In the 50s, just as King/Federal/DeLuxe was one of the mainstays of the R&B music scene, Otis Williams & the Charms were one of the mainstays of DeLuxe.
The story of the Charms goes back to around the fall of 1952. At that time, Bob Smith (tenor), Rolland Bradley (tenor), Joe Penn (baritone/tenor), and Richard Parker (bass) began singing together at Withrow High School in Cincinnati. In 1953, Otis Williams, another Withrow student (who mostly wanted to play football) began appearing with them as a fill-in member (their first appearance was singing an a cappella version of "Trees" in the Withrow Minstrels). They were all around 16 at the time, and it was Williams who named the group "The Charms" (after the candy).
When the group appeared in a Withrow variety show in the spring of 1953, someone in the audience was impressed and recommended Otis to Syd Nathan, owner of Cincinnati's King Records. Nathan only wanted to sign Otis, but Otis insisted on taking the rest of the group along. Possibly because of this, the Charms were relegated to Rockin' Records, a Florida company owned by Henry Stone and a semi-subsidiary of King. Sometime after they signed, Bob Smith was replaced by tenor Donald Peak.
In June of 1953, the Charms held their first session. The result was "Heaven Only Knows" and "Loving Baby," released in July, and reviewed on August 22 (both were rated "fair"). Other reviews that week went to the Diamonds' "Two Loves Have I," Memphis Slim's "The Come Back," Rudy Green's "Love Is A Pain," and the Marveleers' "For The Longest Time."
When King decided to reactivate the DeLuxe label in September of 1953, the Charms were chosen to kick off the new 6000 series (with a reissue of the Rockin' sides). Rockin' Records itself was dissolved and Henry Stone became an executive at DeLuxe (in January 1955, the trades had a blurb saying that Henry Stone ran DeLuxe from Florida).
Meanwhile, on September 25, the Charms held their next session, recording "Happy Are We," "Bye-Bye Baby," "Please Believe In Me," and "What Do You Know About That." All leads were by Otis Williams (as were all the Charms leads unless otherwise noted; if there's a duet lead, which many of the early sides feature, Joe Penn's is the other voice).
"Happy Are We" and "What Do You Know About That" were issued in October and don't seem to have been reviewed. The next pairing was "Bye-Bye Baby" and "Please Believe In Me," which was released in January 1954, and reviewed on January 30, along with the Bachelors' "Can't Help Loving You," Tab Smith's "Strange," Charles Brown's "I Want To Fool Around With You," and Bill Doggett's "And The Angels Sing."
The Charms' third session was held on March 13, 1954, when they laid down another four tracks: "It's You, You, You," "Quiet Please," "Fifty-Five Seconds," and "One Fine Day."
"Quiet Please" and "Fifty-Five Seconds" were released in April, and reviewed on April 4. Other reviews that week went to the Spiders' "Tears Began To Flow," Big Maybelle's "I've Got A Feeling," the Diablos' "Adios My Desert Love," the Chords' "Cross Over The Bridge," and Lorraine Ellis & the Crows' "Perfidia."
On May 24, 1954, the Charms went back to the studio and recorded six more tunes: "My Baby Dearest Darling," "Who Knows," "Come To Me Baby," It's Only You," "This Love Of Mine," and "The First Time We Met."
"My Baby Dearest Darling" was coupled with "Come To Me Baby" for a June 1954 release. Both sides got excellent reviews on August 7, along with the Robins' "Key To My Heart," the 5 Royales' "Behave Yourself," the 5 Chances' "I May Be Small," the Mellows' "How Sentimental Can I Be," the Treniers' "Out Of The Bushes," and the Shufflers' "Lovin' On My Mind." Prior to the review date, however, "Come To Me Baby" was listed as a Territorial Tip in Miami (July 24), and "My Baby Dearest Darling" was a Tip in Cincinnati on (July 31; as was Luther Bond & the Emeralds' "You Were My Love").
On September 1, the Charms recorded a single side at the DeLuxe studios, but it was the one that would take them to the top: "Hearts Of Stone." Syd Nathan, who had been following the progress of the original version released by California's Jewels, picked the song out for them, and set up a special session for them to record it.
A couple of weeks later, on September 13, the Charms had a regular 4-song session, recording "Crazy, Crazy Love" (whose melody seems to have been taken from the Eagles' "Tryin' To Get To You"), "Two Hearts," "When We Get Together," and "Let The Happenings Happen."
"Hearts Of Stone" was paired with "Who Knows" for a September 1954 release. It was reviewed on September 25, along with Joe Turner's "Well All Right," the Quails' "Heaven Is The Place," the Emperors' "I May Be Wrong," and Johnny Oliver's "Sing The Blues." Although "Hearts Of Stone" was only rated "good" by the trades, it shot to the top of the R&B charts in its 19-week run (it also reached #15 on the Pop charts). Actually, when "Hearts Of Stone" first made the charts in October, it was the first national hit for DeLuxe since it had been reactivated. On October 23, it was a Territorial Tip in Atlanta (the same week that the Castelles' "I'm A Fool To Care" was a Tip in Philadelphia).
In November, "Hearts Of Stone" was such a big hit that it engendered at least three Pop covers: the Fontane Sisters (Dot), the Goofers (Coral), and Vicki Young (Capitol). In December, the Charms signed with Shaw Artists Corporation.
The next DeLuxe release was "Two Hearts," backed with the pretty ballad "The First Time We Met" in November 1954; it doesn't seem to have been reviewed.
Also in November, there were two more sessions. On the 18th they recorded "Mambo Sh-Mambo" (which is easier to pronounce if you ignore the hyphen), just in time to catch the wave of the mambo explosion. On the 22nd, they waxed a cover of the Cheers' "Bazoom, I Need Your Lovin'" and a cover of the 5 Keys' "Ling Ting Tong" (another tune requested by Syd Nathan).
In December 1954, DeLuxe released two records by the Charms. The first, "Mambo Sh-Mambo," was paired with "Crazy, Crazy Love." This one doesn't seem to have been reviewed either. The other disc was "Bazoom, I Need Your Lovin'," backed with "Ling Ting Tong."
On December 15, the Charms were brought into the studio to record a single tune: "Boom Diddy Boom."
"Bazoom" and "Ling Ting Tong" both got excellent reviews on December 18, along with the Counts' "Let Me Go Lover," the Sly Fox's "Hoo Doo Say," the Rivileers' "For Sentimental Reasons," the Chordcats' "A Girl To Love," Wynonie Harris' "All She Wants To Do Is Mambo," the Jewels' "Rosalie," and the 5 Scamps' "Red Hot" (an Okeh re-release of their original Columbia recording). "Ling Ting Tong" would ride the charts up to the #5 position (as would the 5 Keys' original version). "Bazoom" would also hit the charts, peaking at #15.
There was another session on January 11, 1955, at which three more songs were recorded: a cover version of Gene & Eunice's "Ko Ko Mo," a cover version of the Robins' "Whadaya Want?", and a second try at "Boom Diddy Boom."
"Ko Ko Mo" and "Whadaya Want?" were issued later in January, just as the Charms were off as part of the "Top 10 Rhythm & Blues Show," produced by Lou Krefetz (manager of the Clovers). Booked by the Shaw Agency, it started out in Norfolk, Virginia on January 28; it would wind down in Buffalo, New York on March 20. The others on the tour were Joe Turner, the Clovers, Faye Adams, Lowell Fulson, Bill Doggett, the Moonglows, the Spence Twins, Al Jackson, and the Paul Williams Orchestra.
"Ko Ko Mo" was reviewed on February 5, 1955, along with the 5 Keys' "Close Your Eyes," the Flamingos' "I'm Yours," the Orioles' "Fair Exchange," the Cadillacs' "No Chance," the Strangers' "Dreams Came True," the 4 Jacks' "Tired Of Your Sexy Ways," the 5 Royales' "You Didn't Learn It At Home," the Thunderbirds' "Pledging My Love," and the Gems' "I Thought You'd Care." A bit later in February, for reasons unknown, DeLuxe pulled "Ko Ko Mo." They reissued "Whadaya Want?" with a new record number and a new flip: a reissue of "Crazy Crazy Love."
Remember when "Two Hearts" was released back in November and not reviewed? Well, by March 5, 1955, it was listed as a "Pick Of The Week" in the trades. All of a sudden, it became a hot tune, so hot in fact that there were covers by Pat Boone, Frank Sinatra & the Nuggets, and Red Foley. (Actually, this was the song that made Pat Boone an idol in Elvis Presley's eyes when they met backstage at a show.)
The record did so well that the Charms were booked into the Apollo Theater the week of March 25. Others on the show were the Chords and Buddy Tate.
In early April 1955, DeLuxe issued "When We Get Together" and "Let The Happenings Happen." They were reviewed on April 23, along with Bip & Bop's "Ding Dong Ding," the Du Droppers' "Give Me Some Consideration," the Dovers' "My Angel," Pearl Reaves' "You Can't Stay Here," Jesse Belvin's "Gone," and the Quails' "The Things She Used To Do."
And now, things get interesting. The Charms were booked into a show in Detroit (probably the May 14 "Command Performance Concert" at the Olympic Arena, a show emceed by Alan Freed, and starring the Penguins, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, and Count Basie). For some reason, Peak, Bradley, Penn, and Parker told Otis that they didn't need him any more and went off without him.
Why would they up and leave him all of a sudden? Could it have had something to do with the March 8 recording session? (What do you mean I never mentioned a March 8 session before?) On that date, bandleader Lucky Millinder recorded some sides for King. Vocalists included Bubber Johnson, Cathy Ryan, and the Admirals. For some reason, one of the songs, "Goody Good Love," was recorded three times, using different vocalists, all backed by the Admirals. One version featured Bubber Johnson, another, Otis Williams, and the third, Earl 'Connelly' King. When the record came out, in May, it was Bubber's version that had made the grade, but it's possible that the Charms found out about the session and figured that it didn't bode well for them. They would have had time to start practicing without Otis, anticipating the day he'd become a soloist or a band singer with Millinder. As it turned out, they were wrong on both counts.
Otis immediately recruited his cousin, baritone Rollie Willis, and put an ad in the local papers to get some more singers. He ended up with tenor Winfred Gerald, tenor/ baritone Lonnie Carter, and bass Matt Williams. They, too, began appearing as the "Charms." At this point the original group sued for the use of the name. We'll see later how that worked out.
Otis and his new group were brought into the studio to do some recording. On April 22, they waxed "Gum Drop," "Miss The Love That I've Been Dreaming Of," "Tell Me Now," and "Save Me, Save Me" (which sounds like a duet lead, but is actually Otis, overdubbed).
There were two releases in May 1955. The first was DeLuxe 6089, two cuts by the original group: "It's You, You, You" and "One Fine Day." The other was DeLuxe 6088, by Otis Williams and his new group: "Miss The Love That I've Been Dreaming Of" and "Tell Me Now." Since there were lawsuits going on, the label couldn't say "The Charms," so, without much thought, it was issued as by "Otis Williams and His New Group." Neither record seems to have been sent out for review.
Also in May, the Charms played the Palm in Miami. It's anyone's guess which Charms, however. On June 8, the Charms (whoever they might have been) were booked into the Figueroa Ballroom in Los Angeles for a week.
In June, DeLuxe released the other two records from the New Group's April session: "Gum Drop" and "Save Me, Save Me." I remember "Gum Drop" getting a lot of play from Alan Freed, but I could swear that the artist credit he gave it was "Otis Williams and the Charms," not the "Otis Williams and His New Group" that was on the label.
Both sides got "good" reviews on June 11, 1955, along with Ray Charles' "This Little Girl Of Mine," Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy," the Voices' "Two Things I Love," the Hearts' "Talk About Him Girlie," the Robins' "I Must Be Dreamin'," the Spiders' "Bells In My Heart," the Miller Sisters' "Hippity Ha," the Medallions' "Edna," and the Casanovas' "Hush-A-Meca." On June 4, the editors of Down Beat Magazine (probably without knowing the internal upheavals going on) named the Charms the "Best R&B Singing Group of 1955."
"Gum Drop," another in a series of hits written by Rudy Toombs, was almost immediately covered by the Crew Cuts on Mercury Records, and that made Syd Nathan mad (they'd already covered "Two Hearts"). Seemingly forgetting the Charms' covers of "Hearts Of Stone," "Ling Ting Tong," "Ko Ko Mo," and "Whadaya Want?" it was reported on August 8 that Nathan refused to grant a license for "Gum Drop." It's not that he could stop them from recording the song, but it meant that Mercury would not only have to pay the full royalty rate (two cents per record sold), but pay it every 30 days instead of every 3 months. As a final insult, Syd re-named the Ray Allen Trio (a white pop group that recorded for King) to "The Gum Drops" and released their version of the song to cut into the Crew Cuts' sales.
On August 27, 1955, "Gum Drop" was a Pick Of The Week, reportedly doing well in Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. While the Crew Cuts would ride "Gum Drop" to the #10 Pop position, the Charms version ended up not charting nationally at all.
"It's You, You, You" finally got reviewed on September 17, along with the Voices' "Hey Now," the Fi-Tones' "Foolish Dreams," the Cashmeres' "Second Hand Heart," and the Colts' "Adorable."
On September 23, the Charms appeared at the Apollo Theater for a week, along with Little Willie John and Champion Jack Dupree.
On October 28, 1955, the Charms returned to the Apollo as part of the "Lucky Seven Blues Show," promoted by Universal Attractions. Others on the bill were Champion Jack Dupree, Earl King, Little Willie John, and the Hal Singer Orchestra. Oh, yes, there was one more act: Marie Knight. For some reason, Jet Magazine reported that Marie Knight and Otis Williams were siblings, a story that has persisted to the present day. Actually, Otis had never met Marie before that show.
After the Apollo, the show went to Pittsburgh (November 4), Cleveland (6), Detroit (7-8), and Indianapolis (9). (The New Group/Charms were quite busy on the 9, during the day they had a recording session, presumably in Cincinnati.) Then it was on to Evansville, Indiana (10) Davenport, Iowa (11), Saginaw, Michigan (12), Toledo (13), Cincinnati (14; you have to wonder why Syd Nathan couldn't have waited a few days to schedule their session), Chattanooga, Tennessee (15), Atlanta (16), Tuskegee, Alabama (17), Jacksonville, Florida (18), Tampa, Florida (19), Miami (20), Durham, North Carolina (22), Roanoke, Virginia (23), Raleigh, North Carolina (24), and a week's stay at the Howard Theater in DC, beginning on the 25th. They then went out west for December and January.
The November 9 session produced "Do Be You," "Rolling Home," "That's Your Mistake," and "Too Late I Learned." The last two were issued about a week later, as the third (and last) record by "Otis Williams and His New Group." The lawsuit was finally settled in Otis' favor, but he allowed the original group to continue to use the name "Charms" also (having confidence that fans would buy records with his lead voice). The DeLuxe group thus became "Otis Williams and the Charms" (occasionally "Otis Williams and His Charms." "That's Your Mistake" was immediately reissued under the Charms name, and eventually reached #14 on the R&B charts.
Meanwhile, things were happening back at King Records. After only a little more than a year, Henry Stone was finding it difficult dealing with Syd Nathan. Consequently, he and King came to a parting of the ways (which was described as "amicable"). Stone and Nathan split up mutually-owned properties, and Stone formed Chart Records in Miami. One of the "mutually-owned properties" that Stone ended up with was Donald Peak, Rolland Bradley, Joe Penn, and Richard Parker: the Charms (including some of their DeLuxe-recorded masters). There's a possibility that Stone's behind-the-scenes scheming was responsible for the break-up of the original group, but nothing I can exactly put my finger on; however, Otis does agree with the idea.
In November, Chart released "Love, Love, Stick Stov," backed with "Love's Our Inspiration" by the Charms. Now there were two records, by two different Charms groups, on two different labels. The disc was reviewed on December 17, along with Clyde McPhatter's "Seven Days," B.B. King's "Sixteen Tons," the Danderliers' "May God Be With You," the Solitaires' "Magic Rose," Billy Nelson & the 5 Wings' "Pack, Shack And Stack," the 5 Pennies' "Mr. Moon," the Scamps' "Waterproof," and the Cats' "You're So Nice."
In December 1955, DeLuxe released "Rolling Home" and "Do Be You," but the record doesn't seem to have been reviewed. Sometime around the end of the year, the Charms first EP was issued; it contained "That's Your Mistake," "Too Late I Learned," "Miss The Love That I've Been Dreaming Of," and "Gum Drop."
In January 1956, the Charms (presumably the Chart group) appeared in Virginia (Richmond, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Newport News) with Choker Campbell, Donna Hightower, and Chuck Willis. On January 20, they played the Howard Theater in DC with Donna Hightower, the Heartbeats, and Nolan Lewis.
In February, Chart released its second Charms record: "Heart Of A Rose" and "I Offer You." Long considered to be old DeLuxe masters that Henry Stone had taken with him, they aren't. After hearing all the Chart sides, Otis says he's not on "Love, Love, Stick Stov," "Love's Our Inspiration," "Heart Of A Rose," or "I Offer You."
Meanwhile, Otis' Charms were appearing at the Savoy Ballroom in Los Angeles with Marie Knight and Champion Jack Dupree (with Charles Trammell as emcee). Then it was on to Detroit, where they appeared with Sonny Til's New Orioles, the Flamingos, Dakota Staton, Nolan Lewis, and the T.J. Fowler Band.
On February 29, 1956, they went back to the DeLuxe studios to cut "Ivory Tower" and "In Paradise." The former was a cover of the Cathy Carr pop tune; the latter a cover of the Cookies' R&B etching.
"Heart Of A Rose" was reviewed on March 3, along with the Spaniels' "False Love," the Heartbeats' "Darling How Long," the Dells' "Dreams Of Contentment," the Avalons' "Chains Around My Heart," the Cookies' "In Paradise," Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers' "Try Rock And Roll," the Daps' "When You're Alone," and the Champions' "Mexico Bound."
On March 8, the Charms were back in the studio to record "One Night Only" and "It's All Over."
"Ivory Tower" was given a "good" review on March 17, along with Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," the Turks' "I'm A Fool," the Midnighters' "Open Up The Back Door," the Pipes' "Be Fair," the 5 Notes' "Park Your Love," the Barons' "Cryin' For You Baby," and the Carpets' "Why Do I." On March 31, "Ivory Tower" was a Pick Of The Week. It would eventually rise to #5 on the R&B charts (and #11 on Pop, where Cathy Carr's version went to #2).
On May 4, the Charms returned to the Apollo, this time appearing with Dinah Washington and the Joe Loco Orchestra.
Also in May 1956, DeLuxe issued "One Night Only," backed with "It's All Over." "One Night Only" was another of those songs that never became a hit in spite of all the airplay that Alan Freed gave it; I remember it being one of my favorites at the time. It got an excellent review on June 2, along with the Preludes' "Don't Fall In Love Too Soon," the Dappers' "Unwanted Love," the 4 Tops' "Kiss Me Baby," Lee Andrews & the Hearts' "Show Me The Merengue," and the Sonnets' "Why Should We Break Up." Also in June, the Charms appeared at the Colonial Theater in Milwaukee along with the Magnificents.
Want to get really confused? July saw Chart Records release "I'll Be True" and "Boom Diddy Boom Boom." Both of these were old DeLuxe masters featuring Otis Williams. "I'll Be True" was originally titled "It's Only You" when it was recorded on May 24, 1954; "Boom Diddy Boom Boom" was, of course, originally "Boom Diddy Boom" (when it was recorded on January 11, 1955). The Chart Charms were never heard from again; it's unknown how much longer they existed.
On July 26, it was back to the studio to record four more tunes: "I'd Like To Thank You Mr. D.J.," "Whirlwind," "Gypsy Lady," and "Creation Of Love." It's this last song that's another of life's mysteries. Written by Richard Barrett (lead of the Valentines), it was recorded by Frankie Lymon (but not with the Teenagers, as it says on the label). However, the Charms' version wasn't a cover, but the original recording of the song (it was cut a year before Frankie Lymon went into the studio with it). How a song by Richard Barrett (from New York and learning the recording business from George Goldner at the time) found its way out to Syd Nathan in the Midwest is anyone's guess! Unfortunately, although it's Otis' favorite Charms song, he has no memory of how the Charms came to record it.
The very next day, the Charms recorded another four songs: "Pardon Me," "Blues Stay Away From Me" (which had been a 1949 hit for Owen Bradley), "I'm Waiting Just For You," and "I'll Remember You." Now DeLuxe had a nice storehouse of recordings to draw on.
Sometime in mid-1956, bass Matt Williams left to get married. Otis replaced him with Chuck Barksdale, who had been the bass of the Dells and, at this particular time, was working as the valet for the Moonglows (with whom he'd sing in the late 50s). Barksdale was in and out of the Dells a lot over the years, singing with the Charms, the Moonglows and, in the 60s, D's Gentlemen (a group that toured with Dinah Washington).
"I'd Like To Thank You Mr. D.J." was released in September 1956, backed with "Whirlwind." It was reviewed on September 15 (with "Whirlwind" rated "excellent"), along with Clyde McPhatter's "Thirty Days," the Platters' "It Isn't Right," the Six Teens' "Afar Into The Night," the Delegates' "The Convention," the Dells' "Oh What A Night," Charlie & Ray's "Mad With You Baby," the Chestnuts' "Forever I Vow," the Victorials' "Prettiest Girl In The World" (remember, they're the Emeralds, without Luther Bond), and the Flannels' "Hey Rube."
In October, DeLuxe released "Gypsy Lady," backed with "I'll Remember You." "Gypsy Lady" was rated "excellent" on November 10, along with Lavern Baker's "Jim Dandy," the Willows' "This Is The End," Johnnie & Joe's "I'll Be Spinning," the Cadets' "I'll Be Spinning," the Avalons' "It's Funny But It's True," and the Gardenias' "Flaming Love."
After only a few months with the Charms, bass Chuck Barksdale returned to the Dells; he was replaced by Bill Caffey, a jazz singer from Cincinnati.
In December 1956, DeLuxe issued "Blues Stay Away From Me," coupled with "Pardon Me." The record was reviewed on December 29, along with Joe Turner's "Midnight Special Train," the Teardrops' "I Prayed For Love," the Orioles' "For All We Know," the Ravens' "A Simple Prayer," Romaine Brown's "Hold 'Em Joe," the Ramblers' "The Heaven And The Earth," and the Hepsters' "This-A-Way."
The next Charms session was held on February 13, 1957, when they recorded: "Walkin' After Midnight" (a cover of the Patsy Cline hit), "No Got De Woman," "Nowhere On Earth," and "Friends Call Me A Fool."
DeLuxe released "Walkin' After Midnight" and "I'm Waiting Just For You" in February, 1957. It was reviewed on March 2, along with the Platters' "I'm Sorry," Little Richard's "Lucille," the Hurricanes' "Fallen Angel," and Jimmy Ricks' "Bad Man Of Missouri."
On May 1, 1957, the Charms were back in the studio recording "Talking To Myself," "Don't Deny Me," "One Kind Word From You," and "Dynamite Darling."
Also in May, DeLuxe issued two Charms records. The first was "No Got De Woman," coupled with "Nowhere On Earth." The other was "Talking To Myself," backed with "One Kind Word From You." The first of these was reviewed on May 13, along with the Clovers' "So Young," the Willows' "The First Taste Of Love," the Rays' "My Steady Girl," Louis Jordan's "Fire," the Spaniels' "Everyone's Laughing," the Love Notes' "United," the Chestnuts' "Who Knows Better Than I," the Ebbtones' "Danny's Blues," and the Diablos' "Can't We Talk This Over."
On May 18, the Charms appeared at the Syria Mosque Theater in Pittsburgh along with Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, George Hamilton IV, the Moonglows, the Clovers, Bo Diddley, the G-Clefs, and Johnnie & Joe.
It was back to the studios on June 6, 1957, when the Charms laid down "United" (a cover of the Lovenotes' tune, led by Lonnie Carter), "Well, Oh Well," "Could This Be Magic" (covering the Dubs), and "Oh Julie" (covering the Crescendos). "United" was issued the same month, backed with "Don't Deny Me." It got an excellent review on July 7, along with Frankie Lymon's "Goody, Goody" (the flip of which was that pesky "Creation Of Love"), the Tunedrops' "It Took A Long Time," and the Scholars' "I Didn't Want To Do It." "United" was to be the Charms' last chart hit, reaching #5 (R&B).
On July 19, 1957, the Charms made another appearance at the Apollo Theater, this time with Shirley & Lee, Huey Smith & the Clowns, and Solomon Burke.
The Charms did a little backup work, too. There was a session behind Tiny Topsy held on July 9, at which they backed her on "Aw Shucks, Baby." It was released that same month (with no mention of the Charms on the label); the flip ("Miss You So") has no group. Both sides of the record got "excellent" reviews on July 29, along with Lavern Baker's "Humpty Dumpty Heart," Bobby Bland's "Further Up The Road," Chuck Carbo's "Poor Boy," the Medallions' "For Better Or Worse," the 5 Chances' "Tell Me Why," Doc Bagby's "Dumplins," and the Uniques' "Somewhere."
"Talking To Myself" (which had been released in May) got an "excellent" review on September 2, 1957, along with the Channels' "That's My Desire," the Gladiolas' "I Wanna Know," the Drivers' "Blue Moon," the Velvetones' "I Found My Love," and the Empires' "If I'm A Fool."
That same month, DeLuxe released "Dynamite Darling" and "Well Oh Well." The record was reviewed on November 11, along with the Dells' "Pain In My Heart," the Drifters' "I Know," Dee Clark's "24 Boy Friends," and Noble Watts' "Hard Times (The Slop)."
There was another session backing up Tiny Topsy on October 2. This time they did "Come On, Come On, Come On" and "Ring Around My Finger." The songs were released that same month, and this time, the Charms got label credit. They were reviewed (both "fair") on October 28, along with the Cellos' "The Be-Bop Mouse," the King Bees' "Lovely Love," and Big Al Sears' "Chicken Walk."
The last Charms session of 1957 was held on December 18. It gave us "Let Some Love In Your Heart" and "Baby-O." To try an experiment with the harmony, Otis added Myrna Howard on "Let Some Love In Your Heart." She was a gospel singer who lived in Otis' building; he doesn't remember if she was on "Baby-O."
That same month DeLuxe released "Could This Be Magic," backed with "Oh Julie." This was somewhat odd, since the songs, both of which were intended as covers, had been recorded six months before. By now, the momentum for the tunes had come to an end. Nevertheless, both sides were ranked "good" on December 30, along with Jesse Belvin's "My Satellite," the Penguins' "Be My Lovin' Baby," the Monitors' "Closer To Heaven," the Kuf-Linx' "So Tough," and the Rajahs' "Shifting Sands."
In February 1958, DeLuxe issued "Let Some Love In Your Heart," paired with "Baby-O." Both sides were ranked "good" on February 24, along with Billy Bland's "Chicken Hop," the Clovers' "Wishing For Your Love," and the Chandeliers' "Blueberry Sweet."
Almost half a year had gone by since the Charms' last session. Then on May 23, 1958, they recorded "Red Hot Love (Oo This Love)," "The First Sign Of Love," and "Burnin' Lips." That same month, DeLuxe released "Red Hot Love" backed with "Burnin' Lips." These were reviewed on June 9, along with Bobby Hendricks' "Itchy Twichy Feeling," the Shirelles' "Love Is A Charm," the Edsels' "Lama Rama Ding Dong," the Chandeliers' "Dolly," and the Falcons' "This Heart Of Mine."
On August 25, 1958, the Charms recorded the Coaster-ish "Don't Wake Up The Kids" (with Otis overdubbing his voice for the duet lead), "You'll Remain Forever," "So Be It," and "Pretty Little Things Called Girls." (This were probably the songs that the trades reported Otis cutting before going off to military service. However, Otis managed to get a series of deferments, and didn't go until 1960.) "Don't Wake Up The Kids" and "You'll Remain Forever" were released in September, and reviewed on September 15, along with the Danleers' "My Flaming Heart," Clyde McPhatter's "A Lover's Question," Eugene Church's "Pretty Girls Everywhere," the Robins' "A Quarter To Twelve," and the Sedates' "I Found."
On October 12, it was back to the studio to record "The Secret," "Welcome Home" (an Otis Williams solo), and "My Friends" (the old Strangers song).
Here's another mystery: "Nine More Miles" (a cover of Georgie Young's minor Cameo hit) was assigned a master number in the middle of the October 12 Charms session. It was released later that month as by the "Checkers," and had, as its flip, a remake of the Charms' first recording, "Heaven Only Knows." However, after listening to the songs, Otis says he and the Charms had nothing to do with them and the Checkers themselves had broken up over three years previously, so the actual artists remain unknown.
"The Secret," backed with "My Friends" was released in October 1958 and reviewed on October 27. Other reviews that week went to Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock And Roller," the Imperials' "So Much," Fats Domino's "Whole Lotta Loving," the Cadillacs' "Peek-A-Boo," Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," and the Flamingos' "Lovers Never Say Goodbye."
In December, DeLuxe released "Pretty Little Things Called Girls" and "Welcome Home" (which had no group behind Otis). It was reviewed on February 9, 1959, along with the Flamingos' "But Not For Me," the Titans' "No Time," the Heartbeats' "One Million Years," Sheriff & the Ravels' "Shombalor," Joe Medlin's "I Kneel At Your Throne," Sammy Turner's "Sweet Annie Laurie," and the Diablos' "I Am With You."
Speaking of the Checkers, at the Charms' next session (held on March 6, 1959), they recorded "My Prayer Tonight," which had originally been cut by John Carnegie and the Checkers back in June 1952. The other tune done that day was "Watch Dog." They were both released later that month and reviewed on March 23. Other reviews that week were for the Pearls' "Ugly Face," the Cubans' "You've Been Gone So Long," the Impressions' "Lovely One," and Priscilla Bowman's "A Rockin' Good Way."
The Charms' next studio date was on March 18, 1959, at which time they laid down "Funny What True Love Can Do," "Tears Of Happiness," and "I Knew It All The Time." The second two were issued in April, and reviewed on the 27th of that month, along with Fats Domino's "Margie," the Eastmen's "Lover Come Home," Bobby Lester's "Am I The Man," and the Fashions' "I Am Dreaming Of You."
Soon after this, tenor/baritone Lonnie Carter and tenor Winfred Gerald left the Charms and started their own group, called the Escos. The others were George Carter (possibly related to Lonnie) and Wilbert Bell. Sometime in June 1959, they recorded "Chick-A-Dee" and "I'm Lonesome For You," which were released on Eve Dodds' Esta label (out of Hamilton, Ohio) in July.
This left Otis with baritone Rollie Willis (his cousin) and bass Bill Caffey. From then on, Otis used pick-up singers to round out the group, and he doesn't really remember any of them.
In July 1959, King released two old masters ("In Paradise" and "Who Knows"); they were given new King master numbers. They also took "Blues Stay Away From Me," which had been recorded in July 1956, and did an overdubbing job on it (as well as giving it a new DeLuxe master number). It, too, was issued in July, backed with "Funny What True Love Can Do." This record was reviewed on July 13, along with Fats Domino's "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday," Lavern Baker's "So High, So Low," the Olympics' "(Baby) Hully Gully," and the Cadillacs' "Romeo." These were the last Charms records released on DeLuxe; the Charms were now switched over to the parent King label.
On July 20, "In Paradise" was reviewed, along with the Fiestas' "Our Anniversary," the Imperials' "I'm Alright," and the Flamingos' "Jerri-Lee."
The Charms' next session was held on January 10, 1960. The four tracks laid down were: "Silver Star," "Chief Um (Take It Easy)," "Rickety Rickshaw Man," and "It's A Treat." King released "Chief Um" and "It's A Treat" in February 1960; "Rickety Rickshaw Man," coupled with "Silver Star" came out in March.
Probably the last session by the Charms was held on June 13, 1960, when they recorded: "Image Of A Girl" (a cover of the Safaris' hit) and "Wait A Minute Baby." Ten days later, after a series of deferments, Otis finally went into the Army; the two songs were released later in June. (Although many subsequent records had a group on them, they weren't the Charms; Otis would never again record with them. In fact, several subsequent records were released with only Otis' name on them.)
With Otis Williams in the Army, Syd Nathan got the Escos (which contained Lonnie Carter and Winfred Gerald, two recent members of the Charms) to record for him (their records were released on Federal). An August 20, 1960 session produced "Diamonds And Pearls" and "We Dance." The sides were issued that same month.
Also in August, King released "The First Sign Of Love" and "So Be It," two Charms songs that had been recorded back in 1958.
Whenever Otis was home on leave, Syd Nathan would sneak him into the studio. On September 12, 1960, Otis recorded "And Take My Love" and "Unchain My Heart" (a cover of the Ray Charles tune). Three days later, he waxed three more songs: "So Can I," "Just Forget About Me," and "Wait." "And Take My Love," backed with "Wait," was released in November.
On January 8, 1961, Otis recorded "You Know How Much I Care" and "Little Turtle Dove." "Little Turtle Dove" was paired with "So Can I" for a February 1961 release.
In May, King issued "Just Forget About Me" and "You Know How Much I Care," as by "Otis Williams" (they have a backup group, but it isn't the Charms).
The Escos had their second Federal session on June 29, 1961. This produced "Golden Rule Of Love" and "Watcha Bet." These were released in July.
Otis' next session was held on July 17, 1961. He only recorded a single track: "Panic." It was released in August, backed with "Pardon Me," which had been recorded back in 1956!
On September 19, 1961, Otis was in the studio again, recording remakes of "The Secret" and "Two Hearts"; they were released later that month.
The Escos were back on November 22, 1961, recording "Yes, I Need Someone" and a tribute to another of Syd's artists: "Thank You Mr. Ballard (For Creating The Twist)." Both tunes were issued the following month.
Sometime in July 1962, just after he was discharged from the service, Otis recorded "Only Young Once" (a solo) and a remake of "When We Get Together" (with a studio group). They were issued in August, as by "Otis Williams."
Meanwhile, the Escos went for almost two years without recording. Their final Federal session was held on April 18, 1963, at which time they recorded two more songs: "Shame, Shame, Shame" and "That's Life" (not the Frank Sinatra song). Both of these were released in May.
Otis Williams' last session for Syd Nathan was held over ten years after his first—on September 4, 1963. The final two songs were "It Just Ain't Right" and the prophetic "It'll Never Happen Again." They were issued that same month. The label credits "Otis Williams" and, as an afterthought, "vocal group."
After this, Otis lost interest for a while and got his contract back from Syd Nathan. He did no further recording for almost two years (attending barber school), until signing with Okeh in 1965.
King released one more Otis Williams record, in April 1964: "Friends Call Me A Fool," backed with "Unchain My Heart." The former side was from 1957, the latter from 1960; clearly Syd was trying to clean out his inventory! Although the label only credits "Otis Williams," the Charms are on "Friends Call Me A Fool" (the flip had been done with a studio group).
Otis Williams' first Okeh session was held on April 7, 1965. Turning to soul singing, he recorded "Baby, You Turn Me On," "Love Don't Grow On Trees," "Welcome Home" (a song he'd done for DeLuxe), and "Gotta Get Myself Together." These were done as solos (as were all his Okeh recordings), but Okeh dubbed in three other singers (identified as A. Alsup, E. Frierson, and F. Waters) and released all the records as by "Otis Williams and the Charms."
The first Okeh release was "Baby, You Turn Me On," coupled with "Love Don't Grow On Trees," in June 1965.
The second Okeh session was held on October 28, 1965, when he recorded: "I Got Loving," "Save Your Love For Me," "I Fall To Pieces" (another Patsy Cline tune), and "Don't Mess With My Stuff."
In December, 1965, Okeh put out "I Fall To Pieces," backed with "Gotta Get Myself Together." Then, in May 1966, there was "Welcome Home," paired with "I Got Loving."
Otis' last session for Okeh was held on August 5, 1966; the three songs he recorded were: "Ain't Gonna Walk Your Dog No More," "Your Sweet Love (Rained All Over Me)," and "As Long As You're Loving Me." The first two were issued, as his last Okeh record, in October 1966. All of Otis' Okeh sessions were held in Nashville.
After that, Otis went to work as a barber in Cincinnati. After a few years of that, he was contacted by Jimmy Key, owner of the Key Talent Agency in Nashville to work there as a booking agent (for Country & Western acts) and as a talent scout (for R&B acts). Otis, tired of cutting hair by then, picked up and relocated to Nashville in 1969, where he shared an office with Tom T. Hall (who was the talent scout for Country & Western acts).
While he was at Key Talent, Pete Drake (owner of Stop Records) came by and convinced Otis to do some more recording. Securing a release from Columbia His initial recordings for Stop were as "Otis Williams and the Charms" (with a dubbed-in backup group called the Endeavors) including a remake of "Ling Ting Tong." There was also a 1970 LP on Stop: The Greatest Hits Of Otis Williams.
The Endeavors were a Cincinnati group that Otis had worked with in the past. They were a show band with both musicians and singers: Eugene Scott (bassist), Jerry Middleton (guitar), Michael Carr (drums), Mike Peterson (horns), Louis McQueen (singer), and Benny Wallace (singer). Otis brought them to Nashville in order to book them with Key and record them for Stop.
While nothing much happened with the Stop releases, Pete Drake made a bet with someone that Otis could record a country album that would sell. Otis went along with it and recorded a dozen country songs, using some of the best musicians in Nashville for the sessions. As was the case with his R&B tunes, the session was produced by Pete Drake and recorded by Elvis Presley's old guitarist, Scotty Moore. (D.J. Fontana, Elvis' drummer, was on them too.)
When the country sides were completed, Stop was unhappy with some of the results. So they took the Endeavors and re-did some of the background instrumentation. While the Endeavors weren't on much of the album, someone thought it would be a great publicity stunt to have them pictured as the "Midnight Cowboys" (named after the recent movie). The company even got them western outfits for some photos (in which Louis McQueen was handed a fiddle to pose with, and Benny Wallace a steel guitar). The liner notes were pure invention, including "Otis formed an all-black country band…." The result of all this was a 1971 album called "Otis Williams and the Midnight Cowboys" on Stop (which was distributed by Scepter).
While the album did sell, Otis only did a single country date (in Indiana), which didn't even have the "Midnight Cowboys." (The Endeavors did end up recording, as themselves, for Stop.)
Considering the way Syd Nathan was with royalties (or "wasn't," to be more accurate), it's amazing that his acts stuck with him for so long. The Midnighters always seemed to be recording for him, James Brown too. And then there was Otis Williams, a fixture at King for about ten years.
As part of his varied careers (singer, barber, booking agent, talent scout, and ersatz C&W star), until recently, Otis owned the "1st Note Cafe" in Cincinnati.
Otis really wanted to be a ball player. Originally into football, he wanted to quit singing and go to Ohio State to play, but Syd Nathan talked him out of it. Nathan also talked him out of baseball, when Otis tried out for the Cincinnati Reds (at the same time as Pete Rose). Fortunately, he has no regrets. Neither do we.
Special thanks to Ferdie Gonzalez, Victor Pearlin, Tony Tisovec, Neil Pellegrin, and Phil Milstein. Ads are from Galen Gart's First Pressings series.
ROCKIN' (THE CHARMS)
516 Heaven Only Knows/Loving Baby — 07/53
DELUXE (THE CHARMS)
6000 Heaven Only Knows/Loving Baby — 9/53
6014 Happy Are We/What Do You Know About That — 10/53
6034 Bye-Bye Baby/Please Believe In Me — l/54
6050 Fifty-Five Seconds/Quiet Please — 4/54
6056 My Baby Dearest Darling/Come To Me Baby — 6/54
6062 Who Knows/Hearts Of Stone — 9/54
6065 Two Hearts/The First Time We Met — 11/54
6072 Mambo Sh-Mambo/Crazy, Crazy Love — 12/54
6076 Bazoom I Need Your Lovin'/Ling, Ting, Tong — 12/54
6080 Whadaya Want?/Ko Ko Mo — 1/55
6082 Whadaya Want?/Crazy, Crazy Love — 2/55
6087 When We Get Together/Let The Happenings Happen — 4/55
6089 It's You, You, You/One Fine Day — 5/55
DELUXE (OTIS WILLIAMS & HIS NEW GROUP)
6088 Miss The Love That I've Been Dreaming Of/Tell Me Now — 5/55
6090 Gum Drop/Save Me, Save Me — 6/55
6091 That's Your Mistake/Too Late I Learned — 11/55
DELUXE (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
6091 That's Your Mistake/Too Late I Learned [re-released] — 11/55
6092 Rolling Home/Do Be You — 12/55
6093 Ivory Tower/In Paradise — 3/56
6095 One Night Only/It's All Over — 5/56
CHART (THE CHARMS - DELUXE MASTERS)
623 I'll Be True/Boom Diddy Boom Boom — 7/56
DELUXE (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
6097 I'd Like To Thank You Mr. D.J./Whirlwind — 9/56
6098 Gypsy Lady/I'll Remember You — 10/56
6105 Blues Stay Away From Me/Pardon Me — 12/56
6115 Walkin' After Midnight/I'm Waiting Just For You — 2/57
6130 No Got De Woman/Nowhere On Earth — 5/57
6137 Talking To Myself/One Kind Word From You — 5/57
6138 United (lead: Lonnie Carter)/Don't Deny Me — 6/57
FEDERAL (TINY TOPSY & THE (UNCREDITED) CHARMS)
12302 Aw Shucks, Baby/[Miss You So - no group] — 7/57
DELUXE (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
6149 Dynamite Darling/Well Oh Well — 9/57
FEDERAL (TINY TOPSY & THE CHARMS)
12309 Come On, Come On, Come On/Ring Around My Finger — 10/57
DELUXE (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
6158 Could This Be Magic/Oh Julie — 12/57
6160 Let Some Love In Your Heart/Baby-O — 2/58
6165 Burnin' Lips/Red Hot Love (Oo This Love) — 5/58
6174 Don't Wake Up The Kids/You'll Remain Forever — 9/58
6178 My Friends/The Secret — 10/58
6181 Pretty Little Things Called Girls/Welcome Home [no group] — 12/58
6183 My Prayer Tonight/Watch Dog — 3/59
6185 I Knew It All The Time/Tears Of Happiness — 4/59
6186 In Paradise/Who Knows — 7/59
[two old masters given new master numbers]
6187 Blues Stay Away From Me (old master, with overdubbing)/Funny What True Love Can Do — 7/59
KING (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
5323 Chief Um (Take It Easy)/It's A Treat — 2/60
5332 Rickety Rickshaw Man/Silver Star — 3/60
5372 Image Of A Girl/Wait A Minute Baby — 6/60
5389 The First Sign Of Love/So Be It — 8/60
5421 And Take My Love/Wait — 11/60
5455 Little Turtle Dove/So Can I — 2/61
5497 Just Forget About Me/You Know How Much I Care [both as by Otis Williams] — 5/61
5527 Pardon Me/Panic — 8/61
5558 Two Hearts/The Secret — 9/61
5682 When We Get Together [as by Otis Williams]/Only Young Once [solo] — 8/62
5816 It'll Never Happen Again/It Just Ain't Right — 9/63
5880 Friends Call Me A Fool/Unchain My Heart [both as by Otis Williams] — 4/64
It's Only You (on Chart as "I'll Be True")
This Love Of Mine
Boom Diddy Boom
Boom Diddy Boom (on Chart as "Boom Diddy Boom Boom")
Creation Of Love
357 Hits By The Charms — 1955
Hearts Of Stone, Ling Ting Tong, Crazy Crazy Love, Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin')
364 The Charms - Volume 2 — 1955
Two Hearts, Ko Ko Mo, Whadaya Want?, What Do You Know About That
385 Otis Williams And His Charms — 1956
Gum Drop, Miss The Love, Too Late I Learned, That's Your Mistake
570 Otis Williams and the Charms Sing Their All-Time Hits — early 1957
Hearts Of Stone, Bazoom (I Need Your Loving), Ivory Tower,
Ko Ko Mo, Friends Call Me A Fool, Gum Drop, Ling Ting Tong,
Walking After Midnight, Creation Of Love, That's Your Mistake,
Pardon Me, Two Hearts (re-released as King 570)
614 This Is Otis Williams - Otis Williams and His Charms — early 1959
Don't Wake Up The Kids, Could This Be Magic, Dynamite Darling,
Let Some Love In Your Heart, Whirlwind, Gypsy Lady, Don't Deny Me,
United, Burnin' Lips, Oh Julie, Red Hot Love, My Friends,
Miss The Love (That I've Been Dreaming Of), Blues Stay Away From Me,
I'll Remember You, I'm Waiting Just For You
OKEH (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS [solos, with an overdubbed studio group])
4-7225 Baby, You Turn Me On/Love Don't Grow On Trees — 6/65
4-7235 I Fall To Pieces/Gotta Get Myself Together — 12/65
4-7248 Welcome Home/I Got Loving — 5/66
4-7261 Ain't Gonna Walk Your Dog No More/Your Sweet Love (Rained All Over Me) — 10/66
Save Your Love For Me
Don't Mess With My Stuff
As Long As You're Loving Me
STOP (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS [solos, with the Endeavors overdubbed])
306 Begging To You/Everybody's Got A Song But Me — 1969
346 Make A Woman Feel Like A Woman/Jesus Is A Soul Man — 1969
360 Ling Ting Tong/For The Love Of My Woman — 1969
STOP (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE CHARMS)
STLP 1012 The Greatest Hits Of Otis Williams — 1970
Jesus Is A Soul Man
Could This Be Magic
It's Your Thing
For The Love Of My Woman
Ling, Ting, Tong [sic]
Hearts Made Of Stone [sic]
Two Hearts, Two Kisses
To Make A Woman Feel Like A Woman
STOP (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE MIDNIGHT COWBOYS)
388 I Wanna Go Country/Rocky Top — 1971
STOP (OTIS WILLIAMS & THE MIDNIGHT COWBOYS)
STLP 1022 Otis Williams & the Midnight Cowboys — early 1971
I Wanna Go Country
For The Good Times
Do It To Someone You Love
The Easy Part's Over
Mule Skinner Blues
Shutters And Boards
I Know One
How I Got To Memphis
Is Anyone Goin' To San Antone
Wonder Could I Live There Anymore
608 Love, Love, Stick Stov/Love's Our Inspiration — 11/55
613 Heart Of A Rose/I Offer You — 2/56
100 Chick-A-Dee/I'm Lonesome For You — 7/59
12380 Diamonds And Pearls/We Dance — 8/60
12430 Golden Rule Of Love/Watcha Bet — 7/61
12445 Thank You Mr. Ballard (For Creating The Twist)/Yes, I Need Someone — 12/61
12493 Shame Shame Shame/That's Life — 5/63