From the Land of Band Box Records

Those Zany Do-Wops!

The Jayhawks/Cadets

Who knows from where Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller drew their first inspiration for leading the Coasters into the world of novelty numbers?

But perhaps it came in 1956 when a Los Angeles-based R&B group released a ditty titled “Stranded In the Jungle”.  The Cadets, like so many other combos, emerged from Gospel music as the “Santa Monica Soul Seekers” way back in the late 1940’s.  The Seekers would begin their recording career inadvertently as “The Jacks”.  This came about when they were embarking on their recording career after signing on with Modern Records in L.A.

The original Cadets included Austin Taylor, Will Jones, Aaron Collins, Glendon Kingsby and Willie Davis.  Taylor started off with the “Mighty Clouds Of Joy in 1952 before joining the Cadets.  Will “Dub” Jones would find his fame as a member of The Coasters which would provide him with a entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Cadets

Among the first songs they worked on was a tune called “Why Don’t You Write Me” which had previously been released by a group called “The Feathers”.  The label was concerned that “Why Don’t You Write Me” would compete with another track “Don’t Be Angry” and so it was moved over to a Modern subsidiary label RPM and the group’s name was temporarily changed to “The Jacks”.  RPM 428 and Modern 956 were both released in April of 1955.  The RPM release “Why Don’t You Write Me”  would hit the R&B Charts peaking at number 4.  “Don’t Be Angry” under the Cadets name would go nowhere.

A bunch of singles would be released after these first two – with the group being alternated between RPM/The Jacks and Modern/The Cadets.  There were six in all.  None made it onto the national charts.  Then in the summer of 1956 the group switched to a different producer and they cut a song which had previously been recorded by the Jayhawks called “Stranded In The Jungle”.  The song was written by James Johnson and Ernestine Smith.

A Tangled Web We Weave with Novelty Groups: Jayhawks – Vibrations and Marathons

Jayhawks 1955 Top: Carver Bunkum – Bottom: Carl Fisher – Dave Govan – James Johnson

The Jacks version of “Stranded in the Jungle” would climb to number 18 on the Hot 100 charts and would go to number 9 R&B.  The Cadets version would clip the Jayhawks version slightly going to number 15 Hot 100 and top out at number 4 R&B.

The Jay Hawks, like the Cadets, played the name game.  The group came together in 1956.  They would later become the “Vibrations” in early 1960 and would continue to release occasional novelty numbers.  To keep things interesting, while they were still recording as the Vibrations the group would release another novelty “Peanut Butter”.

Image result for the vibrations

The Vibrations – Top: Carl Fisher & Richard Owens – Bottom: Don Bradley, Dave Govan & James Johnson

“Peanut Butter” apparently was slated to be recorded by the Arvee label as a follow up to successes by their premier act “The Olympics”.  The problem was the Olympics were out on the road touring.  Arvee became very impatient and so arranged for the Vibrations to cut the record but under a different name: “The Marathons”.

That Silly Novelty: Creamy and Crunchy Versions

Now the Vibrations were contracted to Chess Records and so the song landed on Chess 1790 backed with “Down In New Orleans”.  Chess management was not pleased with the deception and thus attempted to halt the release of the Arvee single featuring their Vibrations.  Arvee was still impatient for the next “hit” and quickly assembled a group of unknowns releasing it on Arvee 5027 again using the name “The Marathons”.  Chess would counter by quickly releasing yet a third record featuring “Peanut Butter” this time on the Chess subsidiary Argo!

Note: In 1961 Checker would release “Stranded In The Jungle” on Checker 982.

Left: The Olympics – Right: The Marathons

The substitute Marathons in actuality were Bobby Maccagnanno, James Hall, Freddy Sachel and Art Wheeler.  They were used on most future “Marathon” records with a few exceptions where writer/singers H.B. Barnum and Martin Cooper did the singing as a duet but identified as “The Marathons.  Martin Cooper was James Martin Cooper who was born in Colorado and was the composer of many songs including doing a stint with Lee Hazelwood in a group called “The Shacklefords” and co-writing Stevie Wonder’s “Hey Harmonica Man”.

H.B. Barnum and Marty Cooper

But Cooper was always prone to lean toward the comedic tunes or oddities to say the least.

Zany Marty Cooper Compositions/Productions

The Arvee release would prevail on the charts going to number 20 Hot 100 and number 25 R&B.  So based on this success, Arvee continued to record songs by “The Marathons” which on all subsequent releases – were not The Vibrations.

But it doesn’t end there – We were to learn later on that – Yikes! – some members of the Vibrations had actually started off as members of the – yep – The Jay Hawks/Cadets!!!

The Cadillacs

Image result for the cadillacs r&b group

The Cadillacs formed in 1953 in Harlem, New York taking the name the Carnations.  Within a year they had become the Cadillacs with Earl Carroll, Gus Willingham, Lavern Drake, James Clark and Bobby Phillips.  The Cadillacs would make their first national Hot 100 appearance with “Speedo” in 1958 which hit number 17.  A few months later they would introduce their novelty classic “Peek-A-Boo” which had Coasters written all over it.

Those two songs would be their only charting singles on the Hot 100.  Along the way they would attempt a couple of more novelty tracks.  The Cadillacs broke up in 1963 and reformed in 1970.  They were pretty much finished as a group by late 1970’s with more than 20 members moving through the ranks.

The Olympics

Image result for the olympics singing group

So why all of this was going on, the group which would come in second in doo-wop novelty only to the Coasters, would be the Olympics.

The Olympics formed in 1956 in Los Angeles with Eddie Lewis, Walter Ward, Charles Fizer  and Melvin King all but Lewis being classmates in high school.  They began recording life as “The Challengers” releasing one serious single on that label in 1956.  After a year-and-a-half the group would move over to the Demon record label and would immediately jump on the novelty band-wagon with “Western Movies” in June of 1956.

They would cut three singles for Demon with two charting.  Then they would move on to Arvee where all hell would break loose as narrated above.  They would chart six times for Arvee – all novelties – and of course there were several releases that didn’t go anywhere.  Another label switch was in store in 1963 – Tri Disc – This would provide them with two additional charting records.

The Olympics wound up their charting days on the Mirwood record label, neither of those being a novelty – not that they didn’t try their hand at novelties right up until the end.

The Olympics would continue on as a recording act with several personnel changes up into the mid 1970’s.

Huey Smith and the Clowns

As their name would imply, Huey Smith and the Clowns were always up to deliver a comic R&B performance as their two classic compositions would attest “Rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu” and fun rocking “Don’t You Just Know It” from 1957/1958.

Huey Smith was born Huey Pierce Smith in 1934 in the musical hotbed town of New Orleans, Louisiana.  As a teenager Smith would partner up with Eddie Jones who would gain fame as “Guitar Slim”.  Smith’s first regular gig was to become a member of Little Richard’s backing band.  This would lead to Huey working with Lloyd Price and Smiley Lewis to name two.

By 1957 Smith was ready to head up his own band and so he and Bobby Marchan would form “The Clowns” with Smith leading the group and Marchan taking on lead vocals.  (Marchan would later record solo and scored a number 1 R&B hit in 1960 titled “There’s Something On Your Mind Part 2”).

Other “Clowns” included John Williams who went on to join the Tick Tocks, Edward Buck who was known as “Little Buck” and Curley Moore.   Both Moore and Buck recorded several singles as solo artists.  Buck would record in the early 1960’s on the Duke record label and then in the late ’60’s on Seven B.

Clown Curley Moore

Smith, who is alive today as of November 30th, 2019, returned several times over the years with bands of various names including the “Pitter Pats”, the “Hueys”, “Shindig Smith and the Soul Shakers”.  In the way of recognition, Smith was honored by the “Rhythm and Blues Foundation” in 2000.

The Rivingtons

The Rivingtons began as The Sharps.  The group would find work providing ‘Rebel yells’ on some of Duane Eddy’s recordings – great work if you can get it!  In 1961 they would record as the Crenshaws before moving on to Liberty Records.

A garage group out of Minnesota would revive the Rivingtons contributions by mixing in crazy sounds from “The Bird’s The Word” with “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” into the driving and wacky “Surfin’ Bird” in 1964 – a song which went to number 4 on the Hot 100.

Initially, the Rivingtons received no credit on the Trashmen’s song – The Rivingtons pressed them and so credits were added and royalties were shared.

Trashin’ The Bird

The Clovers

The Clovers never intended to enter any R&B Novelty Battle of the Bands – but they did manage a few along the way – one a classic!

The Clovers go way back – vintage R&B group among the fine pioneers of R&B.  They came together in 1946 while still attending high school in Washington D.C. taking the name “The Four Clovers”.

Suffice it to say there were many, many personnel changes during the time of their recording and performing.  Their first recording would come in 1951 when they were signed to the Atlantic record label – “Don’t You Know I Love You” b/w “Skylark”.  The “A” side would go to number 1 on the R&B Charts and they would follow it a few months later with a monster R&B hit “Fool, Fool, Fool” which went number one and remained there for six straight weeks.  Neither song dented the Hot 100 Charts.

In fact, the Clovers would not make an appearance on the Hot 100 until their “Love, Love, Love” managed to chart in 1956 coming in at number 30.

The Clovers will be best remembered by the pop crowd for their 1959 single “Love Potion No. 9”  which managed a number 23 showing on both the R&B and Hot 100 charts.  Love Potion was penned by the composing sensations Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Years later England’s Searchers took the song to number 2 on Cash Box and number 3 Billboard.

Clarence “Frogman” Henry

Clarence was born Clarence Henry II in 1937 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Henry’s early influences were Professor Longhair and Fats Domino – two New Orleans’ giants.  In 1964 Clarence had the honor of touring with and opening for the Beatles on their first tour of North America.

The Contours


The Contours were Motown’s vivacious – electrifying on-stage performers.  When the Temptations first performed coming on after the Contours – they were very disheartened and vowed they wouldn’t perform live again until they learned how to dance.

“Do You Love Me” set itself apart from other Motown classics – a song which never failed to fill the floor at sock hops across the nation!.  The song would go to number 1 R&B for three weeks and number 3 Hot 100 in 1962.

The Contours came out of Detroit, Michigan like all good Motown artists.  They were first called “The Blenders” before becoming the Contours.  “Do You Love Me” was given to the Contours but almost taken away when they stumbled through the first rehearsals.  The song was going to be handed over to the Temptations but the Contours quickly recovered and we had the drivin’ smash that we know today!

The Contours lead voice was Dennis Edwards who would move over to the Temptations in 1967 to replace David Ruffin. More than two dozen musicians passed through the Contours ranks over the years.

I include the Contours here on the strength of “First I Look at the Purse” from 1965

The Monitors

The Monitors were a minor Motown act – relegated to the VIP subsidiary label – They formed in 1964, and found a small amount of fame when they recorded a song first recorded by the Valadiers – “Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam).

The Do Wop Novelty Discography (in the style of The Coasters)

The Cadets/Jacks Novelty Discography

45 – Modern 994 – Stranded In the Jungle – Charted Number 4 R&B Charts – Number 15 Hot 100 – Released July, 1956

45 – Modern 1017 – Wiggie Waggie Woo – Released 1957

45 – Firefly 328 – Car Crash – Released 1960

LP – Crown 5015 – The Cadets – Released 1957

LP – Crown 5370 – The Cadets – Released 1963

LP – Relic 5023 – The Jacks Greatest Hits – Released 1974

LP – Relic 5025 – The Cadets Greatest Hits – Released 1975

The Cadillacs Novelty Discography

45 – Josie 785 – Speedo – Charted Number 3 R&B Charts – Number 17 Hot 100 Charts – Released October, 1955

45 – Josie 792 – Zoom – Released October, 1955

45 – Josie 807 – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer b/w Shock-A-Boo – “A” Side Charted Number 11 R&B Charts – Released November, 1957

45 – Josie 846 – Peek-A-Boo – Charted Number 20 R&B Charts – Number 28 Hot 100 Charts – Released October, 1958

45 – Josie 866 – Romeo – Charted Number 105 Bubbling Under Charts – Released July, 1959

45 – Josie 870 – Bad Dan McGoon b/w Dumbell – Released September, 1959

45 – Josie 883 – The Boogie Man – Released August, 1960

LP – Josie 1045 – The Fabulous Cadillacs – Released July, 1957

LP- Jubilee 1089 – The Crazy Cadillacs – Released April, 1959

LP – Jubilee 1117 – Cadillacs Meet The Orioles – Released 1960

LP – Jubilee 5009 – Twisting With The Cadillacs – Released 1962

LP Box Set – Murray Hill 1285 – For Collectors Only: The Cadillacs – Released 1983

(Five LP Set)

The Clovers Novelty Discography

45 – Atlantic 1035 – Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash – Released November, July, 1954

45 – United Artists 180 – Love Potion No. 9 – Charted Number 23 R&B and Hot 100 Charts – Released August, 1959

45 – United Artists 307 – Have Gun – Released April, 1961

45 – Brunswick 55249 – The Kickapoo – Released September, 1963

LP – Atlantic 1248 – The Clovers – Released December, 1956

LP – Atlantic 8034 – The Clover’s Dance Party – Released January, 1960

LP – United Artists 3099 – Love Potion Number 9 – Released September, 1960

LP – Atco 374 – Their Greatest Recording – The Early Years – Released November, 1971

The Contours Novelty Discography

45 – Gordy 7044 – First I Look At the Purse – Charted Number 12 R&B Charts – Number 57 Hot 100 Charts – Released June, 1965

LP – Gordy 901 – Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance) – Released October, 1962

Floyd Henderson Novelty Discography

45 – Triangle 51315 – Nosy Rosy – Released 1959

(Song co-written by Leonard Johnson – see below)

Clarence “Frogman” Henry

45 – Parrot 45004 – Little Green Frog – Released October, 1964

45 – Parrot 10822 – Ain’t Got No Home – Charted Number 3 R&B Charts – Number 20 Hot 100 Charts – Released March, 1966

LP – CFH 101 – Bourbon Street New Orleans

The Isley Brothers Novelty Discography

45 – Teenage 1004 – The Cow Jumped Over the Moon – Released May, 1957

Leonard Johnson Novelty Discography

45 – Arvee 576 – The Bug – Released October, 1959

The Marathons Novelty Discography

45 – Arvee 5027 – Peanut Butter b/w Talkin’ Trash – “A” Side Charted Number 25 R&B Charts – Number 20 Hot 100 Charts – Released March, 1961

45 – Chess 1790 – Peanut Butter – Released April, 1961

45 – Argo 5389 – Peanut Butter – Released May, 1961

45 – Arvee 5038 – Percy Mercy of Scotland Yard – Released July, 1961

45 – Arvee 5048 – Chicken Spaceman – Released 1962

45 – Plaza 507 – Little Pancho – Released September, 1962

LP – Ace UK 123 – The Olympics Meet The Marathons

The Monitors Novelty Discography

45 – V.I.P. 25032 – Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam) – Charted Number 21 R&B Charts – Number 100 Hot 100 Charts – Released February, 1966

LP – V.I.P. 714 – Greetings! We’re The Monitors – Released November, 1968

The Olympics Novelty Discography

45 – Demon 1508 – Western Movies – Charted Number 7 R&B Charts – Hot 100 Charts Number 8 – Released June, 1958

45 – Demon 1512 – (I Wanna) Dance With the Teacher – Charted Number 71 Hot 100 Charts – Released October, 1958

45 – Arvee 562 – Private Eye – Charted Number 95 Hot 100 Charts – Released July, 1959

45 – Arvee 595 – Big Boy Pete – Charted Number 10 R&B Charts – Number 58 Hot 100 Charts – Released May, 1960

45 – Arvee 5020 – Dodge City – Released November, 1960

45 – Arvee 5023 – Little Pedro b/w Bull Fight – “A” Side Charted Number 76 Hot 100 Charts – Released February, 1961

45 – Arvee 5031 – Dooley – Charted Number 94 Hot 100 Charts – Released May, 1961

45 – Tri Disc 106 – Fireworks – Released November, 1962

45 – Tri Disc 105 – Return of Big Boy Pete – Released September, 1964

45 – Tri Disc 112 – The Broken Hip – Released December, 1963

45 – Tri Disc 104 – The Boogler – Released April, 1964

45 – Arvee 6501 – Big Boy Pete ’65 – Released April, 1965

45 – Mirwood 5513 – Secret Agents – Released April, 1966

45 – Jubilee 5674 – The Cartoon Song – Released September, 1969

45 – MGM 14505 – Worm In Your Wheatgerm – Released February, 1973

LP – Arvee 423 – Doin the Hully Gully – Released 1960

LP – Arvee 424 – Dance by the Light Of The Moon – Released 1961

This LP features tracks by The Olympics, The Marathons (actually the Olympics not the substitute group) and rather strangely one track by “The Robins)

The Rivingtons Novelty Discography

45 – Liberty 55427 – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow – Charted Number 27 R&B Charts – Number 52 Hot 100 Charts – Released March, 1962

45 – Liberty 55513 – KIckapoo Joy Juice – Released October, 1962

45 – Liberty 55528 – Mama-Oom Mow Mow (The Bird) – Charted Number 106 Bubbling Under Charts – Released January, 1963

45 – Liberty 55553 – The Bird’s The Word – Charted Number 52 Hot 100 Charts – Released March, 1963

LP – Liberty 7282 – Doin’ The Bird – Released January, 1963

Huey Smith and the Clowns Novelty Discography

45 – ACe 530 – Rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu – Number 5 R&B Charts – Number 58 Hot 100 Charts – Released June, 1957

45 – Ace 538 – Just A Lonely Clown – Released October, 1957

45 – Ace 545 – Don’t You Just Know It b/w High Blood Pressure – “A” Side Charted Number 4 R&B Charts – Number 9 Hot 100 Charts – Released January, 1958

45 – Ace 562 – Would You Believe It (I Have A Cold) – Released May, 1959

45 – Ace 571 – Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas And the Sinus Blues – Released September, 1959

45 – Ace 584 – Beatnik Blues – Released March, 1960

45 – Imperial 5721 – The Little Moron – Released January, 1961

45 – Imperial 5789 – Snag-A-Tooth Jeannie – Released November, 1961

45 – Instant 3289 – You Ain’t No Hippie – Released March, 1968

LP – Ace 1004 – Having a Good Time – Released 1959

LP – Ace 1015 – For Dancing – Released 1961

LP – Ace 1027 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – Released 1962

LP – Ace 2038 – Good Ole Rock ‘N Roll – Released 1990

The Vibrations Novelty Discography

45 – Checker 961 – Cave Man – Released September, 1960

45 – Checker 974 – The Junkeroo – Charted Number 112 Bubbling Under Charts – Released April, 1961

45 – Checker 982 – Stranded In the Jungle – Charted Number 117 Bubbling Under Charts – Released July, 1961

45 – Atlantic 2221 – Daddy Woo Woo – Released February, 1964

45 – Epic 10418 – I Took An Overdose – Released November 1st, 1968

LP – Checker 2978 – Watusi! – Released 1961

LP – Okeh 12111 – Shout! – Released 1965

LP – Okeh 14112 – Misty – Released 1965

LP – OKeh 11114 – New Vibrations – Released 1966

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