R&B And Me:
An Author Remembers
I am a part of all that I have met.
Ulysses - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
I don't sing. I don't play an instrument. I don't write songs. I don't arrange music. I don't have a
reputation as an influential DJ. I don't own a record label. I don't produce recording sessions. I don't
even have much of a record collection.
I'm not sure if this list is exhaustive, but it certainly gives you a pretty clear idea of what my
involvement with Rhythm & Blues is not.
Why then have I called this section "R&B And Me"? Well, I have been involved, in my way. For more than
half a century, I've been a researcher and music historian in the field. I've interviewed more than 300 people,
mostly members of vocal groups, who created R&B music in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. These interviews were
then turned into magazine articles (and, in one case, a book), usually written by me (at times with one or
more collaborators), sometimes handed over to others, if my workload was particularly heavy. The result, as of May 2020, is
about 350 articles on groups, duos, and single artists. There are also several articles that aren't about
specific singers; you'll find them listed separately, below (as Non-artist Articles).
My resulting body of work is therefore a survey of R&B music, from the mid-30s to the mid-60s. My
articles have appeared in many publications over the years (including some original writing done for album
liner notes), and below you'll find a list of all I've done.
I'm proud to have been a part of R&B. I wish the music itself had found greater acceptance, but at least
I did my part to see that the artists got the recognition they deserved. There are so many more stories to be
told; that's why I keep digging.
ADDENDUM - JUNE 1, 2018:
Lately I've been mostly writing about single artists, rather than groups. There are actually reasons for this.
Groups tend to choose names that are easily remembered. This means that most groups have names that are (or use) very common words. It really isn't worth my while to plow through thousands of newspaper citations that have nothing to do with what I'm researching (especially when, after I'm finished, I find that there's never been anything printed about them). A person's name is generally (but not always) easier to research.
Sometimes I get lucky. While there are almost 200,000 mentions of "Red Caps" over the years (including baggage handlers, baseball teams, Carling's Red Cap Ale, and a racehorse named "Red Cap" [I refuse to even mention Red Caps bowling teams]), once you pair it with "Steve Gibson", it cuts it down to around 1500, almost all of which are relevant. Although that's still a lot to go through, I don't mind doing it when it gives me the results I want.
On the other hand, take the Moonglows, for example. Other than the song "Moonglow", there shouldn't be all that many extraneous references, right? Think again. Searching newspapers from 1953 to 1960 brings up over 9500 instances of "moonglow" (the search engine doesn't bother to differentiate between the singular and the plural). More was written about "moonglow dyed muskrat coats" than was ever written about the vocal group.
How about the Danderliers? That's an odd name. Using only what I could find in newspapers, their entire career can be made into this massive article: on Friday, May 13, 1955, they appeared at the Ritz Theater in Akron, Ohio and, on May 15 and May 22 of that year, "Chop Chop Boom" appeared in Newport News, Virginia record store ads. (Fortunately, they've been written about; I'm just using them as an example.)
Many times you get nothing usable. I looked for the Emanon Trio, who were active in the early 1950s. There are many ads for them (mostly in the San Francisco area), and even a photo. But nothing names the members. Geneva Vallier was on one of their records, but nothing in papers associates her with them. (However, there were two big articles that recounted how a gangster died and left her a ton of money.) This stuff ain't easy.
The smaller a group's output, the less the chance that they'll be in any paper. The greater the output, the better the chance that someone's already written about them. I think it's about time that those who've never had any decent write-up come into their own.
Finally, there's almost no one left to interview. If a group has never been written about, I probably don't even know any of their names. Since I have no intention of branching out into the 1960s, I have to work with what's available.