The Masters

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Doo wop quintet the Masters formed in Queens, NY -- according to Marv Goldberg's profile on his R&B Notebooks website, the group's convoluted history encompasses two distinct acts that emerged from the…
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Doo wop quintet the Masters formed in Queens, NY -- according to Marv Goldberg's profile on his R&B Notebooks website, the group's convoluted history encompasses two distinct acts that emerged from the South Jamaica Projects housing facility in 1952. The first, the Love Larks, was comprised of lead Pete Le Monier, first tenor Billy Boatswain, second tenors Bobby Ward and Wilbur "Buzzy" Brown, and bass Robert Brown (no relation to his colleague), the latter also a member of the Beltones, a rival group that also included lead Andrew Pope, first tenor Clayton "Dickie" Williams, and baritone Herb Rooney. When the Love Larks began regularly scoring live gigs, Robert Brown quit the Beltones to join their ranks full-time -- however, following the addition of bass Alva Martin, the Beltones secured a record deal, in the summer of 1956 cutting "I Talk to My Echo" for the Hull label. For reasons unknown, Hull did not release the single until the spring of 1957 -- around this same time, the Love Larks dissolved, and Robert Brown returned to the Beltones to replace Martin, bringing with him Buzzy Brown. With Rooney's subsequent exit, the Beltones added tenor George "Buster" Cottman and negotiated a session with Hy Weiss' Old Town Records, cutting four songs in the spring of 1958 -- when Hull execs learned of the deal they threatened a breach of contract suit, and Old Town promptly shelved the masters before a release date was determined.

When Andrew Pope joined the U.S. Army in 1960, the remaining Beltones reunited with Herb Rooney and changed their name to the Masters -- with the subsequent departure of Buzzy Brown, lead baritone David Banks was added to the lineup, and in late 1961 the group signed to End Records to cut "A Man Is Not Supposed to Cry." Robert Brown received his military draft notice soon after, and with new bass Frank Turner, the Masters returned to the studio in 1962 with the Le Sage label effort "Crying My Heart Out," a Pope original first recorded during the ill-fated Old Town sessions. Creative dissensions between Rooney and Cottman prompted the former's exit soon after, and he landed with the Masters' sister group the Masterettes -- Brenda Reid, Carol Johnson, and Lillian Walker. Rooney's addition prompted the Masterettes to rename themselves the Exciters, signing with manager Al Sears and in 1962 cutting the chart blockbuster "Tell Him" for the United Artists label. While the Exciters remain one of the best-loved girl groups of the era, the Masters essentially sputtered to a halt, dissolving sometime in 1963 -- upon returning from the Army, Pope resumed his songwriting partnership with Rooney for the Exciters, but the other Beltones/Masters quit the music business for good. In 1975, the original Love Larks reunited for the first time in close to two decades.