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The El Dorados

The El Dorados

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Published by simon1967

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Published by: simon1967 on May 17, 2012
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The El Dorados
by Marv GoldbergInterview with Pirkle Lee Moses, Jr.© 2000, 2009 by Marv Goldberg
The El Dorados did it with one song - "At My Front Door". What did they do? Something most R&B groupsnever achieve: they produced a record that was a hit in its day and has become a classic, known to most followersof the "oldies" scene.The El Dorados got together in late 1952, when Pirkle Lee Moses, Jr. (who was currently in the Air Force) beganspending some of his spare time harmonizing with some students in the halls of Englewood High School (inChicago's South Side). With Moses in the lead, the others were: Louis Bradley (tenor), Jewel Jones (second tenorand baritone), James Maddox (baritone and bass) and Robert Glasper (bass). The result was a group that calleditself the Five Stars.Since they sang in the halls of the school, it wasn't long before they were heard by John Moore, who was theschool's custodian. Moore decided that they were better than the other "hall groups," and became their manager.Within a year Robert Glasper had left, and not one, but two new members were added: Arthur Basset (tenor)and Richard Nickens (baritone and bass). Since there were now six of them, the "Five Stars" didn't quite fit anymore. However, to save the trouble of thinking up a new name, they simply became "Pirkle Lee and the 5 Stars."When Pirkle Lee got out of the Air Force in 1954, they changed their name again. One possibility was "theCardinals," (although that name was actively in use by Atlantic's wonderful group). However they selected atribute to the new Cadillac El Dorado.Although they practiced the songs of the Orioles, Dominoes, Clovers, Mills Brothers, and Ink Spots, they workedhard to develop their own style, often changing arrangements to fit their own voices.
Then it was time to think about recording. Chicago disc jockey Vivian Carter (who hosted the"Living With Vivian" show over WWCA), decided she wanted more groups on her Vee-Jaylabel, which she owned with partner and husband Jimmy Bracken. Another partner wasVivian's brother, Calvin Carter, the label's A&R man, who was in charge of the recordingsessions. Ewart Abner (originally of Chance Records) was also involved, mostly in the businessend. Finally, in the shadows was Art Sheridan, owner of Chance Records, a secret (and mostlysilent) partner. She rented a local skating rink and invited groups to challenge the Spaniels,her star attraction. The El Dorados entered and walked away with a contract.On June 30, 1954, the El Dorados held their first Vee-Jay session, recording "My LovingBaby" (led by Pirkle Lee Moses) and "Baby I Need You So" (fronted by Arthur Basset), twotunes which were paired for a September release. They were reviewed on September 11 (with"Baby I Need You So" receiving an "excellent" rating, while "My Loving Baby" was ranked"good"). Other reviews that week went to the Chimes' "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me," theDodgers' "Let's Make A Whole Lot Of Love," the Capris' "God Only Knows," and theMedallions' future double-sided classic: "Buick 59"/"The Letter."At almost the same time (September 8), the El Dorados were back in the studio, churning out"One More Chance" and "Little Miss Love" (both led by Pirkle Lee). Since the Midnighters'"Annie Had A Baby" was such a smash, Vee-Jay decided to get in on the action and threw together an answerrecord, "Annie's Answer," sung by Hazel McCollum (backed by the El Dorados) at the same session.Vee-Jay picked the El Dorados to be on the record and asked them tofind a girl who could sing "Annie's Answer" with them. The guysauditioned all of Vee-Jay's female singers and finally picked HazelMcCollum (wife of blues singer Robert Nighthawk - his real name wasRobert McCollum). For some reason, although it took Vee-Jay twomonths to release the song, the El Dorados weren't invited to recordsomething for the flip. Instead it was paired with an instrumental by AlSmith's Combo: "Living With Vivian" (a reference to the title of VivianCarter's radio show). While Hazel would record several other songs forVee-Jay, none were ever released.After this session, Arthur Basset left the group, in order to complete hiseducation. Probably feeling that a sextet was somewhat unwieldy, theguys didn't replace him. From then on, most leads would by Pirkle LeeMoses (except for "What's Buggin' You Baby," fronted by LouisBradley)."Annie's Answer" was released in November, and that same month the El Dorados appeared (with the 5 Echoesand Eddie Boyd) at McKie's Fifth Avenue Ballroom (owned by DJ McKie Fitzhugh).On December 3, the El Dorados appeared at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. The occasion was the "SixthAnnual Goodwill Revue," sponsored by station WDIA to raise money for the education of crippled Negrochildren. In this case, they took in $5000. Helping out were the 5 C's, Eddie Chamblee, Eddie Boyd, Big JohnGreer, Clarence Brown, and a host of gospel acts.The very next day saw "Annie's Answer" reviewed ("good"), along with the Crickets' "Be Faithful," the DeepRiver Boys' "Sleepy Little Cowboy," and the Cashmeres' "MySentimental Heart."Vee-Jay waited until February 1955 to issue "One More Chance,"backed with "Little Miss Love." They were reviewed on April 2, with"Chance" getting a "good" rating, and "Love" receiving a "fair."Other reviews were for Ella Johnson's "Alright, Okay, You Win," theOrioles' "That's When The Good Lord Will Smile," the 5 Wings'"Teardrops Are Falling," the Robins' "I Love Paris," the Casanovas'"That's All," the Dudads' "I Heard You Call Me Dear," and theTenderfoots' "Watussi, Wussi, Woo."Also in April (the 24th), the guys had their next session, recording "IBegan To Realize" and a little ditty called "At My Front Door."
June 8, 1955 saw another session, at which they laid down "What's Buggin' You Baby" (led by Louis Bradley)and "Now That You've Gone." "What's Buggin' You Baby" had a Navy flavor mixed with jive talk ("Why don'tyou raise a storm/And get your brew in a stew"). Not one of their favorites, the El Dorados rarely performed it,even though it was released as the flip of what was to be their monster hit, "At My Front Door," later in June.On July 2 and 3, the El Dorados were part of an Al Benson show at Chicago's Trianon Ballroom. Others on thestage were Floyd Dixon, L.C. McKinney, Jo-Jo Adams, the Orchids, the Diablos, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, andthe Red
Holloway Orchestra.Considering the impact that "At My Front Door" was to have, it wasn't sent out for review (a fate of many of theEl Dorados' records). However, on August 27, it was listed as a Tip in St. Louis. September 24 found it a BestBuy, showing good sales in St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Nashville,Detroit, and Boston. By the time "At My Front Door" had finished its 18-week run on the national R&B charts,it had made it all the way to #1. Better than that, it crossed over to the Pop charts, lasting for 15 weeks and risingto #17 (not bad for 1955). The ultimate accolade was that it was chosen for Pat Boone to cover (he had a foolish-sounding #7 Pop hit with it). Strangely, with the #1 R&B record in the country, the El Dorados startedexperimenting with modern harmony, which didn't endear them to Vee-Jay (probably because the company hadallowed the Rhythm Aces to unsuccessfully record that way).On September 23, the El Dorados began a week at the Howard Theater in D.C., along with Al Hibbler, LavernBaker, Red Prysock, and the Sweethearts.It was back to the studio on October 21, at which time they waxed "I'll Be Forever Loving You" and the firstversion of "She Don't Run Around." "I'll Be Forever Loving You" had been written by Leon Arnold, of the Rip-Chords, who had, in fact, recorded it for Vee-Jay. However, the company wasn't happy with the results and gavethe song to the El Dorados.

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