Airdate – Mar 20, 2022
Street corner harmony, often referred to today as doo wop, was at its peak in the late 50s and early 60s. Many of the songs from that golden era are now recognized as cornerstones in the evolution of Rock & Roll.
However, many of these so-called classics were cover versions of songs that were extremely popular in the 30s and 40s. Referred to as standards, these songs were not just covered but were rearranged in such a way to catch the ear of that new demographic, the “Teenager” …
That golden era of vocal harmony featured hundreds, if not thousands, of groups, all looking for that unique sound that would make them famous.
One of the best vocal groups of all time came out of Pittsburgh in 1959. They had a penchant for rearranging standards that were originally released in the 30s. In fact, two of them went Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961 with their breakout record topping the charts.
The Teenagers loved them … but their parents … well that was another story. Our creator of Moments In Time, Tom Locke, remembers quite vividly his Dad’s negative reaction to these rearrangements and his muttering, “The circus is back in town,” as he watched these groups perform on TV.
As to these “rebirthed” hit songs, the finger points in the direction of the Marcels who hit the Billboard pop charts three times in 1961 with “Blue Moon” that went to #1 and had 3 Top Ten versions in 1935; “Summertime,” (#78) that went to #12 in 1936 for Billie Holiday (from the 1935 folk opera, Porgy & Bess); and “Heartaches” that went to #7 and was a #12 hit for Guy Lombardo in 1931.
The Marcels’ final appearance on the pop charts was in February of 1962 with “My Melancholy Baby,” a song that has charted in six decades, first appearing in 1915.
Sadly, the group began experiencing personnel changes and as fast as they hit the charts, they disappeared from them.
Promotion waned as did their touring. Too bad, because in May of 1963 they released a single that had a very strong and classic doo wop sounding B side. Despite vocal harmony’s downward trend, the ‘new look’ Marcels were still committed and proclaimed, “I Wanna Be The Leader,” a lost treasure and this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song: