The Native Boys

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Los Angeles R&B quintet the Native Boys formed in 1954 -- according to Marv Goldberg's profile in the September 1996 issue of Discoveries, lead tenor Vince Weaver, first tenor Edward "Sack"…
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Los Angeles R&B quintet the Native Boys formed in 1954 -- according to Marv Goldberg's profile in the September 1996 issue of Discoveries, lead tenor Vince Weaver, first tenor Edward "Sack" Saunders, second tenor/baritone Fred Romain, and bass Harry Rosemont were classmates at the Cathedral Catholic High School at the time of the group's formation.

Originally dubbed the Mellowtears, they expanded to a quintet with the addition of baritone Charles Mathis, who was named Romain's replacement when he briefly left the lineup following a creative dispute. When Romain returned, Mathis' duties were retained to bolster the group's harmonies. After an unsuccessful audition for Aladdin Records, the Mellowtears signed to Modern to cut their debut single, "Native Girl"; when the record hit retail, however, they were credited as the Native Boys, much to the group's surprise and consternation. When "Native Girl" went nowhere, Rosemont resigned from the lineup to attend college, prompting the addition of tenor George LeBrune.

In late 1955, the Native Boys resurfaced on the tiny Combo label with the Romain original "Strange Love," which proved a hit on East Coast radio but failed to break nationally. In March 1956 Combo simultaneously issued three Native Boys singles: "Tears," "Laughing Love," and "Oh Let Me Dream." If label execs had a strategy in mind, it backfired completely, and when all three records dropped quickly from sight, the group dissolved. In early 1957 Weaver signed on with the Flairs, replacing Cornell Gunter (who landed with the Coasters), while Romain teamed with friend Denny Kristian as the Ebbtones, signing to Lee Rupe's fledgling Ebb imprint to release "I've Got a Feeling," an original composition he first recorded as the flip to the Native Boys' "Oh Let Me Dream."

When Weaver signed as a solo act to the Dot label, he recruited Romain and Mathis to handle backing vocals on the 1960 single "Friendly Mr. Hendley" -- again to his surprise, however, the label credited the fictitious Billy Woods & the Emeralds. A second Weaver solo single, the L.A.-area smash "I'm in Your Corner All the Way," appeared on the Swingin' label in 1963, credited to Vin Vincenti. After more than four decades out of the spotlight, in 2003 Weaver and Romain assembled a new Native Boys lineup for a handful of East Coast live dates.