The Four Mints

Biography by

The Four Mints (also known simply as the Mints) were a true oddity, a respected white vocal group in the midst of the early rock & roll era, capable of doing convincing R&B. James Wilson (lead), Gene…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

The Four Mints (also known simply as the Mints) were a true oddity, a respected white vocal group in the midst of the early rock & roll era, capable of doing convincing R&B. James Wilson (lead), Gene Warr (first tenor), Aubie McSwain (second tenor), and Al Warr (bass) had known each other since childhood and sung together for years, throughout the '40s. Their main influence was gospel music, and they'd sung in churches for most of their lives. They quartet had sung locally around Center, TX, mostly at local events and church functions.

They took on the name the Four Mints and crossed over into popular music and R&B in 1954-1955. They'd always listened to the black R&B vocal groups of the period and proved good -- even inspired -- students: unlike, say, the Crew Cuts, the Four Mints didn't "bleach" out the sounds that they learned to create, but kept them intact even as they made them their own. They were, in many respects, the group equivalent of the phenomenon that Sam Phillips claims to have been searching for, a white man who could sing black music.

What's more, they were good enough to get bookings far outside of Center, even managing to cross paths with Elvis Presley in the process and even getting his future drummer, D.J. Fontana, on the skins for some of their gigs in Louisiana. They cut a handful of songs for Lin Records in Gainesville, TX, including "Night Air" and "Little Mama Tree Top" (the latter unissued for 40 years). Although sometimes identified, for convenience's sake, as a doo wop group, the Mints were more animated than most of the acts to which the name is usually applied -- their models were groups like the Treniers, most of all, more so than the balladeer-type outfits usually called doo wop groups.

The Four Mints left Lin after just a few months for the much larger Decca label in 1956. They failed to generate any hits, but Decca's promotional efforts on their behalf and the resulting exposure gave them the intro the needed to break out of the south and become a national act. They followed their idols, the Treniers, into the same Las Vegas clubs and remained popular for years. McSwain left the quartet in 1960. He was replaced, and the group lasted for another two years, breaking up in 1962.