Thursday, October 28, 2010

Forgotten Music -- For the Birds

For a while, bird names were all the rage with R&B harmony groups and doowop groups. One of the first was The Ravens, a group formed in 1945. Their 1950 hit "Count Every Star" has a nice falsetto bit by Maithe Marshall and a wordless bass vocal by Jimmy Ricks. One of the earliest doowop records, this one was used in the fairly recent movie Revolutionary Road.
The Orioles, with lead singer Sonny Till, had a big crossover hit in 1948 with "It's too Soon to Know," which was a #1 R&B song and made the top 15 in the pop charts. The Orioles are in the Rock & Roll Hall of fame.
The Penguins had only one big hit, "Earth Angel," but it was one of the definitive vocal group songs of the '50s. It's sure to show up in any oldies rotation, and it's been recorded again and again by other artists. Cleveland Duncan sang lead, and he also sings the part on Frank Zappa's "Memories of El Monte." The cover version by the Crew Cuts outsold the Penguins version, but it's the one by the Penguins that I remember.
One of the best and most popular of the "bird groups" was The Flamingos, and they're one of my favorites. Their biggest seller, and the song that most people probably associate with them is "I Only Have Eyes for You," but "Your Other Love" is the one I'll put here. It's just one of a dozen or so great songs I could have picked. Like The Orioles, The Flamingos are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
There are plenty of other bird groups: The Wrens, Crows, Jayhawks, Falcons, Cardinals, Swallows, and Larks come to mind. Maybe I'll to some of those one of these days.


  1. The Birds & The Byrds. The Nightingales. You've got me thinking now! Smashing post!

  2. Yardbirds? Partridge Family?

  3. Nice. Whenever I hear doo-wop I think of the liner notes for Frank Zappa's "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder" (on the Mothers' Freak Out album). "This song is so greasy you should not listen to it. You should wear it on your hair."

  4. That Flamingos track is very Drifters-eque, and simpler vocally than the hit everyone remembers...wonder if they had the same personnel and producers as for "I Only..." at that point.

    Yup...The Byrds...the Yardbirds...the Buzzcocks...

  5. Counting Crows? Rockin' Robin Roberts, who wasn't a group but was in one. The Eagles.

  6. Anonymous9:08 AM

    As you know we just saw The Penguins recently, and Cleve Duncan is still singing "Earth Angel."

    And he sounds great.