0n the east Coast in the 1950s there were certain vocal groups that managed to become immensely popular without having national record sales success. The two groups that best fit into that category were the immortal HARPTONES and the incomparable Channels.
Late 1955 New York City was the setting for the latter's formation. Larry Hampden (first tenor), Billy Morris (second tenor), and Edward Doulphin (baritone) started a quintet they called the Channels, from 115th Street and 116th Street, along with two other long since forgotten part-timers. When 'the short termers made their final exit, the remaining Channels went looking for a lead and bass.  It so happened that a talent show was being held in February 1956 at the community center at 101st Street between Columbus and Amsterdam in Harlem, and appearing along with new recording sensation FRANKIE LYMON AND THE TEENAGERS was a group dubbed the Lotharios.
By the time of the next talent show, the Channels had absorbed Lotharios' lead and bass, Earl Michael Lewis and Clifton Wright. With only a few days of rehearsal the Channels won that show at P.S. 113 singing THE FLAMINGOS' ballad "I'll Be Home." A week later, they graced the stage of the famed Apollo Theatre and won second place in an amateur night contest with THE PLATTERS' recent hit "The Magic Touch."
In spring 1956, one of three scenarios took place, depending on which bit of folklore you accept: (1) the group was heard by Bobby Robinson (owner of Red Robin Records and his own record store) at their Apollo performance and were asked to audition; (2) the Channels were in a studio doing demos and Robinson heard them, offering the quintet a contract on the spot; or (3) they walked into his store, played him several demos, and set up an audition. Whichever is the case, they did sign a two-year contract with his new Whirling Disc company. On their first session for Robinson (June 29, 1956) it took them only two run-through to produce the beautiful ballad "The Closer You Are," written by the 15-year-old Earl Lewis.
Up to that time, all vocal group arrangements had certain similarities. The lead singer would solo on the verses opening the song, with the remaining members "oohing" or "aahing" in the background. The chorus or bridge might continue that approach or feature the group together in four or five part harmony, but for the most part harmony remained separate and in the background. The Channels created a different sound by opening with the verse sung in full five-part harmony, often with the first tenor, second tenor, and baritone slightly louder than the bass and falsetto lead.  Then Lewis would take over traditional lead in the bridge. This distinct type of arrangement made the Channels instantly recognizable from the very first notes of their recordings.
"The Closer You Are" became an instant success on the nation's air-waves in August, but since it was Whirling Disc's debut disc, its disjointed airplay and sales never gelled enough to land it on the national charts. It did have wide appeal up and down the East Coast and even in the far West, though it was very much a New York street-corner record.
Their next single was "The Gleam in Your Eye" (October 1956), a ballad written by Earl Lewis when he was 10 years old. The harmony laden love song gave new indication of Earl's exceptional vocal ability. The record boosted the group's popularity and they began a career of live performances that would take them through such venues as the Howard Theatre in Washington, the Royal in Baltimore, and of course the Apollo for over 35 years.
It was late spring of 1957 when the Channels' fourth (and last) Whirling Disc single was re-leased. "Flames in My Heart" was another first-rate Earl Lewis ballad that could have been performed better if they had more than 20 minutes in which to record it.  It saw less activity than any of the others, so it came as no surprise when Robinson told the group he was closing down the label.
More than four months passed before the Channels, armed with new originals by Earl, auditioned for George Goldner recently formed Gone Records. He liked the group but asked for different material. Their next audition produced several newer songs including "The Girl Next Door' and "All Alone." Still not convinced they had a hit, Goldner recorded them doing bandleader Sammy Kaye's 1947 number two hit "That's My Desire." (One-and-a-half years later, DION AND THE BELMONTS would lift the Channels' beautiful arrangement for their own B side of the number three hit "Where or When.") "That’s My Desire" was the Channels' first recording since the unreleased demo song "Gloria" that Lewis didn't write and arrange, though Earl reportedly felt it was the group's best recording.
Their first single on Gone (both sides arranged by former Valentine and Goldner house A&R man, Richard Barrett) was issued in late summer 1957 and brought the group back into the spotlight with air and jukebox play all over the country. "Altar of Love" was their next single, but its lack of audience response hastened the quintets departure from Gone. Clifton Wright had already left after "That’s My Desire" and only the remaining four were heard on "Altar."
By early 1959 the Channels, with only two fifths of the original cast, were back with Robinson on his new Fury label. The group had had a falling out about realigning with Robinson and his robber baron ethics, but Lewis and Wright wanted to keep the act active so they joined forces with three replacements, John Felix, Alton Thomas, and Billy Montgomery (recently of the CELLOS on Apollo). They then recorded two terrific Lewis compositions, "My Love Will Never Die" and "Bye Bye Baby." This time Lewis didn't have to worry about writer credit since Robinson outdid himself by not crediting anyone. "My Love Will Never Die," however, turned out to be one of their more successful records. (It might have done even better had Fury not focused all its efforts on pushing the Wilbert Harrison record, "Kansas City.") Two of the original Channels who had foregone the Fury sessions, Larry Hampden and Billy Morris, relented and rejoined Lewis, Alton Campbell (also of the Cellos), and Billy Montgomery in the fall of 1959 to record two songs that George Goldner had passed on two years earlier, "The Girl Next Door" and "My Heart Is Sad." The group shifted to Fury's Fire subsidiary.
The three replacements on the Fury sessions joined forces with lead singer Jackie Rue and became the Starlites, who in 1960 recorded "Valerie," one of the great lead singer "crying" songs of all time. (Singers would literally cry while talk-singing a bridge or verse.) Another fine Lewis and company recording, "The Girl Next Door," was notable as the first Channels release that read Earl Lewis and the Channels.
By late 1959 the group had disbanded. Two years later, the Jubilee Records Port subsidiary started releasing the Whirling Disc sides in the same order as originally released, just as if they were new records. By 1961 the East Coast was ablaze with '50s vocal group mania, and the Channels became highly revered.  In January 1963 Hit Records issued the first new Channels record in over three years. Although first tenor Larry Hampden was the only original group member, the sound was vintage Channels (spelled Channells on the label). The other members, Tony Williams (lead-not the Platters vocalist), Gene Williams (second tenor), and Revo Hodge (bass), got into the spirit of things with a striking ballad performance of the group written effort "You Hurt Me." Hampden's group reverted to the original spelling for a Channels group's one and only backup performance.
Earl himself kept a low profile until the rock revival days of the late '60s when he formed the Earl Jades. In 1971 after an Academy of Music show as the Channels, the new group (first tenor Henry Fernandez, second tenor Jack Brown, bass Felix, and Earl) signed with another George Goldner associated label, Rarebird Records, and released a single of the Neil Sedaka Oldie "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do."
Having had enough of other people's labels, Earl started Channel Records later in 1971, and along with Billy Vera's band began recording new songs and favorites (like "Gloria," "We Belong Together," and "A Thousand Miles Away") as singles for his fans. They recorded six singles and an LP between 1971 and 1974. By the mid'70s the Channels were actually Earl Lewis and four members of Dino and the Heartspinners (minus Dino): Joe Odom, Cecil Wiley, Butch Phillips, and Bernard Jones. By the '80s, Jones had joined THE DRIFTERS and Phillips THE DEL-VIKINGS. Wes Neil came aboard in Phillips's place, and that lineup stayed in place into the '90s while the Channels continued to delight East Coast audiences just as Earl had done more than 35 years before. In 1987 Earl Lewis and Channel's came full circle as they recorded "The Closer You Are" in a contemporary vein for Soul Jam Records. This song had been their first recording.
Though never as well-known as the Moonglows, the Teenagers, the Flamingos, or some other great R&B groups of the '50s, the Channels are considered among the period's 10 to 15 most revered groups.
This article was taken from the internet and submitted by Lady Mare.
image344image3271Text Box: Nolan Strong and the Diablos

  (Original liner notes from "Daddy Rock: The legendary Nolan Strong with the Diablos", by Paul Bezanker) 
Fortune Records, founded in 1947 by Jack and Devora Brown, strives "for truly great music", as the Fortune label reads. 
since the early 1950's, Fortune has issued truly great vocal group records by many groups including the Five Dollars, the Swans, the Royal Jokers, the Centuries, the Del Rios, the Hi Fidelities and others. But none attained the level of success enjoyed by Nolan Strong and the Diablos. 
Nolan strong and Bob "Chico" Edwards formed the Diablos in 1950. Backing up Nolan's natural tenor voice were Juan Guiterriec as second tenor, Willie Hunter singing baritone, Quentin Eubanks as bass and Bob "Chico" Edwards on guitar. 
This first Diablos group is featured on seven of the twelve selections presented on this album. Around the end of 1954 and early 1955, Jimmy Strong replaced Juan Guiterriec, Quentin Eubanks left and was replaced by George Scott until 1959, when J.W. Johnson began working with the group as an alternate bass. Bob "Chico" Edwards left the group in the late 1950's to work with jazz bands in New York. After a number of years of touring around the east coast and in Europe, he returned to Detroit and in 1972 worked with Nolan on a few sessions, including "Wild Side of My Baby" (on Fortune LP8016). This second group can be heard on four tracks, with a solo effort by Nolan rounding out the collection. 
"I Am With YOU" is the original version as released on Fortune #531. This is the second take. The first take is still unreleased and has the last four notes missing on the tape. The second Diablos group recorded "I Am With You" in 1959, while they waxed "Jump With Me" (released in 1980 in Fortune #574), and was issued on Fortune #518. There are two other unreleased versions. 
Stronger backing harmony by the first Diablos group is evident on the alternate take of "The Wind". With the first take issued on Fortune #511,-the second take is presented here. A third take is similar, and an earlier session produced a still unreleased version with voices and guitar. Only the voices of the first group with Jimmy Strong joining on a previously unreleased "jam session" featuring the guitar work of Bob "Chico" Edwards brings us this 1954 gem, "Come Home." The result is great, particularly the impromptu guitar and handclapping bridge. You will be transported to a small club atmosphere as you listen to Nolan's remarkable tenor voice on his solo effort, "Is This Really Real." Backing Nolan is his personal favorite pianist, Wallace Stevens, who can also be heard on "You Are Love" on Fortune LP8015. 
This 1972 recording spotlights Nolan's incredible vocal abilities.  Ending the first side of the album is a great acappella medley of "Since I Fell For You" and "Rockin' Robin". J.W. Johnson sings bass in this 1960's Diablos' session. 
From 1954 the first Diablos group is featured on a previously unreleased version of "I Wanna Know." "My Kind of Loving" is a great jump tune by the first Diablos group. Recorded but previously unreleased from a 1954 session, "My Kind of Loving" was also taped in three other unissued versions done at other times. "Remember Me" is a beautiful acappella take which shows the wide range of emotions that Nolan was capable of expressing with his rich tenor voice. Recorded in 1954 during the same session with "Jump With Me", "Remember Me" features the first Diablos group. There is a different version of this song by the second group with a backup band. In the 1960's this song evolved into "I Really Love You "as issued on Fortune #553 and on LP8015. 
A real surprise is the discovery of the tape of "Adios, My Desert Love" which was done before Fortune #509! This great version is a practice tape from the end of 1953. "Daddy Nolan Strong" is a line jump recording that evolved Irom "Daddy Rockin' Strong" as released on Fortune #516. The first group also recorded at this 1954 session acappella versions of "Mercy, Mercy Baby". "Goodbye Matilda", and part of "Crying in the Chapel" featuring Juan Gutterize. 
Aptly ending this great collection is a fine acappella take from the 1960's featuring J.W. Johnson on bass, "So Long", a must for ballad fans. 
Nolan Strong was born in Scottsboro, Alabama on January 22, 1934, and moved to Detroit at a young age. He started singing soon alter arriving in Detroit and formed his first Diablos group in 1950. Nolan was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956 and was honorably discharged in1958. He passed away on February 21, 1977. Nolan was inspired musically by the outstanding tenor of the Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, and in turn inspired many other singers including the likes of Smokey Robinson. 
This article was taken from the internet and submitted by Lady Mare.

This article submitted by Tim.

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