The Concords are fondly remembered for the collector classic "Candlelight". There was only the single record (plus some backup work) and then they disbanded. At that, they were luckier than most of the groups in the 50s, almost none of whom ever recorded.
The Concords first got together in 1952. They all lived in Harlem, but attended Seward Park High School in the Delancey Street area of Manhattan's Lower East Side. School was the focal point of their singing activity and they would get together in the halls or lunchroom to develop and perfect their style. Additionally, they got to sing on the long subway ride to and from the school.
The members of the Concords were Milton Love (lead tenor), Joe Willis (first tenor and baritone), Bob Thompson (second tenor), and Jimmy Hunter (bass).
They admired the Cadillacs and the Harptones, two other groups who were just beginning their careers at the time. The Concords would sing the Cadillacs' "Gloria" in school, on subways, and on street corners.
Eventually, they hooked up with Morty Shad, who became their manager. Morty had been the sales manager for the National, Continental, and Lenox record companies, and would own (or be an executive at) Sittin' In With, Dale, Harlem, and Jax. (His brother, Bob, was also all over the recording industry. He was, or would be, an A&R man at Decca, National, Mercury, and Wing. He also owned or ran Sittin' In With, Jade, Jax, Shad, Brent, and Time.) Sometime in late 1954, the Concords recorded "Candlelight" and "Monticello" (two tunes Milton Love wrote and led) for Morty Shad's Harlem label (located at 774 10th Avenue). The disc was released around December.
Enter Pearl Reaves, a singer originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, who had moved to Rahway, New Jersey in the late 40s. After winning some local talent shows, she started singing at the Palace Blue Room, owned by bandleader/drummer Paul Farano. She not only sang, but played guitar with the Paul Farano Trio there for two years (and ended up marrying Farano).
In early 1955, Morty Shad had Pearl Reaves do a couple of songs for Harlem, and used the Concords to back her up. The result is the great up-tempo "You Can't Stay Here" (aka "Step It Up And Go") and "I'm Not Ashamed", wherein Pearl talks about being an "ugly woman". This one was released in April 1955. [Considering what a wonderful voice Pearl had, she mostly limited her career to singing with her husband's band. There are some other records, on the couple's own Pearlsfar label, including two with the same record number, but with a gap of 14 years between them. On these, her name is spelled both "Reaves" and "Reeves" (see discography).]
Both records were reviewed in April 1955. On April 16, "Candlelight" and "Monticello" were ranked "fair". Other reviews that week went to Lavern Baker's "Bop-Ting-A-Ling", Christine Kittrell's "Call His Name" (with Little Richard in the background), the Spiders' "Am I The One", and the 5 Echoes' "I Really Do". Both sides of the Pearl Reaves record were rated "good" on April 23, along with Bip & Bop's "Ding Dong Ding", the Du Droppers' "Talk That Talk", the Charms' "When We Get Together", the Dovers' "My Angel", Jesse Belvin's "Gone", and the Quails' "The Things She Used To Do".
However, the Concords were almost history. Herman Curtis, lead of the Solitaires, had been drafted and Monte Owens (their guitarist) brought Milton Love to the audition, held around May 1955. Pat Gaston, Solitaires' bass, said that when the group heard Milton they sent all the other applicants home without even listening to them. As far as is known, no other members of the Concords ever sang with any other groups.
The experience Milton Love gained with the Concords served as the springboard for his long career with the Solitaires (he's first heard on "The Wedding", in a duet lead with Bobby Baylor). Milton sings with them to this day.
And that's the story of the Concords. Short and sweet. Only one record, really, but it's a great one.
Special thanks to Marc Coulavin.
2328 Monticello/Candlelight - late 54
2332 You Can't Stay Here/I'm Not Ashamed - 4/55 (Pearl Reaves & Concords)
PEARLSFAR (all say "Reaves," except the second 101, which says "Reeves")
101 He's Gone/[Guitfiddle - Paul Farano Trio] - 58
102 I Want You To Love Me/Forty Long Years - 58
103 High Noon/King Kong Sweet - ??
106 Something/Come On - ??
107 Rock & Roll Shimmy Shimmy Partner/Mama Give Me Your Permission
(by Sweet Daddy Siki, Pearl Reaves With Paul Farano Trio)
108 How Can I Tell/Change Me - 7/66
(background by "Tracy & the Tracynettes")
101 Cool With A Groove/Same Old Love - ca 12/70
(Pearl Reeves with Father Time and the Tic Tocs [the Paul Farano Trio])