Clovers (Formed in 1946)
|The Clovers have a special place in the history of R&B as the first genuinely successful vocal group on the Atlantic label. They actually started out in Washington in 1946, built a career recording smooth ballads and bluesy jumps, and in the process became one of the most popular vocal groups of the 50s. They certainly weren't a doo-wop group, although they were often categorised within that genre - if anything they were a typical R&B band with the vocalists taking many of the traditional instrumental parts. Through their career, they managed to hit the US national charts no fewer than 21 times.
By the time the group first recorded for Rainbow Records in the early 1950, the Clovers consisted of John 'Buddy' Bailey (lead), Matthew McQuater (tenor), Harold Lucas (baritone) and Harold Winley (bass), with instrumental accompaniment from Bill Harris (guitar). Later in the year the Clovers joined the fledgling Atlantic label after reputedly being picked up on by Ahmet Ertegun via the local hotbed known as Waxie Maxie's Record Mart. In 1952 Charles White, who had earlier experience in the Dominoes and the Checkers, became the Clovers' new lead, replacing Buddy Bailey who was drafted into the US Army. In late 1953 Billy Mitchell took over from White. Bailey rejoined the group in 1954 but Mitchell remained and the two alternated the leads. Whoever was the lead, from 1951-56 the Clovers achieved a consistent sound and remarkably consistent success.
They had three US number 1 R&B hits with 'Don't You Know I Love You' (an Ahmet Ertegun song), 'Fool, Fool, Fool' (both 1951) and 'Ting-A-Ling' (1952), plus four number 2 R&B hits with 'One Mint Julep', 'Hey, Miss Fannie' (both 1952), 'Good Lovin' (1953) and 'Lovey Dovey' (1954). Of the remaining 11 other Top 10 hits for Atlantic, the Clovers came into their own as balladeers with the great 'Devil Or Angel' and 'Blue Velvet', both of which were of course recorded by many others including, sadly, Bobby Vee. Despite the group's superb early bluesy and uptempo R&B work, it is for these two songs that the Clovers are often remembered.
Also worthy of note in the annals of R&B recording history is that 'Don't You Know I Love You', from the Clovers first Atlantic session, was often cited (rightly or wrongly and most specfically by the writer Nick Tosches) as one of the first R&B vocal group records to feature a saxophone solo. And all because Frank Culley insisted on being paid if his band was going to be used, so Ertegun made him work for his money!
In 1961 the Clovers split into rival groups led, respectively, by Buddy Bailey and Harold Lucas, and the hits dried up. Various permutations of the Clovers continued to record and perform for years afterwards - sadly for the group however, the initial 60s "revival" was more interested in doo- wop than the undeniably bluesy sounds of the Clovers. In the 70s, audiences were more appreciative and the group performed regularly at countless R&B revival shows. And in 1988 they were deservedly incorporated into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and given one of their prestigious Pioneer Awards.
Under the influence of Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun (who wrote and produced most of their early songs), the Clovers combined quartet harmony, the big dance beat of the R&B jump bands, and the rawer sounds of urban blues into an exciting new blend that caught on and put them consistently at the top of the R&B charts in the early '50s. The way they did it, and the sheer quality of their vocals and arrangements helped to lay the foundation for the soul music to come.