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The Harptones Life Is But A Dream Paradise P-101 A 1955
Here are The Harptones with "Life Is But A Dream" on a nice minty piece of shellac pressed back in 1955 courtesy of Old Town's sister company Paradise. One of my all time favorites! Please Enjoy.
Of all the R&B groups to come out of New York City in the 1950s, without a doubt the Harptones are the most beloved. In the UGHA survey of the top 500 vocal group recordings (held in 2000), the Harptones, while not having the number one record, placed more songs (14) in the top 500 than any other group.
The story of the Harptones goes back to the streets of Harlem in the early 50s. First, there was a group called the Skylarks, comprised of William Dempsey James (always known as "William Dempsey"), Curtis Cherebin, and Freddy Taylor.
Another group around at the time was the Winfield Brothers, which consisted of Willie Winfield, his brothers Clyde and Jimmy, his brother-in-law Johnny Bronson, and William "Dicey" Galloway. Singing seems to be in the Winfield blood: one of Willie's cousins (although by marriage) was Dickie Smith of the 5 Keys; another was George Winfield of the Chateaus. Actually the Winfield Brothers were an oddity, one of the few Manhattan R&B groups that didn't come from Harlem (all but Dicey were from the Lower East Side). Because Dicey lived in Harlem, he also occasionally sang with Dempsey's Skylarks.
In time, members of both groups combined, under the tutelage of pianist/arranger Raoul Cita. When the dust settled, the members were: Willie Winfield (tenor), Billy Brown (bass; a friend of Curtis Cherebin, whose mother wanted him to finish school instead of singing), Claudie "Nicky" Clark (a first tenor whom they stole from the 5 Crowns), William Dempsey (second tenor), William "Dicey" Galloway (baritone), and Raoul Cita (accompanist, arranger, and occasional tenor/baritone).
Cita chose the name "Harps" for the new group, which sang on street corners, hallways, subway stations, anywhere they could.
A representative from M-G-M Records was in the audience and asked them to look him up. They went down to his office and, to kill time while waiting for him to show up, they naturally started singing in the hallway. That hallway was in 1650 Broadway, and there were plenty of other ears around to hear them. Four of those ears belonged to Morty Craft and Leo Rogers who were partners with Monte Bruce in the newly-formed Bruce Records. Almost immediately, in November 1953, the three partners herded the Harps into a studio and, in spite of Willie having a bad cold, "A Sunday Kind Of Love" and "I'll Never Tell" became the first songs recorded by the group. Note that Cita wrote the two line introduction that Billy Brown sang: "I'm through with my old love, I loved her through and through. / I'm searching for a new love, can that new love be you?"
At the last minute, in order to avoid confusion with a Harps gospel group, Cita had them change their name to the more familiar "Harptones" (or "Harp-Tones" as it was spelled on the record). The two sides were released in December 1953, as the first Bruce record.
In May 1955, Bruce records disintegrated, with Leo Rogers acquiring the company from Monte Bruce and Morty Craft. Rogers, who kept the Harptones, brought them to Hy Weiss, owner of Old Town Records. Weiss initially started up Old Town's Paradise subsidiary to handle the Harptones.
The group had a session in late May or early June 1955, at which they recorded four tunes: the incomparable "Life Is But A Dream" (led by Willie), "You Know You're Doing Me Wrong" (fronted by Jimmy Beckum), "My Success (It All Depends On You)" (Willie), and "You're Going To Need My Help Someday" (a ballad led by Jimmy in a dramatic Dominoes style). In June, the first two titles were released as Paradise 101.
Once again, it was a matter of a Harptones record taking off in many local areas, but on a label that was unable to capitalize on it. While "Life Is But A Dream" was probably the Harptones biggest seller, it too failed to make the national charts. In truth, had they been with a company with coast-to-coast distribution, the Harptones could have been one of the supergroup chart-toppers of the day, right up there with the Clovers, the Drifters, the Dominoes, the 5 Keys, the Flamingos, the Moonglows, and the Midnighters.
Turntable used: Audio Technica AT-LP120 USB Direct Drive inputted straight into the sound card using the built-in pre-amp from the turntable.Cartridge used: ATP-2XN using 78 3 mil needle.