Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jerry Lawson, The Marcels & Marcels rip-offs

My post last month on The Persuasions drew an important comment: that The Persuasions no longer has Jerry Lawson, the heart and soul of the group. He left in 2003 after some 22 albums, forming "Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town." You can catch up with Jerry at his website:

Jerry wrote and performed "It's All Right," my introduction to The Persuasions. It would not have been "All Right" if I'd gone out to see the current version of The Persuasions, brought an old album, and asked to get an autograph from Jerry Lawson! It's a shame that so many older groups on tour either have no original members, or don't have the key ones, or don't even bother to have a sound-alike that in any way approximates a Jerry Lawson, Levi Stubbs (The Four Tops) or Cornelius Harp.

Yes, the Lawson comment has finally led to a mention on the blog of the underrated MARCELS, which was led to Top 10 greatness twice by Cornelius Harp

The Marcels are remembered for putting a doo-wop spin on the American songbook. They scored a massive, unexpected hit with "Blue Moon," which was just a time-filler at their recording session but became a hit single after notorious disc jockey Murray the K began playing the demo over and over

Unlike The Coasters, who dazzled with dozens of novelty tracks, The Marcels wore out their welcome after several formulaic zooty upgrades to Broadway and big band classics. Perversely, singles they released that didn't have the trademark doo-wop sound were ignored. The Marcels shot to #1 with "Blue Moon," followed it with the Top Ten "Heartaches," and slipped away from major labels soon after.

"Heartaches" was my introduction to them. From the time I was 5, and old enough to use a turntable, I wanted 45's for my birthday. The first single I had from a band and not a vocalist, was "Heartaches." It was a "rock" single but like most songs at the time, it sounded like a kiddie record! The doofy doo-wop dips and wurps fit in very well with what I also heard from The Chipmunks, "Witch Doctor," "Monster Mash," etc. etc.

"Heartaches" remains a gem of passion and insanity. You've got the heart-beating bass of Fred Johnson and the soulful soaring tenor of Cornelius Harp. As Dr. Edward Morbius might over-analyze it, it's the subliminal "mindless primitive" and the pained intellectual lover both crying out in remembered ecstasy and current agony. The heart can't put it into words and the mind can; the bass pounds with a goofy sense of humor while The Platters-type lead singer offers deadly serious words...and there's no resolution of the conflict, which is why it can be played again and again.

The resolution to the conflict within The that the current version has NO original members.

The problems apparently began in August of 1961 when the bi-racial group toured the South. Allegedly to preserve bookings and perhaps save lives, the two white guys (not exactly vital members anyway) were replaced. One of the new members of the now all-black Marcels (it was this incarnation that recorded "Heartaches") was a guy named Walt Maddox.

A year or two later, The Marcels no longer signed to Colpix, no longer guesting in rock movies, the band broke up. They'd get back together for tour dates and a few recording dates, with or without key members. In 2004, according to The Marcels "official" website, Walt Maddox managed "after a lengthy court battle (to be) awarded all rights in the Marcels and is the only individual legally permitted to book the group." Without Harp or Johnson, they average only 3 or 4 bookings a month, and not usually the best-paying locales.

Fortunately back in 1999 all the original members of the band who were still alive (including one of the white guys, the other passed in 1983) appeared on a PBS "Oldies" show to run through "Blue Moon" (as pictured above). It's one of the few existing videos on the group, with Fred Johnson showboating many an added dingy-dong-ding.

Back when Colpix wanted the group to flog their formula to death, several other groups and indie labels wanted a quick cash-in as well. And so in addition to the beloved "Heartaches" from the real Marcels, you get Marcels wanna be's! The Matadors copy the Marcels and bop and dip "Perfidia," a popular Latin dance band number of the big band era, while Little Joe and The Thrillers dupe The Marcels' trademark nonsense-word introductions by doing a bang-bang walla-walla-walla on "I Love You For Sentimental Reasons."

PERFIDIA means FAITHLESS. Copying The Marcels is just plain wurped. MATADORS - PERFIDIA

A Marcels-styled version of I Love You for Sentimental Reasons LITTLE JOE AND THE THRILLERS


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