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THE MANHATTANS – part 2 (1964 – 1970)

Read also the part 1
Part 3: 1971-1979
Part 4 (1980-1989)
Part 5 (1988-2012)


From left to right: Richard Taylor, Kenny Kelly, “Smitty” Smith, “Blue” Lovett, “Sonny” Bivins
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

  In the Jersey City area, as well as in numerous other regions around the U.S., in the early 60s there were many aspiring and eager street-corner harmony groups seeking for that elusive fame, sudden silver lining.  After looking for a long time one such group, the Manhattans, finally found their recording home at Carnival Records in early 1964.  In the line-up of Edward “Sonny” Bivins, Kenneth Kelly, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, George “Smitty” Smith and Richard Taylor they released two singles, which made some noise locally, but the third one made the breakthrough and scored on a national level.

I WANNA BE

  In the early days the group used to rehearse in Kenny Kelly’s house, and during one of their rehearsals Joe Evans, the owner of Carnival Records, decided to choose Blue Lovett’s song I Wanna Be (Your Everything) for the next single.  Released in December 1964, the single (Carnival 507) hit Billboard’s pop charts on January 16 in 1965 and rhythm & blues charts two weeks later.  It climbed up to # 68-pop and # 12-r&b and allegedly sold over half a million copies. In his biography Follow Your Heart Joe Evans tells on no less than eight pages about his clever ways to market the single and how a New York DJ by the name of Murray the K played a big role in breaking the record.  Also one shouldn’t underrate the importance of Joe coming to an agreement with Columbia Products over pressing his records.

  I Wanna Be has a steady stomping beat and a simple, infectious melody, and it later became quite popular in northern soul circles.  Although Smitty was the lead singer for the Manhattans, in this case Joe Evans made their bass singer Blue to sing his own song... and sing a lot higher than his natural register.

  Blue: “The night we knew I Wanna Be was going to be aired on national radio from New York for the first time, we sat and notified all our friends and relatives to make sure they tune in.  It was quite an experience to hear yourself on a radio.  It was actually a contest.  On certain nights they would choose two upcoming artists and compare their releases, play both and the people would call in and vote.  Naturally that night we won, because we told everybody in the New York and New Jersey areas to make sure they listen.”

  The b-side was Sonny Bivins’ light dancer called What’s It Gonna Be.  Sonny: “Just a song I took from a saying, and just started writing a story to that song.”  On the label it reads “a Joe Evans – Bob McGhee production.”  Joe Evans: “Bob helped me, when I was going down to Baltimore or all of those places with the record, and that’s how his name got on there as a producer.  He didn’t do anything in producing, but I put his name on there.  He was a writer and he had his own label, but here he just helped me.  He had a pass on the train.  When I wanted to go down there to do promotion, he let me use that pass and I’d ride the train down there and back.  That helped me out quite a bit.  I was working on a close budget.”

  Prior to I Wanna Be, singing had been only part-time for the members of the group.  Kenny: “Right after I got out of the college – my major was biology – I started working in hospitals and labs.  After I Wanna Be went into the national charts, we had a decision to make, whether we wanted to continue as 9-to-5 workers or were we serious about our singing career.  So we chose to be serious about our singing career.  Once we started doing dates sporadically, I just couldn’t maintain the job that I had by pursuing the singing career, so I quit my job.  After I Wanna Be everybody did the same.”

  Blue: “I worked for Muscular Dystrophy.  We weren’t making any money singing, so I worked for Jerry Lewis, the comedian, who was the host of Muscular Dystrophy every September.  He’d give a Telethon.  I worked for that company and I wrote I Wanna Be, while I was at work.”

SEARCHIN’ FOR MY BABY

  Sonny wrote a pleasant, mid-tempo toe-tapper titled So in Love (Carnival 508) for Barbara Brown, and here “Smitty” joins her on vocals and makes the song a duet.  That single side was coupled with Forget Him, another memorable and a slightly wistful mid-pacer that Barbara Lewis could have cut those days.  Sonny composed also that song.  Sonny: “I met Barbara Brown through George Smitty Smith.  We sang in school with her.  Smitty also was a big part in helping me with my songs.”

The Manhattans’ fourth single, Searchin’ For My Baby (509), was a mellow dancer that musically really didn’t stand out and didn’t differ considerably from the rest of the uptempo output those days, but it hit # 12-r&b and # 135-pop in the summer of 1965.  Blue is leading and is accompanied by a rather high-pitched harmonizing from the rest of the boys, not unlike what we used to hear from Chicago groups at the time.  The song was later covered by the Persuasions on their A Cappella album in 1970.


On the pic above Smitty (on the right) together with his brother Joe Smith
photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

  The flip, I’m the One That Love Forgot, was not only a wistful, heartbreak song, but it was significant in introducing the first ballad by the Manhattans on record.  Still today it’s Kenny’s and Sonny’s favourite.  Sonny: “I wrote that song for my future wife Amy, who I ended up marrying.  She is the mother of my five children.”  On pop charts the single became a double-sider, as also Love Forgot edged its way up to # 135.  Blue: “I think our identity became love songs and ballads.  I wrote a lot of things, when we patterned ourselves after what Motown was doing with the Temptations.  I tried to, anyway.  That didn’t sort of fit us.  Our signature is ballads, love songs.”


  That single was also one of catalysts in the process of the group becoming an opening act for Otis Redding during his black college tour to southern states in 1965.  Otis loved the group and was particularly impressed by Smitty’s singing.  Blue: “He wanted to manage us just before he was killed in an air crash.  He loved the Manhattans.  He had us touring with him yearly.  He put us under his umbrella, the Bar-Kays and the Manhattans.”  Otis died on December 10 in 1967.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

  Sonny wrote a busy ballad called Follow Your Heart (512), which after its October release reached # 20-r&b and # 92-pop.  Sonny: “This was also a song I wrote for my wife Amy.”  He even plays guitar on the track.  Smitty inspires himself into a highly emotional delivery, which bears a remote resemblance to Billy Stewart’s phrasing on some of his records those days.  On YouTube you can listen to Mike Boone’s interview with Sonny about the song as well as the song itself.  Just type in “Chancellor of Soul” -> interviews Sonny Bivins of the Manhattans, pt.1.  Blue wrote and sang an average dancer named The Boston Monkey on the b-side.

  The mid-tempo Baby I Need You (514) was written by Sonny and Joe Evans and it was the Manhattans’ first release in 1966.  Smitty really pours his heart out on this sweet and string-heavy track, which to an extent echoes the then Temptations sound.  Sonny: “Temps were one of my early influences.  I love the sound of the 5-part harmony.”  Blue: “We didn’t want to copy them, so to speak.  Basically everything we did, we had the Impressions and the Temptations in mind.”  Again on YouTube Mike Boone presents this song together with Sonny, now on part 2.

  On the flip there was another rather mediocre “animal dance”, this time titled Teach Me (The Philly Dog), and it was composed by Blue and Joe Evans together.  Blue: “I showed Joe Evans the melodies that I wanted.  I play keyboards a little bit, a little piano, and I showed him the way I wanted it to go, and Joe split the writing with me.”

  “I know instances, where a person has changed one word, because the English was improper, and they put their name on the record as a writer.  They changed just one word and put themselves down as a writer, co-writer or whatever.  Back in the day we were told – not necessarily by Joe Evans – that, if you didn’t have any musical experience and if you didn’t play some instrument, you could put your name down only as a writer.  This was one of the tricks of the trade, where black artists were fooled and told different stories that we finally found out were not true.”  The single hit # 22-r&b and # 96-pop.


CAN I

  Four charted singles called for an album.  Carnival’s first LP called Dedicated to You (CLPS-201) was released in early 1966, and in late March it entered the rhythm & blues charts for two weeks and peaked at # 19.  Produced and arranged by Joe Evans and engineered by Bob Gallo, eight songs were culled from preceding singles and the rest four songs were released on forthcoming 45s, so there aren’t any album-only tracks on the LP.  The emphasis is on dancers with seven up-tempo, two mid-tempo and three down-tempo tracks on display.  Kenny: “It sort of put us onto the charts as being a stable. It didn’t do as well as we liked it to have done, but it put us out there.”

  Those days the studio work was very efficient, at least at Talent Masters.  Blue: “Everything was done at the same time – the lead singer, the background voices and the music.  You had two hours to do as many songs as you could do and usually we would squeeze in maybe three – and if it was going well – maybe four.  The musicians were so excellent that they knew what they were doing.  Once in a while they would make an error, and Joe would stop them and say ‘I wanna hear this right here and I want this to be happening right here’, but, other than that, every time we would go back and do another take, it wouldn’t be because of the lead singer or the background vocals.”

  Two songs that were lifted from the Dedicated to You album were put out as the next single in May 1966.  Smitty’s and Joe Evans’ song Can I (517) is a pleading neo-doowop ballad, or – as Blue calls it – “progressive doowop.”  In late summer of 1966 it started climbing up the rhythm & blues charts and ended up at # 23.  That song is Kenny’s favourite alongside I’m the One That Love Forgot.   Blue: We still do Can I on our show.”  That New Girl on the flip, written by Blue and Joe, is a light and bright dancer, with the Impressions sound sneaking in this time.

  Three months later the group stalled again at # 23-r&b (# 128-pop), but this time the song was a mellow and melodic mover called I Bet’cha (Couldn’t Love Me), written by Blue and Gregory Lamont Gaskins.  Blue: “That’s our first guitar player.  Later Greg left us and he played with Elvis Presley for a long time.”  Besides Elvis, Gregory played with Dee Dee Warwick and the Sweet Inspirations those days, too.  The twosome wrote also a slowly swaying ballad titled Sweet Little Girl, which was placed on the other side of the single and which again reminds you of the Impressions.  Blue: “When it came to ballads, I loved everything that the Impressions did.  When it was uptempo, I loved everything that the Temptations did.”

ALONE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

  For the Christmas of 1966 Joe Evans produced for the group a yuletide single, two heartfelt ballads, which however failed to chart.  On the other hand, these seasonal records rarely evolve into hits.  Kenny: “Sometimes a hit is made by a record company, and when you’re out there competing with the majors, you got to be in the right place at the right time with the right combination of people.  Carnival was a small record company, and their financial muscle wasn’t as strong as it could have been at some point of time.”

  The Lovettes are backing the Manhattans on these tracks, as well as on most of their recordings on Carnival.  Sonny wrote a mellow and pretty ballad named It’s That Time of the Year (524).  Sonny: “I was thinking of children around the Christmas time, how they were so happy and feel the spirit of the holiday.”

  Blue composed a sorrowful, “lonely boy” ballad called Alone on New Year’s EveJeanie Scott: “Smitty’s favourite of all was Alone on New Year’s Eve.  He had a kind of a rough life in relationships, so I guess he kind of related to that.”

  Also the next single, All I Need Is Your Love (526), missed the charts, but in this case it’s no wonder, because the Lovett-Gaskins uptempo number sounds somewhat tense and lacks natural flow.  Kenny: “I would think that we were trying to put our hands on something danceable.  I guess it was easier to market fast songs than ballads.  The decision of what was going to be released was predominantly by Carnival.”  The flip, Our Love Will Never Die (by Blue and Joe), is a mid-tempo, “teenage romance” song with strings sweetening and Smitty’s restrained, undertone delivery.  It was one of the tracks on the debut album.


Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

WHEN WE’RE MADE AS ONE

  The next single, released in June 1967, offered for the first time two ballads back-to-back.  George Smith and Joe Evans wrote a simple, romantic and quite soulful serenade called When We’re Made as One (529), and after almost nine months it was the first Manhattans record to hit the charts, peaking at # 31-r&b.  Blue: “We sing that on our shows occasionally still.  We do that a cappella.”  Kenny: “We wanted the A-side to be When We’re Made as One.  We had so much confidence in that song that we just refused to allow ourselves to be persuaded in any direction other than When We’re Made as One.”

  Jeanie: “Smitty would sit on the end of the bed and sing to me Can’t Take My Eyes off You (laughing).  Can I is the song that drew me to Smitty in 1966, but the song that he wrote that fit, When We Are Made as One, was ‘our song’.  The lyrics mimicked our surroundings.  It was springtime, when we got together, after peeking around corners at him for several years, and he said ‘you should have come to me sooner.  Look at all the years wasted we could have been together’.  He was right!”  Sonny’s and Smitty’s sentimental Baby I’m Sorry was placed on the flip.

  By the end of 1967 Joe Evans produced Sonny’s sincere and sweet ballad I Call It Love (533), led by Smitty, and it actually became the last charted single for the group on Carnival Records (# 24-r&b, # 96-pop).  Blue is leading on his and Joe’s Manhattan Stomp on the flip, and here the title really says it all.  This stomper was another and the last single side that was lifted from the Dedicated to You album.


FOR YOU AND YOURS

  The Manhattans’ second Carnival album, For You and Yours (CLPS-202), hit the streets in 1968, and again it was a collection of single sides only.  Produced by Joe Evans, the score between up-tempo and down-tempo tracks this time is even, 6-6.  Both of these Carnival albums were released on a U.K. Kent CD in 1993 (CDKEND 103).  Kent has since re-issued practically the whole Carnival catalogue, and the latest compilation was Carnival Northern Soul (CDKEND 327 in 2009; www.acerecords.co.uk).

  That same year the group was honoured prominently by the industry for the first time.  Sonny: “I remember us getting our first award in 1968 for the ‘Most Promising Group’ from the National Association of TV & Recording artists, which is one of the industry’s biggest professional organizations.  You never forget the first one.  We were so excited you would have thought we won a Grammy.”  Kenny still fondly remembers the NATRA concert in ’68.

  After the album Carnival still released two Manhattans singles in 1969, and three of those four songs were meant to be on the third album, which never materialized.  I Don’t Wanna Go (542) is a mid-paced beater written by Richard Taylor, Kenneth Kelly (lyrics) and Joseph Jefferson.  Joe was born in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1945, and in the 70s he became a renowned writer alongside Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons.  Under the guidance of Thom Bell they wrote mainly for the Spinners, but they composed hit material for other Philly artists, too.  Before that Joe was a player.  Joseph: “I worked as the drummer for the Manhattans in the mid-60s.  That was my first gig as a professional musician.  I landed that gig as a result of their working drummer becoming ill at the Sahara Club in Richmond, Virginia.  More of that period in my life will be revealed in my forthcoming book Memoirs.  We played to S.R.O. arenas as well as other smaller venues and these guys would always fill the house.  I didn’t really know how big they were until I toured with them.”

  “I co-wrote I Don’t Wanna Go with Kenny and Richie.  It was my first recorded song!  I don’t remember much about it other than it was something we started playing around with and we all thought it was a cool idea.  So it made the cut.  But these guys were really great to be around, very caring and very professional.  Loved them then and love them now.  It was because of them that I got exposed to the music business, and I thank them for it.”  Joe played with the Manhattans for about three years, and after that with Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations, before forming his own group, Nat Turner’s Rebellion.  Soon he met Tony Bell, Thom’s brother, and became a writer instead of a drummer.  Also a serious food infection in Philadelphia, which caused him to withdraw from a tour, helped him in that choice.

  A fast dancer called Love Is Breakin’ Out (All Over) on the b-side has remote Motown echoes on it.  The song was written by Sonny and Joe.  Sonny: “We were after the Temps 5-part harmony.”

  On the final Carnival single there was Call Somebody Please, Blue’s poppy ditty from the second album, and ‘Til You Come Back to Me, Joe’s poignant, tuneful ballad and a really strong “swan song.”

ALMOST TO ATLANTIC

  The Manhattans were still contractually bound to Joe and Carnival, when the first serious signs of restlessness appeared – partially evolving inside the group, partially nurtured by Joe’s competitors in business.  Blue: “We could only sing on the East Coast.  We weren’t stretching out enough.  We were dissatisfied.  We couldn’t play Chicago, we couldn’t play Texas, we couldn’t play California... We didn’t see any promotion.  There was no money there to actually take us any farther than New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, East Coast cities.”

  “Joe was a wonderful guy, but he wasn’t financially in a place, where he could actually put us out, do California and Chicago.  All the years we were with him, we never went west of Pittsburgh.  Joe was the kind of guy that you loved.  He was like a father person to us, but many people came to us to tell us that we were too good to be pigeonholed into just playing East Coast only.  And I knew he didn’t have the kind of money to send us over the country.  We loved Joe, but we knew that he wasn’t going to take us but so far.  If we were going to make this a professional career, we would probably have to sign with somebody else on the next four years.”

  Kenny: “We thought we had our go at Carnival.  We felt that we were able to do better than what we’ve been doing with another organization.  We had the talent that wasn’t exploited.  Nobody questioned their humble beginnings.  If it hadn’t been those, there wouldn’t have been future.”

  Sonny: “We were enormously grateful to Joe for signing us, but without the distribution, public relations or industry contacts that the larger labels had, the Manhattans would get lost in the shuffle.  He was a nice man, and the recording sessions were fun.  We liked them very much.”

  Jeanie: “Joe gave them their first break, and they were the most successful group on his label.  Smitty looked to Joe as a father.  He really had a lot of respect for Joe, and he was really hurt and disappointed, when he was outvoted to go to another manager and another label.  Joe had been good to them and especially good to Smitty, so that upset Smitty a lot.”


  In Follow Your Heart (book co-written by Christopher Brooks) Joe writes about an alimony incident, when he had to bail Smitty out.  Jeanie: “It happened before I was living with Smitty.  All people thought because the Manhattans were making records and doing concerts that they made a lot of money, this was never the case with them in the 60s, or any of the entertainers on the chitlin’ circuit.  So Smitty’s ex went after him for his money, but he made very little.  His brothers and sisters were very angry she did this, having him arrested.  When I was there, she was okay, wasn’t pressing him for money, and she and I got along fine.  It wasn’t till many years later after Smitty’s death that the Manhattans actually started making a little better money, when they had their crossover hits Kiss and Say Goodbye and Shining Star, and won a Grammy.”

  Joe: “The Manhattans got very, very popular in the areas, where I did most of the promotion – New York, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, the East Coast.  I was not big enough at that time to have all of that nationally.  I had spots in the west, but I didn’t have a complete distribution out there.  I had 35 distributors, but I didn’t have all covered all out west.” 

  “But the main reason was, when they would be in the theatres, the other artists would come around and they would be talking ‘we’re with ABC Paramount, and they’re doing so and so, you should be with them, too’.  I once overheard this.  But these groups didn’t last long.  They didn’t come up with another hit right away, and the company dropped them.  I was determined to develop my group, and develop them correctly, to establish their name.  I built the group on solid, solid foundations, and wherever they played they could always go back, whether they had a hit or not.  They left me and they went with another company, but they didn’t come up with hits for many years.”  Indeed, during the next four years chart-wise the group didn’t fare as well as with their Carnival singles with the exception of one song, which eventually paved them the way to bigger things.  The group, however, never made it to the West Coast until in 1973.

  In spite of an existing contract, Joe decided to put his business interest and feelings aside and started negotiations about selling the contract first to United Artists, Kapp and Jubilee, who all made it a condition that Joe continues to produce the group.  Then Joe came to an agreement with Atlantic Records.  Joe: “I was going to put them with a company that I knew could get records out on them and promote them, because that’s mostly what they needed.  I took more time with the material for them than with anybody else, because I knew them.  I knew what they could sing, and I could write music even without going to them.  They’d be out of town, and I’d be writing music, and when they’d get back I’d record them.”

DE LUXE RECORDS

  Bobby Schiffman worked as a manager at the Apollo Theater in the late 60s.  His father, Frank Schiffman, was one of the founders of the Apollo and its predecessors in the 20s and 30s.  Blue: “Bobby knew we were looking for a manager, so he got in contact with an attorney to let him know the Manhattans wanted to be managed by someone.  We felt that Bobby Schiffman, who knew music and had the control of the Apollo and the acts that came there, was a good person to recommend us.” 

  Bobby hooked the group up with an attorney named Jack Pearl.  Blue: “He represented Hermine Hanlin, who is Austrian.  She needed an act and we needed a manager, so Jack put us together and we signed with her in 1969.  Jack also became our musical attorney.”

  Jack Pearl was affiliated with King Records and worked as their attorney and even vice president ever since the 40s.  After Syd Nathan, the founder and the owner of King Records, passed away on March 5, 1968, Jack became the lawyer, who handled the estate.  He negotiated the deal to sell the King operations to Starday Records in Nashville in 1968.

  DeLuxe Records was launched in 1944 in Linden, New Jersey, but by 1951 Syd Nathan had purchased the company, made it a subsidiary to King Records and moved it to Cincinnati, Ohio.  In the early days Roy Brown was DeLuxe’s number one artist, but it also concentrated on doowop vocal groups and numerous other blues and rhythm & blues acts.  The Manhattans was practically the last act on their roster, and some of the other latter-day artists included Earl Gaines, the Presidents, Pat Lundy, Dan Brantley, Reuben Bell and Benny Gordon.

  Jack Pearl was the one who told the group not to sign the contract with Atlantic.  Joe: “Jack Pearl did not sign them with the best record company.  He signed them to DeLuxe Records, because they wanted to revive the label.  Jack Pearl worked for them.  His family owned that label.”

  Joe was so disappointed with the rejection of the Atlantic deal that he gave up the idea of cutting the third Manhattans album for Carnival Records.  Of the eight scheduled songs, he cut only three, which were released as singles but without any chart action in 1969.


(Lee Williams pic taken from www.themanhattans.net)

LEE WILLIAMS & THE CYMBALS

  In popularity Lee Williams’ group came second right after the Manhattans in Joe’s team.  Lee is also a part of the Manhattans history, as we shall see later.  William Lee Williams was born in Kinston, North Carolina, on June 10, 1941.  He now resides in the Bronx, New York.  Lee: “My mother, Marilyn Williams, was an opera singer.  Reese was her maiden name.  I know my father was a gospel singer, but I didn’t know too much about him.  They say he was one of the best singers there at that time.”

  There are a couple of other renowned Lee Williamses in the music world, and one, who fronts the Spiritual QC’s, is actually a gospel singer.  The other one is Lee “Shot” Williams, who cut his first record close to fifty years ago and who’s doing well in southern soul circles these days.

  “I have seven children.  I have daughters, who are singing and following the footsteps of their father – great singers.  My baby daughter is thirteen, and she blows the alto sax and the baritone sax.  My son Leereese is fourteen years old and he plays the drums.”  Lee names Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Lloyd Price and Nat King Cole as his biggest musical influences.

  Lee moved to New York in 1959 and cut his first record three years later.  “Mildred Richardson heard me singing, and she thought I had a nice, strong voice and she wanted to record me.”  His first single – Every Day (Since you’ve been gone) b/w My Blue Heaven - was a duet with Judy Clay as Little Lee & Judy on Mildred’s La Vette label.  “Mildred picked the name, Little Lee, out for me.  She’s about six foot five (laughing).  I met Judy Clay for the first time in Mildred’s office.”


  The single didn’t take off, and Lee continued to work the local clubs.  “I used to give club dates, and this one group had a lead singer, who went in service, so I took them under my wings and let them back up for our singers and back up for me.  A lady friend that I was going with at the time knew Kenny Kelly of the Manhattans.  Kenny hooked me up with Joe Evans, and Joe came out to hear me.  He heard us, and he liked what I was doing.  In our group, besides myself, there was Amos Simmons, King McCrorey and James Panamar”. 

  “Sandy Brown was the guitar player, who came in later.  He wasn’t in the group, and Al Miller joined the group after we had left Joe Evans.”  Joe himself tells that he first heard the group while walking down the street and hearing them rehearse out in a backyard.

THE TOPICS

  Ronald McCoy had written some songs that he had offered to Joe Evans.  There was especially one song – I Love You More – that he wanted Joe to produce on him and his group, which was first known under the name of the Uniteds, then allegedly as the Cymbals.  Joe, however, thought that the song would suit Lee’s voice better, so he cut it on Lee Williams and the Symbols and released on Carnival 521.  Lee: “Joe Evans picked up the name for our group.  He was spelling it ‘Symbols’, but there was a gospel group named the Symbols, so we changed that into ‘Cymbals’.” 

  Lee’s high and distinctive tenor is leading on I Love You More, a haunting and tender ballad, which charted in the spring of 1967 (# 41-r&b).  The flip, a beautiful and heartbreaking slow song called I’ll Be Gone, was written by Lee and their guitar player, Sandy Brown.  I Love You More remained the only hit song for Lee and his group.

  Ron’s group was renamed the Topics, and Joe released on them a beat-ballad called I Don’t Have To Cry paired with a dancer named She’s So Fine on Carnival 520 in 1966, but already their next single a year later came out on Carnival’s subsidiary, Chadwick.  It was a catchy, mid-tempo toe-tapper titled Hey Girl (Where Are You Going) b/w If Love Comes Knockin’.  There were only two single releases on Chadwick altogether, the first one by the Metrics (I found you/Wishes) in 1966 and the second one by the Topics.  At www.allmusic.com you can read comprehensive bios on both -> the Topics, and -> Ronald McCoy, written by Andrew Hamilton.

  Joe: “I created Chadwick to take the pressure off Carnival, so I could get play on groups outside the Manhattans; groups I hadn’t developed quite yet.  I didn’t want to take on that one label, Carnival, to the disc jockeys all the time.  They’d say ‘we’re playing three of your records right now’.  You could make all the records you wanted, but to get them played is another story.”  Chadwick was the name of the avenue Joe’s company was located on at that time, but in 1968 they moved their business to 24 Branford Place in Newark.


PEEPIN’ THROUGH THE WINDOW

  Lee Williams & the Cymbals’ follow-up was also a Ron McCoy composition and another haunting and soulful song called Peepin’ through the Window (527), which, however, missed the charts, as did all the rest of their Carnival records.  Lost Love (by Lee, Joe and Sandy Brown) on the flip was a perky dancer. 

  They still counted on Ron by putting his uptempo number Shing-A-Ling U.S.A. (532) on the third single together with Kenny Kelly’s and Joe Evans’ pleading slowie titled Please Say It Isn’t So.  Lee: “There was no push behind it.  The company was really into the Manhattans then, although a lot of the DJ’s liked my sound, because I had a big sound.  It was a pretty good record though.”


  Their first single in 1968, It’s everything About You (That I Love) (537), was a light dancer penned by Sonny Bivins and Joe Evans, and I Need You Baby (538) - by Lee and Joe - is a sweet, Impressions type of a ballad.  The 6th Carnival single remained their last for the label.  It pairs two songs that Joe was preparing for the Manhattans’ third album – ‘Til You Come Back to Me and What Am I Guilty Of (540) – but because of the Manhattans’ desire to leave the company Joe put them out on Lee Williams & the Cymbals first.

  Lee: “During that time we figured that we weren’t pushed enough, so we got a release from Joe.  I think the recordings were great and at the beginning Carnival was good to me, until things sort of went in different direction.”  There was still an argument over the name “the Cymbals”, which Joe owned, but the group could keep on using it in the 70s.

WHAT AM I GUILTY OF

  Lee Williams & the Cymbals were next heard on a Rapda label in 1971.  “It was out of New York.  One of my cousins, Fred Daughtry, had hooked me up with these guys, and they wanted to do some recording.  They wanted to put a label together and they asked me to sing with a group.  Fred was in the group at that time.  Stanley Price was involved.  We had this one song called What Am I Guilty Of, and they wanted to put it out.”  Lee’s high tenor was the most gracing element on that smooth and pretty ballad (by McCrorey-Daugherty (sic)-Williams-Simmons), which was paired with a mid-tempo beater called L. C. Funk.  Stan Price had joined the De-Lite label in 1970.  First he became involved with the promotion of Kool & the Gang and soon advanced to national promotion director.

  The second and presumably the last Rapda single offered a mid-pacer titled I’m Just A Teenager (But Now I’m Ready) and a fast dancer named A Girl from Country Town.  The name Rapda comes from Ranson-Price-Daughtry, three guys, who owned the label and produced and co-wrote those sides.

  What Am I Guilty Of was leased in 1972 to the label Kool & the Gang (and Stan) were on, De-Lite, but in spite of the beauty of the song it didn’t catch on, and neither did its two follow-ups (What Kind of Groove/How Do You Feel and Please Baby Please/I Will Always Love You).  On all of these three singles on the label it now reads the New Cymbals.  “My cousin convinced the other guys not to use Lee Williams.  I wanted to use it, because it was my trade name.  But nothing else was happening at that time, so I said ‘okay’.”

  In 1974 Lee Williams & the Cymbals appeared on two singles on a label called Black Circle.  “Stan Price had gotten with some guys from Pennsylvania, and it happened just for a minute.”  Larry Roberts was the main force behind the three lovely floaters they cut – Save it all for you, I Can Make Mistakes Too and Get It Together.  The last one is actually more like a dramatic slowie, whereas Archie Bell could have cut the first two songs those days.  In some sources it says that Lee recorded also for Black Soul at that time, but he doesn’t recognize any of those songs.

  “In 1974 I wasn’t doing anything.  I was just doing weddings and stuff like that, which would keep me together.  I was with a group called Soul Speaks, and that was from ’75 till ’77 – ’78.  We didn’t make any recordings.  Then I had my own luxury car service.  I stayed at that for awhile, and then finally my cousin asked me – in ’83 or something like that – to become the lead singer for the Intruders.” 

  In 1984 in the line-up of Eugene “Bird” Daughtry, Lee Williams, Al Miller and Fred Daughtry, the group released an 8-track album on a U.K. Streetwave called Who Do You Love.  “After that album the group dispersed and we broke up around ’85...’86. I did freelancing again doing shows, and back to the weddings and all that stuff.”  We’ll meet Lee again, when we reach the 90s in our main story.


PHIL TERRELL

  Another Carnival recording artist, whose path crossed with the Manhattans, was Phillip Terrell Flood.  Phil: “I was born in Jersey City in 1943, March 22nd, but I was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, which I consider my home.  I moved there in 1952 and attended Williston High School.  I had to go to North Carolina because of my health.”

  Before that, from mid-40s to early 50s, Phil lived together in the same house with his cousin, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, on Communipaw Avenue in Jersey City.  “In Wilmington in junior high school I sang with the choir and then we had a group in high school that would sing rock ‘n roll, blues and all that.   Later I auditioned for and made a Glee club and I performed locally with a lot of different groups.”

  “When I would come up from the south, I would sing as a single, Phil Terrell, and I was always around Winfred, because he was like my idol.  I also met all the other guys of the group.  We started together around ’62...’63. I started doing the choreography for the group with Blue.”  Phil moved permanently back to Jersey City in 1965.

  “Blue Lovett introduced me to Joe Evans.  I auditioned for him.  I had this high-pitched voice and I was pretty good at the time, and he signed me up.”  Blue: “My cousin Phil was our choreographer.  He never recorded live with us.  I had a group called the Lovettes and Phil Terrell, and the Lovettes did the female vocals on his songs.  I produced some of them, but back in those days nobody was given credit for arranging and producing.  Like I said, if you didn’t play an instrument in the studio, you would have to split your writings with someone else and you weren’t capable of putting yourself down as a producer on a record, if you didn’t have that musical capability.” 


Phil's photo on the right courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

  Phil: “I sang background on a lot of their songs, like their Christmas songs.  I was also their opening act.”

  Phil was Carnival’s pop star.  His first single (513) on the label in 1965 comprised of two melodic pop songs, the fast I’m Just a Young Boy (by Blue and Joe) and the mid-tempo I’ll erase you from My Heart (by Sonny and Joe), backed by the Manhattans boys.  Phil: “I look like a pop person rather than r&b person.  I have a fair skin, so when they took pictures they didn’t know what I was basically.”

  On Phil’s next single (523) in ’66, Blue’s song Love Has Passed Me By was a quite catchy stomper, whereas Sonny’s Don’t You Run Away was a begging beat-ballad.  In spite of their potential, unfortunately both singles failed to enter the charts.  There were still two songs that remained unissued at the time and appeared only on later compilations.  Can I Come In is Blue’s mid-tempo song, which has some Caribbean elements to it, while Sonny’s Baby Doll is a romantic love song.  According to Phil, the Manhattans were on his every session.  “One song comes to mind in particular, Baby Doll.  I begin the lead in with ‘where are you baby doll’, the bass lead is Blue and he sings ‘do-do-do-do’ and the high tenor is Dip, Edward Bivins, along with the rest of the group.”

  Phil: “Joe and his wife were very, very nice people.  He had a great attitude.  He was like a father figure to me also.  In recording sessions we would be in a booth singing and the band could be seen through the window.  We recorded at the same time, live.  Joe played the tambourine and the saxophone, because he was a Motown musician.  Joe’s wife was called ‘Miss Puddin’.”

  Finally in 1970 Phil had to make a choice between music and his other calling.  “I started teaching school in 1965.  Some of the students in my school (around 1968) were Kool & the Flames.  At one point they were my backup band.  Later they were known as Kool & the Gang.  Then I got a promotion in school, and I became vice principle.  I had a wife and a family then, too.”  Phil quit music and devoted himself to education.  He became and educational administrator for the Jersey City School System, and he retired from this office in 2005.  “I loved music so much.  It was like a drug to me.  If I couldn’t do it all the way, I didn’t want to do it at all.”  We’ll come back to Phil a little later on in this story.


JOE’S GRADUATION

  After his main artists - the Manhattans and Lee’s Cymbals - had left, Joe however kept his Carnival label going until the year of 1982.  In the 70s his main group was the Pretenders, who even covered some of the old Manhattans songs.  Joe also established another subsidiary called Sahara.  Joe: “Sahara I was going to only use for disco music, dance records.”

  In the 30s Joe had become so busy with the music that he never had time to finish the Washington High in Pensacola, Florida, but now in the 70s he decided to continue his studies and received his Master’s degree in Education in 1975.  Later he worked as an adjunct professor, and in 1984 he was inducted into the Music Makers Hall of Fame.

  Joe: “I don’t want to do too much these days.  I walk a mile and a quarter every day, go down to the mall.  Every now and then I travel up to New Jersey.  I have friends up there, and I spend there a week or two.”


The Manhattans in 1969, photo from www.themanhattans.net

THE PICTURE BECAME QUITE CLEAR

  The Manhattans’ first single on the DeLuxe label was released in May 1969.  A pleading beat-ballad titled The Picture Became Quite Clear (109) was written by Eddie Jones (Linda’s brother) and Isiah Drewery, arranged by Richard Tee and produced by George Kerr.  Smitty’s weeping voice expresses perfectly the innermost feelings of a broken-hearted man, and the message is still emphasized by strings and horns sweetening.  You can watch a live, late 60s video clip of it at YouTube.

  Jeanie Scott: “They picked Smitty’s voice out, I guess, for the ballads, because he had that really pleading, soulful, yearning type of a voice.  He was at the Apollo and it was like he was wired to the audience.  They were just going insane as soon as he picked up the microphone to sing I’m the One Love Forgot.  The fellows would be singing first and Smitty would be in the dark shadow.  All of a sudden he would step out to the spotlight with white gloves, and the audience went wild.”

  “One show I was at was in New Jersey, and some girl came up to the stage and grabbed the bottom of his pants and tried to slide him off the stage, and two guys had to come out and hold him while he finished the song.  The ladies?  He told me he didn’t turn down none (laughing).  When Smitty was with me and when he was home off the road, we were inseparable; 24 hours of the day.  We did things together, even went to some of his gigs separately from the fellows on our transportation together.”

  Richard Tee (1943-1993) was a keyboardist, singer and an arranger, who had a strong leaning to jazz and funk.  As a session musician he has played on hundreds of records (www.richardtee.com).  George Kerr is a multi-skilled professional in black music.  He started his singing career in the Serenaders in the 50s, was a lead singer for the Imperials in the early 60s and worked as a staff writer, arranger and producer for Motown in the mid-60s.  After returning to New York, he produced such acts as Linda Jones, the O’Jays, Troy Keyes, Barbara Jean English, the Hesitations, Debbie Taylor, Florence Ballard, the Persians, Edwin Starr, the Whatnauts, the Escorts, the Moments and numerous others, and in many cases Richard Tee was his arranger.  George released solo records in his own right, too. (www.myspace.com/georgekerr).

  Blue: “George Kerr was great.  Back then he had that magic touch.  He did Linda Jones – Hypnotized – and the O’Jays.  He also dealt with a lot of the same musicians that we had on Carnival.  Richard Tee was excellent, too.  He worked hand in hand with George Kerr.  The writer, Isiah Drewery, just passed away last year.”

  The flip, a Motownish mover called Oh Lord I Wish I Could Sleep, was written by Jimmy Roach, and he cut the same song on the Spinners two years later in their first session for Atlantic, but then Thom Bell and the Spinners hooked up and those Jimmy’s four cuts were shelved until the 90s.  In spite of its high quality, the DeLuxe debut by the group missed the national charts.


From left to right: George Smitty Smith, Richard (Richie) Taylor, Phil Terrell, Winfred (Blue) Lovett and Edward Bivins

IT’S GONNA TAKE A LOT TO BRING ME BACK

  Sonny: “It’s funny how things happen in life.  The second song we recorded under DeLuxe was co-written by my buddy, Richard Poindexter, who also co-wrote Hypnotized for Linda Jones and Thin Line between Love and Hate for the Persuaders.  And now Richard is the lead vocalist for the Persuaders (www.theultimatepersuaders.com), whom we performed with quite often.  Some forty years after we recorded his song and some fifty years after the beginning of the Manhattans, and I am still here doing my thing and living off of our music we made years ago.”

  Again produced by Richard Kerr but arranged now by Ed Bland, It’s Gonna Take a Lot to Bring Me Back was cut a year earlier by the Icemen on the Ole-9 label, but the Manhattans with Blue mainly leading this time took it to the charts (# 36-soul).  Released in late ’69, this slow song has a touch of Chi-sound, and Chicago and the Chi-lites is a still more evident parallel on the mid-tempo Give Him Up, led now by Smitty.

  A new decade brought on another pretty and tender ballad called If My Heart Could Speak (122; # 38-soul, # 98-pop), written by Kenneth Kelly.  “Kenny: I wrote it, but I wasn’t satisfied with having it the way it was.  I took it to another friend of mine, who is our vocal coach, and he helped me with it, and it came out to be as it is.  I was in love with a girl in Washington, when I wrote the song.  I wrote the song on a train, coming from having seen her.”  Although Smitty’s voice dominates, the other members share lead too.

  Blue’s stomper named Loneliness on the flip was again patterned to the Temptations.  Now a New York producer named Buddy Scott was in charge of the record.  Earlier Buddy was known as a writing partner to Jimmy Radcliffe in the latter part of the 60s.

WITH THESE HANDS

  The Manhattans’ first DeLuxe album, With These Hands (DLP 12000), was released in 1970.  It contains four preceding single sides, one side waiting for a release and as many as five recent pop songs and standards.  Kenny: “I guess at that point of time the powers that be thought that we would probably show our ability to take different direction other than that we were heading in initially.  I’m of the impression that they thought there will be something in that direction as well for us to enjoy other than just doing r&b.”

  Produced by Buddy Scott and arranged by Chico O’Farrill, this somewhat baffling and musically unexpected album failed to crack the charts.  Smitty is the main vocalist on Can’t Take My Eyes off You and With These Hands, but also the other members of the group trade leads, and Blue handles alone By the Time I Get to Phoenix.  Still, the sound is often closer to the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Lo’s than the accustomed Manhattans, varying even from schmaltzy pop to supper club type of a harmonizing (Georgia on My Mind).  People Get Ready gets a speeded-up treatment towards the end.  Some were pleasantly surprised by this new and sophisticated approach, some disappointed in their expectations of the established Manhattans music.

  Blue: “Those songs were Buddy Scott’s idea.  I liked the idea a lot.  I wasn’t crazy about the album.  At that particular time we had more time in the studio than we did originally with Joe Evans... not much, but a little more.  We had time to clean up bad things that were happening or things that were out of pitch or out of time or whatever”

  The arranger, Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, is best known for his work in Afro-Cuban jazz music.  He was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1921, specialized in Cubop after settling in the U.S. in the 40s and worked with such jazz luminaries as Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and a lot of others.  He recorded prolifically in the 50s, and still in the 90s he was nominated for a Grammy.  He passed away in 2001 in New York.  His main instrument was trumpet.


FROM ATLANTA TO GOODBYE

  The fourth single release in the fall of 1970 on DeLuxe was a Smitty-led, poignant ballad titled From Atlanta to Goodbye (129; # 48-soul, # 113-pop), written by Richard Ahlert and Leon Carr.  This sax-driven, emotive country song was cut by Buddy Greco a year earlier on Scepter.  Blue: “Everybody was trying to get this song.  Like today, they were trying to find an artist that was hot to record their music so that they could become rich.  That was the outlook on that one.  They messed on us in trying to sell it to another artist to make more money.”  On the b-side there was an interesting pop & show tune called Fantastic Journey (by Randie Evretts and Horace Ott), on which the members again trade leads.

  Those days the group was going through a significant change, but still under the “old regime” they had cut one single, Let Them Talk/Straight from My Heart (132), which was released at a later date, in early 1971.  The plug side is a tender and heartfelt rendition of the old Sonny Thompson song that Little Willie John took onto the charts on King in 1959, and it was backed with Sonny’s light and good-humoured mover.  Both this and the previous single were produced by Buddy Scott and arranged by Chico O’Farrill.


Photo courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

REST & ROAD

  In the first part of the story Jeanie Scott described, how she had a crush on Smitty long before she met him and how they eventually ended up living together in his mother’s house.  Jeanie: “We had a lot of famous neighbours.  Ronald Goodson of Ronnie & the Hi-Lites lived right around the corner from me and Smitty.  Ronnie lived on Sackett Street.  His family owned most of that street on his side of the street.  We lived on Bramhall Avenue.  I trained dogs with Ronnie.  He came from a big family also – ten children, too.  Blue and Kenny lived together in a house Kenny’s mother had on Monticello Avenue.  They lived upstairs.  Richard was on Union Street – all within a few blocks walking distance.  At that time Sonny lived out of town, and I think he had a regular day job.” "Phil Terrell lived nearby, too. He lived at the top of "the Junction" on Harmon Street and Ocean Avenue."

  “Jersey City was a hotbed of talent.  Living up the street from us was Flip Wilson’s nephew, Richard Moore.  His mother raised Flip, when their mother died.  Timothy Wilson for a time lived in that same building on Bergen Avenue & Bramhall.  Roy Hamilton, Jr. lived nearby and would visit Smitty sometimes.  Other famous names were Kool & the Gang, the Soul Generation, the Duprees, the Royal Counts, 14 Karat Soul etc, etc.”

  “My good friend Stan Krause, who had Catamount Records, managed groups and owned a record store, Stan’s Square Records, on Bergen Avenue.  A lot of singers would drop by the store, hang out for awhile and discuss music.  Stan produced the Persuasions, the Royals Counts, 14 Karat Soul etc.”


Photo on the right courtesy of Mrs. Jeanie Scott

SMITTY’S LAST RIDE

  Jeanie: “The Manhattans were on the road a lot.  They did the chitlin’ circuit, all the theatres and the nightclubs too, because they had hit records then.  Smitty never did any drugs.  He didn’t even smoke weed.  That was not his thing.  He didn’t like it.  Smitty took a drink now and then, and over the time it took its toll on him.” 

  “He and his brother and brother’s friends used to hang out together.  One night they were in the back of a big truck that one of the guys drove.  In the back of the truck they were drinking and Smitty stepped backwards and his foot went off the edge of the truck.  He fell of the truck and hit his head on the curb, and he was unconscious for about ten minutes.  He refused to go to the hospital.  He said he was alright.”

  “A couple of months later he started acting delirious.  We thought he was drinking on the sly.  We searched the house and there were no bottles anywhere.  We went back and forth to a hospital – in fact, two different hospitals at different times – and they diagnosed him wrong every time.  Finally we took him to another hospital and they diagnosed him with having brain hemorrhage, because in his right eye all of a sudden the white turned red.  His brain was bleeding behind his eye.  He was supposed to have a surgery at eight o’clock the morning he passed away.  He died five o’clock that morning – December 16, 1970.”  Smitty was just two days away from his 31th birthday.

  “He had been injured in his head before, when his ex-girlfriend threw an ash-tray at him.  The autopsy showed that there was an injury prior to falling in the same spot.  ‘Subdural hematoma’ was what was on the autopsy report.  The funeral was amazing.  I went with the family.  We could barely get through the door of the church.  It seemed like 1000 people crowding to get in.  It was a huge church.  Gerald Alston sang three gospel songs.  He was very loved by people, and all of Jersey City loved him with great affection.”

  “The funeral was amazing but I was devastated by the loss of Smitty.  Smitty’s aunt had to hold me up in front of the casket, because my knees were buckling.  I felt weak, numb and in shock at the same time.  It took me a long time to come to grips with Smitty’s death – a true earth angel gone too soon!  Smitty was emotional, yet very easy-going and grounded.  He took things in stride.  He was affectionate and demonstrative.  He knew how to make a woman feel like she was his queen.  He was never afraid to express his true feelings.  There were some, who tried to convince Smitty to be cold-blooded, but it just wasn’t in his nature.  He was a gentle soul, who suffered a lot of pain in his life but had a great faith in his God.  He loved his mother deeply and treated women with a lot of respect.  He was easy to love on so many levels.”

  “He was a very sweet and good-hearted person at heart.  Whenever someone needed a ride home from a show, he’d let them take his place in the group van and would take a train or bus himself.  He lent people money, if he had it.  He also let the Manhattans’ band stay with us, when they were in Jersey City for rehearsals or gigs, so they wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room.  Their guitarist, Charles “Cheese” Reed married Smitty’s sister Gloria, but they later divorced.”

  Joe Evans: “He would drink wine, but he was controllable.  When I found out he was in the hospital, I went to see him one time and I was getting ready to go back there with Toye Kates Jr. for the second time, but he told me that Smitty had died.”

  Phil Terrell: “He was one of the finest people that you could ever meet.  He would give you his last dime.  He was always pleasant.  He was just somebody special.  When he would get on stage and sing a song, he would just mesmerize people.”

  Sonny: “He was my brother, my confidant, my best friend – the young teenager I met at the YMCA back in 1953.  He left us with everlasting memories.  That really was a hard blow to the entire group – not just professionally, but personally as well.  Not only were we without a lead singer, but also we were without a friend”

  Blue: “Smitty was the kind of guy that if you showed him how you wanted the song to go he was the best person I’ve ever seen to go into the studio and sing without rehearsing.  Back then it was two hours to get two songs at least – three songs if you could squeeze them in.  If he heard the song once, it would take one take or two takes and he would have it locked.  If he had lived to record the way they record today, where it takes you three months to lay tracks and then two months to do background vocals and another month to do... he’d be sensational right now.  He was quite a guy, on and off stage.”


TOYE KATES, JR.

  Joe Evans already referred to Toye Kates, Jr., who used to work as the Manhattans’ road manager in the 60s.  Toye was born in Jersey City on November 30 in 1936, and in 1955 - after discharge from the Marines - he started another singing group called the Ideals with his twin sister Marie (Tiny) Kates, Charles Harris, George Rogers and Donald Paige.  Toye: “We stayed together for maybe three or four years.  We never got a break, but we were one of the hottest groups in Jersey City.  We sang all over, and we won first prize three times at the Apollo Theatre in New York.  We were destined to go there one more time to win and to get a recording contract, but Mahalia Jackson beat us out (laughing).  We never had another opportunity to record.  Several months later Donald Paige passed away and Smitty joined the group, becoming our lead singer.  Those days Edward Bivins, Smitty and I – we were like the three musketeers.”

  After the Ideals broke up, Toye went back to college for awhile, drove a tractor-trailer and started freelance broadcasting on WNJR.  “George Smith, Edward Bivins and Richard Taylor came to me in 1964 and asked me, would I be their road manager.  I was not familiar with the group nor had I met with the other members.  After meeting with Winfred Lovett and Kenneth Kelly during their rehearsal and a sense of their sincerity and family atmosphere, I decided to take a chance with them.  A few days later I was introduced to their manager and owner of Carnival Records, Mr. Joseph Evans.  We gained respect, trust and consideration for over 46 years.”

  “During our final Christmas show at the Apollo Theatre in 1967, they felt they no longer needed a road manager, and I agreed.  I was certainly proud of them along with my input of grooming them and other artists such as Ron Goodson of Ronnie and the Hi-Lites, the Tiara’s (the Lovettes) and Soul Town Band (Kool and the Gang), by my good friend, the late Donald Kee, who never received his just due.  The Mad Lads were assigned to me by another good friend, the late Otis Redding, not to mention Phil Terrell and Gregory Gaskins, our music director.”

  “After that I became the founder and one of the administrators of the New Jersey Regional Drug Abuse Agency, and, besides doing consulting work in Washington, D.C. in the 70s, everywhere I went I promoted shows, gave dances and stuff like that.  Presently I have a three-year personal contract with four of the Manhattans (Sonny, Kenny, Charles Hardy and Harsey Hemphill, Jr.) and also a five-year contract with Mr. Vic Kaply, President of Westwood Music Group, introduced to me by Joe Evans.”  The final part of the story clears up the confusion in line-ups of the group today.

  “I was always in contact with Edward Bivins.  At one time, before they started singing, we thought we were going to be baseball players.  So we’re friends ever since the childhood...  Thank you Manhattans for 46 years of friendship and still counting!”

LEAD SINGER CANDIDATES

  When towards the end of 1970 it became evident that Smitty wasn’t able to perform on a regular basis anymore, they started looking for fill-ins.  Those days Lee Williams was practically a free agent, between Carnival and Rapda labels.  Lee: “They asked me about being the lead singer, but I had made an obligation to Lee Williams & the Cymbals.  I told them I wanted to keep that promise, and I did, until things just didn’t work out with the rest of my group.  They wanted to drink their wine and chase all the girls” (laughing).

  Phil Terrell: “I was singing as a single, but I was an opening act for the Manhattans, too.  When Smitty became ill, I’d fill in for him as the 6th Manhattan.  Blue asked me to sing with them.  That was the time I was teaching school also, which was hard – to maintain the entertainment life and teach school, too. “

  They found an excellent replacement, Mr. Gerald Alston.  It happened almost by accident.  Gerald was no way a newcomer in music when they first met, but he wasn’t a fully established artist either.  The changing of the guard went smoothly.  Gerald will be the opening act in the third part of the Manhattans story.

DISCOGRAPHY

SINGLES

(label # / titles / Billboard # r&b or soul / pop / year)

THE DORSETS

Asnes

101) Pork Chops / Cool It (1961)

THE MANHATTANS

Carnival

504) For The Very First Time / I’ve Got Everything But You (1964)

506) There Goes A Fool / Call Somebody Please

507) I Wanna Be (Your Everything) (# 12 / # 68) / What’s It Gonna Be

509) Searchin’ For My Baby (# 20 / # 135) / I’m The One That Love Forgot (- / # 135) (1965)

512) Follow Your Heart (# 20 / # 92) / The Boston Monkey

                      (Note: rel. also on Solid Smoke 5007)

514) Baby I Need You (# 22 / # 96) / Teach Me (The “Philly” Dog) (1966)

517) Can I (# 23 / -) / That New Girl

522) I Bet’cha (Couldn’t Love Me) (# 23 / # 128) / Sweet Little Girl

524) It’s That Time Of The Year / Alone On New Years Eve

                      (Note: rel. also on Star Fire 121)

526) All I Need Is Your Love / Our Love Will Never Die (1967)

529) When We’re Made As One (# 31 / -) / Baby I’m Sorry

533) I Call It Love (# 24 / # 96) / Manhattan Stomp

542) I Don’t Wanna Go / Love Is Breakin’ Out (All Over) (1969)

545) Call Somebody Please / ‘Til You Come Back To Me

DeLuxe

109) The Picture Became Quite Clear / Oh Lord How I Wish I Could Sleep

115) It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Bring Me Back (# 36 / -) / Give Him Up

122) If My Heart Could Speak (# 38 / # 98) / Loneliness (1970)

129) From Atlanta To Goodbye (# 48 / # 113) / Fantastic Journey

132) Let Them Talk / Straight From My Heart (1971)

ALBUMS

(title / label # / Billboard placing & chart run – r&b / year)

DEDICATED TO YOU (Carnival 201 / # 19, 2 weeks / 1966)

Follow Your Heart / That New Girl / Can I / The Boston Monkey / I’ve Got Everything But You / Manhattan Stomp // Searchin’ For My Baby / Our Love Will Never Die / I’m The One Love Forgot / What’s It Gonna Be / Teach Me / Baby I Need You

FOR YOU AND YOURS (Carnival 202 / 1968)

I Call It Love / I Bet’cha (Couldn’t Love Me) / Sweet Little Girl / There Goes A Fool / Alone On New Year’s Eve / All I Need Is Your Love // I Wanna Be / When We’re Made As One / Call Somebody Please / For The Very First Time / It’s That Time Of The Year / Baby I’m Sorry

WITH THESE HANDS (De Luxe 12000 / 1970)

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You / Loneliness / By The Time I Get To Phoenix / Straight From My Heart / It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Bring Me Back // If My Heart Could Speak / With These Hands / Georgia On My Mind / Give Him Up / People Get Ready

Additional acknowledgements to Joseph Jefferson and Andrew Hamilton.

© Heikki Suosalo

Read also:

Read also the part 1
Part 3: 1971-1979
Part 4 (1980-1989)
Part 5 (1988-2012)


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