eldridge "Al" Bryant, Arthur Walton, and Vernard Plain. All were still in high school, so naturally membership as well as commitment fluctuated. Music business types were interested in groups such as this, nonetheless, often offering them rehearsal space in order to keep a close ear on possible hitmaking developments. The history of the Temptations provides an example of the interesting results. Groups would meet other groups as the rehearsal clock ticked, sometimes deciding to splinter, merge, and sometimes even keep their Distants.

Manager Milton Jenkins put Crawford and company in a facility where they met up with, among others, an Alabama trio that included singer Eddie Kendricks. In 1959, new female manager Johnnie Mae Matthews came on board and Williams presided over a name change. Now the group was officially the Distants, with Melvin Franklin taking over as the new bass singer. Shortly thereafter the lineup of Bryant, Crawford, Franklin, Williams, and Richard Street recorded a song entitled "Come On," doo wop but at an unusually fast tempo. The song's title sounds like a songwriter's reaction to the idea of using it: there are, after all, more than 50 recorded songs named "Come On."

This "Come On" never went on beyond local hit status at the time of its release. Crawford became the next singer to give up on the evolving ensemble that would become a livelihood for the guys that stuck with it, a list that did not include Crawford's successor, Albert "Mooch" Harrell. Crawford made his decision not to go the Distants despite the manager having given the group a car with the combo's name laminated on the doors. He doesn't seem to have done much in the music business since. When the members of the group decided to leave their management, Matthews maneuvered to keep their band name, not that it was worth much other than the cost of repainting the car, which she also took back. Williams, Kendricks, et al., became the Elgins, then the Temptations.