Quick, name a group that called themselves "Do Ray And Me," "The Do Ray Me Trio," "Do-Ray-Me," "The Do-Re-Me Trio," "The Do Re Mi Trio," "The Do Re Me Trio," and "The Do-Ray-Mi Trio." If you guessed "The Crew Cuts," you really need to get out more.
The close of the Second World War saw the recording industry eagerly planning for expansion. Traditional recording studio locations in New York and Chicago were being augmented by the opening of West Coast studios, as the country came alive with new independent labels (the "indies").
The reasons for this rapid development are varied: depression conditions had been eased, and large-scale investment was feasible again; equally important was the role of Hollywood, as America's movie capital, which brought entertainers out West in droves. Also, wartime rationing of shellac had ended and there was enough for everyone.
That was only the tip of the iceberg, however. A soldier named Jack Mullin, with a background in electronics, had located some high-quality Magnetophons (tape recorders) in a German radio station right after the war. Taking two of them apart, he shipped them back to the U.S., along with photographic copies of all their manuals. After he'd reassembled them, he gave a demonstration in San Francisco and the Ampex Corporation decided to manufacture them, beginning in mid-1947. The result was, that with relatively inexpensive and extremely high-quality recording machines, it was now possible for small independent labels to spring up all over.
Music after the war was changing, too. Drawing heavily from big band and swing-styled arrangements, small vocal/instrumental combos like the King Cole Trio and the Three Blazers were setting the trend for others to follow. In addition to a lead vocal and occasional harmony, such self-contained units featured piano, guitar, bass, and perhaps drums. These groups found audiences in supper clubs and nightspots.
Wilbert Allen "Al" Russell, born October 18, 1921, had started out on piano in the eighth grade, and, following his graduation from high school he toured for a while with his brother, bandleader Isaac "Snookum" Russell. He then did radio shows on WCOS in his home town of Columbia, South Carolina. It was here that he met guitarist Joel Cowan (who was in college at the time) and the two of them played together in a band.
Around 1942, he was staying at a YMCA in Washington, D.C., awaiting the possibility of a job as a page in the U.S. Senate. Fooling around on the piano at the Y, he was overheard by two musicians, who asked if he wanted to join them. It's unknown just who these musicians were, but the trio started playing in the Maryland area.
In January 1944, Al wrote a letter accepting an engagement to play at someone's New Jersey wedding in April of that year. The musicians named were himself on piano, Chris Berg on bass, and Robert McKinney on trombone. They charged $1000 for the wedding, which seems to be an extraordinary amount for those days. Soon after this, however, Al seems to have branched out on his own.
The first mention of Al Russell in Billboard is from June 1944, when he was the pianist at the Club Lido in South Bend, Indiana. However, since many ads, even for the later Do Ray Me Trio, only mention Russell's name, it's possible that this was the Al Russell Trio.
At some point, he reconnected with guitarist Joel Cowan and they met bassist William "Doc Basso" Joseph in Chicago. Russell, Cowan, and Joseph (who all sang tenor), teamed up and the Al "Stomp" Russell Trio was born. [Joseph's nickname is pronounced BASE-o, not BAH-so. Additionally, some record labels have him listed as "Doc Bosso." The "Stomp" was probably a take-off on Al's nickname, "Stump," given to him because he was only five feet, two inches tall.] While they'd play venues all over the country, they eventually gravitated to California.
In early 1943, William Joseph (who'd been with Jimmy Noone) had a quartet, but it was the "Doc" Basso Trio by April of that year. There are some ads for them playing at the Playdium, a bowling alley in Green Bay Wisconsin (although it said they'd been at the 3 Deuces night club in Chicago).
In the fall of 1944, there was a little blurb about the Trio in Billboard. This said that William Joseph had been with Erskine Hawkins and had had his own Basso Trio. It gave a listing of recent appearances which included the Three Deuces Yacht Club (New York), Onyx Club (New York), Café De Society (Chicago), Capitol Lounge (Chicago), Sky Bar (Cleveland), and Club Lido (South Bend). The Al Russell Trio was currently appearing at and broadcasting from the Pirates Cave in San Diego. Considering the wartime restrictions on travel, these guys got around!
In January 1945, Billboard reviewed an appearance of the Al Russell Trio at Randini's in Los Angeles. The review claimed that the group had been together for six months, after having met in Indiana (why do they even bother?). Other than that, the review was extremely favorable. Most of the vocals were done by William Joseph, but Joel Cowan did the "sweet" ones, and Al Russell handled the novelties. They were pretty much free to play what and as they liked, since the club had no dance floor (that is, their beat didn't have to be controlled so that listeners could dance to it). It concluded with, "Boys make a nice appearance. Their library is the latest, and showmanship is in the higher brackets."
In March 1945, after having just finished an engagement at Randini's in Los Angeles, they were at the Broadway Cafe in Long Beach, California. April and May found them at the Venetian Room, in Long Beach, California. While there, they appeared on Hoagy Carmichael's radio show (April 30) and the next day, they made their first foray into the world of recording, waxing for Charlie Washburn's Coast label (Los Angeles). In June 1945 Coast released "It's So"/"Solid Mr. Kelly With The Jelly." This was followed, in July, by "Shy-Ann"/"Eight, Nine And Ten."
There was a little blurb in the June 23, 1945 Billboard that said: "Nat [Vincent] got the Al (Stomp) Russell Trio (Al Russell, Joel Cowan and Doc Basso) a Peerless Record date and they waxed eight of their tunes. Four of them are Shy Ann, Kelly With The Jelly, Eight-Nine-Ten, and It's So." Peerless and Coast were both owned by Paul Mayer (with Charlie Washburn as the recording director).
Then it was on to Otis René's Excelsior label (also in L.A.), where they started off by backing up Timmie Rogers on two records around September 1945: The first was "Fla-Ga-La-Pa"/"Drop Another Nickel In The Jukebox" and the second was "Daddy-O"/"Hep Paderewski From Basin Street." (The best thing about "Fla-Ga-La-Pa" is that it's probably the only R&B song to mention Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.) An ad for "Fla-Ga-La-Pa" said that Timmie was backed by the "Al Russell Quintette", but I don't know who any other members might have been; they may have just added a couple for the session. They did several more Excelsior records, under their own name, throughout 1946, starting with a cover of Slim Gaillard's "Cement Mixer" in June (backed with "I Must Forget About You"). This was followed by "What Kind Of Love Is That"/"Three Little Words" in July, and "Cynthia"/"Mellow Jelly Blues." (Note that Timmie Rogers re-recorded "Fla-Ga-La-Pa" for Majestic about a year later, this time using the Palmer Brothers as backup. This version was not as enthusiastically received by Billboard.) Interestingly, a little blurb in March 1945 said that they were going to record for Excelsior; however, that was even before they'd recorded for Coast.
Their next Excelsior recording, also in July, was called "Dig, Mister K. Kay Kay" (about the Ku Klux Klan), and it served to get the group into a bit of trouble. The July 20, 1945 issue of Billboard mentioned that Los Angeles disk jockeys wouldn't play the song because of feared reaction. This is probably why the flip, "More Than You Know," was quickly reissued (same record number) with "Say What You Mean" as the new coupling. Since it's exceedingly rare, my feeling is that Excelsior recalled as many copies as possible and destroyed them, although some escaped.
Although initially based in Los Angeles, the Al Russell Trio played gigs on both the West and East Coasts. This is a representative sampling:
August 1945 - Shepp's Playhouse in Los Angeles
September 1945 - Rossonian Hotel in Denver
October 1945 - Delsea Club in Vineland, New Jersey
February 1946 - The Cove in Philadelphia
March 1946 - Saddle And Sirloin Club in Glendale, California
March 1946 - Backstage in San Francisco
September 1946 - Rossonian Hotel in Denver
November 1946 - The Cove in Philadelphia
At some point in 1946, they met Tony Palumbo, whose family owned several nightclubs in Philadelphia (the biggest was the Cove). He offered them steady work and the Trio relocated to Philadelphia. He was as good as his word and booked them into his Club 13 (at 13th and Lucas).
In late 1946, the Trio began to record for Ivin Ballen's 20th Century label, headquartered in Philadelphia. The first of three 20th Century records was an oldie called "Blue Prelude," released around December 1946; it's flip was "Holiday Blues." That same month, 20th Century released "I'm Yours"/"World War 2 Blues." The final 20th Century record, from sometime in 1947, was "Studebaker"/"Just Plain Love."
At about the same time that "Blue Prelude" was released, they signed with Frankie Adams' Sapphire Records, another Philadelphia company. The signing was announced on December 14, 1946, while the trio was appearing at Ciro's (in Philly). At the time of the announcement, they'd already recorded the first four songs to appear on Sapphire: "Say It Isn't So," "Shy Ann," "Under The Stars," and Down The Road A Piece." All were released in January 1947.
I don't know when they held their second Sapphire session, but there were two more records issued in February 1947: "Strike Blues"/"The Trouble With Me Is You" and "Ramona"/"If I Could Steal You (From Somebody Else)".
Also in 1947, Ivin Ballen sold two 20th Century masters to Syd Nathan's King Records of Cincinnati, Ohio. "Holiday Blues" and "World War 2 Blues" were released on King's Queen subsidiary in March (a strange time to issue a holiday record) and on King itself (with the same record number) in November.
Also in March 1947, the Al Russell Trio appeared at Linn's, in Philadelphia. The ad seems to indicate that it's a record store.
In April 1947, Apollo Records released a disk by the Al Russell Trio: "Let's Get Together"/"Let's Go Down The Old Road." These seem to have been masters that had been recorded in Los Angeles in March 1946. If so, they'd have to have been recorded for Excelsior, since the group was with them from September 1945 through August 1946. The group's masters were being sold freely during this period, and it should tell me something; I just have no idea what.
Meanwhile, in June, the Al Russell Trio was at the Club Downbeat in New York City. Also on the bill were Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Johnson & the Musical Notes. Wonder if it's too late to catch that show.
Then there were the recordings released on David & Jules Braun's De Luxe label of Linden New Jersey (not yet a part of King). At least one De Luxe release ("Just Plain Love") was purchased from 20th Century; two others ("Shy Ann" and "Down The Road A Piece") were purchased from Sapphire; the rest ("Once In A While," "Nobody Loves A Fat Man," and "Please Be Kind") are of unknown origin (they might have been unreleased masters purchased from either company, or actually recorded for De Luxe). All three releases came out in mid-1947. (Note that "Just Plain Love", an Al Russell composition, was also recorded that year by the Ink Spots.)
On August 25, 1947, they began a two-week appearance at Mercur's Musical Bar in Pittsburgh. Also appearing was pianist Erroll Garner.
After having been on all their Coast, Excelsior, 20th Century, Sapphire, Apollo, and (probably) De Luxe recordings, William "Doc Basso" Joseph left sometime in 1947. He was replaced by Joe Davis, who both sang and played bass. After a few months together, they decided to rename themselves. (They were still appearing as the "Al Russell Trio" in early November, when they played the Ritz Bar in Wilmington, Delaware.)
One of the names they tried was "Al Robbin & His Robins". They had a single release, on Sapphire, in November 1947: "There's A Man At The Door" and "I'm Just A Fool In Love" (they're listed in Billboard's November 29, 1947 Advance Record Releases column). Did they return to Sapphire to record these under a new name or were they year-old Sapphire masters released under this name for some other reason? We'll probably never know. My guess is that they were year-old masters with Doc Basso; when he left and they decided to change their name, the release credited the Robins (but Joe Davis isn't on them).
"There's A Man At The Door" (the original recording of this tune) is credited to "Al Robbin & His Robins, Vocal By Joel Cowan & The Robins". The flip just says "Al Robbin & His Robins". Both sides were written by Russell & Cowan (with "Dunlop" added on "I'm Just A Fool In Love"). "There's A Man At The Door" is a bit faster than the version that was about to be recorded (in a couple of paragraphs) and isn't as polished. "I'm Just A Fool In Love" is a typical pretty Al Russell Trio arrangement. And, in case there's any doubt about who's singing, I sent the songs to Al's daughter, Martina. Her comment was: "That is absolutely my Daddy!!!!!"
The "Robins" name was new, but it didn't satisfy. Manager Al Gallico, from Leeds Music, put a hundred possibilities into a hat and the "Al Russell Trio" became "Do Ray and Me." (Alas! If only it were that simple. Little did they suspect that they'd also become "The Do-Re-Me Trio," "The Do Ray Me Trio," "Do-Ray-Me," "The Do Re Mi Trio," "The Do Re Me Trio," and "The Do-Ray-Mi Trio." As much as possible, I'll simply refer to them as "the Trio.")
The Russell-Cowan-Davis aggregation first recorded for Decca's Commodore subsidiary, which was under the control of A&R man Milt Gabler (who had helped Louis Jordan turn out some incredible music, and who would do the same for Bill Haley & the Comets). They began their new label and new name with the delightful "There's A Man At The Door," backed with "Teresa," released in December 1947, as was the group's second record: "Wrapped Up In A Dream"/"The Wise Old Man."
All the Commodore sides (there were 11 eventually released, although there's a gap of seven numbers in the masters) were recorded at the end of 1947 (to beat the deadline of January 1, 1948, the date on which the second AFM recording ban, organized by union leader James C. Petrillo, began). In the beginning, the strike was not strictly enforced; however, the AFM took out ads in the trade publications threatening suspension for any further violations of the ban. Thus, as "Wrapped Up In A Dream" was becoming the Trio's only chart hit (it went to #2, and remained on the R&B charts for 19 weeks), they refused to record any new sides for Gabler while the strike continued. The success of the song surprised the members of the Trio, who had spent little time arranging the tune before recording it. A really pretty song, it was originally recorded by the 4 Tunes (it had been written by Pat Best, their baritone), and there were subsequent versions by the Deep River Boys, the 4 Knights, the 5 Keys, and the Clovers.
In spite of the name change, however, when they played Weeke's Cocktail Lounge (Atlantic City, New Jersey) in June 1948, it was as the Al Russell Trio. (This was mentioned in the June 12 Billboard.)
Sometime in late 1948, Commodore re-released "There's A Man At The Door" with a new flip: "It's Like Taking Candy From A Baby," a song written by Bob Russell, Al Russell, and Joel Cowan. This tune became popular in a version by Tony Pastor (vocal by Rosemary Clooney), released in October 1948 (although it had been recorded in October 1947, before the recording ban). There was also a version by the Caldwells from November 1948 (which, like the Trio's, had been recorded the prior December). The rest of the Commodore records by the Trio were: "How Can I Smile"/"You Can't Love Two," "Cabaret"/"Darling You Make It So," and "Brother Boodie"/"Don't."
I'm not sure why, but although "Wrapped Up In A Dream" was released in December 1947, it didn't get to the trades to be reviewed until late March 1948. It then took until mid-December to enter the Most Played Juke Box Race Records! By February 26, 1949, it was the #2 best seller, and was still a hit in May 1949. My feeling is that Milt Gabler was overwhelmed by having to control all aspects of a recording company and didn't know how to efficiently distribute or push the record. The reasons could be more mundane, but this is an extremely long time between release and charting.
Before "Wrapped Up In A Dream" became a hit, Joe Davis left (in September 1948), not being happy with life on the road. He was replaced on bass by Curtis Wilder, who'd been a member of the Counts And The Countess (with Alma Smith and Johnny Faire) that had recorded for Melodisc. Since Wilder sang tenor, the trio once again became an all-tenor vocal group.
In October 1948, the "Al Stomp Russell Entertaining Unit" appeared at the Circle, in Vineland, New Jersey. In December, with "Wrapped Up In A Dream" finally starting to make some chart noise, the Trio signed a three year contract with Joe Glaser's Associated Booking Corporation.
Remember that in late 1946 the Al Russell Trio recorded for Ivin Ballen's 20th Century label? Now the group (under their new name) had a hit. Well, just because a group once failed to have a hit on his small label and now had a hit on a subsidiary of a major label, there was no reason why he shouldn't make something our of the deal. What he made, according to Al, was a quantity of counterfeit Commodore records, which he proceeded to pass off as originals.
The guys started off 1949 with a gig at the Apollo Theater, the week of January 14 (advertised as "Do-Ray and Me"). Also on the bill was the Buddy Johnson Orchestra, with Ella Johnson and Arthur Prysock. The week after that, they were at the Howard Theater (Washington, DC), along with Buddy Johnson and Bull Moose Jackson.
Around 1949, the Do-Re-Me Trio backed up a singer named Mary Del on "A.B.C. Boogie" (a tune Al Russell had written) and "Love You." "A restaurant owner backed her and paid for the session," said Al, "but she never made it big." It was released on Drexel, a tiny Philadelphia label. In 1954, "A.B.C. Boogie" was revived by Bill Haley and the Comets, appearing as the flip of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll", and prompting Drexel to re-release Mary Del's version in October of that year. (My feeling was that the Trio practiced it around Gabler, who remembered it years later.) Because royalties are also heaped on a song that's the flip side of a tremendous hit, the tune helped Al pay for his house. Mary subsequently released a cover of Ruth Brown's "Oh What A Dream" and had some releases on the Cadence label in the mid-50s.
Another release from this period was on Keyboard, a label that the group owned. "Take Me On Home With You"/"Every Joe Needs His Jane" were released (by "Do-Ray-Me") around 1949, and my guess is that they were using it as a demo to try to secure a recording contract. (NOTE: Over the years, the group would own several labels: Keyboard, Reet, Variety, and Ivory - on which they had one release around 1962. Since they were probably meant to be sold at appearances and were never sent out for review, dating these by any normal means is impossible. I resorted to two methods for approximating release dates: listening to the kind of sound and listening to the lyrics. I admit that I could be wildly off on some of them.)
In July 1949, the Do-Ray-Me Trio was at Chubby's in West Collingswood, New Jersey.
Three records, by the "Do Ray Me Trio," appeared on Dagmar Van Haur's Ivory label in 1949. "Only One Dream" is a fine example of their style. Al Russell's lead vocal was supported by mellow instrumentation and even mellower "blow" harmonies from Cowan and Wilder. (It was coupled with "Tell Me You Love Me," led by Curtis Wilder.) They also put a frenetic instrumental backing behind Harold Conner, another Ivory artist, on "I'll Get You When The Bridge Is Down" (backed with "I Done No Wrong"). Their final 1949 Ivory release was "Rhumba Blues"/"I Couldn't Help It."
In late September 1949, they were at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit. Actually, they did very well as far as appearances went, spending most of the month of January 1950 at the Gilded Cage in Phoenix, Arizona. Strangely, when they played the Venetian Room (Long Beach, California) from the end of January through at least the middle of February, it was as the Al Russell Trio. In March, they appeared in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas of Florida.
However, by May of 1950, guitarist Joel Cowan, who had also penned many of the Trio's numbers, left to become part of the Camille Howard Trio; a year later, he'd have his own band. Curtis Wilder brought in a replacement, his old Counts And The Countess buddy, Johnny Henry Faire (a Cleveland native who was mentioned in a write-up of the group in the May 20, 1950 Cleveland Call And Post when they were playing Jack's Cedar Tavern in Cleveland [although they misspelled his name as "Farre" and photos still showed Joel Cowan]). They'd just returned from a tour of Canada, said that blurb.
In June 1950, after a two-week stint at Baltimore's New Comedy Club, the Trio broke up when the sheriff impounded the money for some reason. Al Russell then continued on as a single. By November, Curtis Wilder was part of the Duo Tones, with Guy Johnson (appearing at the Carnegie Lounge in Cleveland). Johnny Faire, who'd had "Boogie Till Dawn" on the Urban Label in 1946, went on to become a member of the King Records session band for a number of years. Note that he's not the Johnny Faire who recorded "Bertha Lou" for the Surf label in 1957; that was the first recording name of Donnie Brooks (of "Mission Bell" fame).
Strangely, in September 1950, Derby Records (which had just stopped sharing office space with Rainbow Records) announced the signing of the "Do, Re, Mi Trio." Whatever that was about (since there was no group at that point), nothing ever appeared on the label.
At the beginning of 1951, Al Russell met Alton "Buddy" Hawkins in a Philadelphia nightclub where they were both appearing. Hawkins had been part of various groups from the age of thirteen, and was currently singing with a progressive harmony quintet that had recorded both as the Songmasters (on Commodore) and the Key Notes (on Skyscraper). (This is not the same Songmasters that made some demos around this time with Joe Van Loan in the lead.) Al and Buddy ended up singing together, as a duo, "The Two Al's," for a short while. Soon after Al and Buddy met, the other members of the Key Notes (Curtis Harmon, Kenneth Mitchell, Arthur Long, and Lester Nichols) broke away from Buddy to perform as the Top Notes (they'd end up recording for Jubilee in 1952.)
Enter bass and bassist Al Moore (oh, no, a third Al!). Moore had received keyboard training when he was eight, but then turned his attentions to vibes and bass. After organizing and playing in small bands in Philadelphia and New Jersey, he joined Louis Armstrong's band during the war. In 1947 and 1948, he, Billy Rinkin, and Wilbert "Kokomo" Wellington were the Kokomo Trio. Moore "volunteered" himself into the group, and the Do Re Me Trio was reborn. There was also a fourth member initially, a guitarist remembered only as "Freddy."
In April 1951, after being together for only a short time, the new group cut some sides for Columbia (all as "Al Russell & the Do-Re-Me Trio"). Their first offering, "I Want To Be With You Always"/"No More Dreams," was rated "excellent" in the trades. Then, Columbia reactivated its Okeh subsidiary (which had been dormant since 1942) and switched all its R&B acts onto the new label; the three subsequent releases by the Do-Re-Me Trio (some from an August session) were all on Okeh. The Okeh releases were: "May That Day Never Come"/"How Can You Say You Love Me" (July 1951), "I Couldn't Help It"/"I'll Be Waiting" (October 1951), and "I Love Each Move You Make"/"I Don't Want To Be Alone For Christmas" (November 1951). After this, Freddy, who couldn't travel much because of his job, left, and they were once again, in actuality, a trio.
What's the problem with all this? In April, when they did their first Columbia session (with Buddy singing lead on "No More Dreams"), "Buddy Hawkins and the Key Notes" were still in existence! The Key Notes' last known booking was at the Gloucester Heights (in Camden, New Jersey) in late September 1951 (that one as the "Buddy Hawkins Quartet"). It's possible that although the Key Notes had broken up, they still had to honor a few last commitments. It's also possible that the commitments were honored by the Do-Re-Me Trio, masquerading under the Key Notes name. If so, some of the engagements must have been interesting (such as at the Red Hill Inn in Pennsauken, New Jersey in May and the Lyric Band in Hanover, Pennsylvania in June), since, for a short while, Herb Kenny (who'd just been thrown out of the Ink Spots by his brother, Bill) was a part of the group.
Don't know if it's them, but in March 1952, the "Do-Re-Me Trio" was listed as being part of a revue in a Paris Music hall. The same act ("musical zanies") was mentioned in a November 1960 blurb. My guess is that it's not them.
In June 1952, they appeared at the Pine Room in Wilmington, Delaware ("Al Stubby Russell At The Piano"). July found them at the Cabana Club in Philadelphia (it was touted as the first time a major R&B unit had played the club). This was followed, in September, by a single release on Rainbow (as the "Do-Ray-Me Trio"). One side is the almost unbearably delightful "She Would Not Yield" (which has 26 rhymes for "temptation"); it's flip is "I'm Used To You."
In November 1952, they played for the Shamokin Moose Lodge (in Shamokin, Pennsylvania). This was followed by an appearance for the club members of the Lyric Band in Hanover, Pennsylvania. December 1952 found them appearing at the Carver Bar (at the Glen Hotel, also in Philadelphia). From there, they went into DuMond's Musical Show Bar, once again in Philly.
The first release on Variety (owned by the group) is from around 1953. It was a reprise of "I'm Used To You," backed with "Oo-Wee." This time, they billed themselves as the "Do Re Mi Trio." Again, my feeling is that these records were pressed up to be sold at their performances.
In April 1953, the "Do Re Me Trio" showed up on Brunswick, a subsidiary of Coral Records, which was, itself, a subsidiary of Decca (as Commodore had been). The record was "I'm Only Human"/"I'll Never Stop Being Yours."
An article in many newspapers (the earliest being in the Evening Review in East Liverpool, Ohio on October 30, 1953) talked about another Do, Ray And Me (see the graphic, at left). On October 31, they were at the Palm Garden in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
On November 16, 1953, they appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts show. (I assume they didn't win, since Al never mentioned that to me.) In May 1954, they had a single release on the main Coral label ("I'll Never Fail You"/"I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire"), backed up by a 7-piece band and a female trio.
In late April 1954, they appeared at Sciolla's in Philadelphia. During that summer, the Trio appeared in Philadelphia, at the Club Zel-Mar and also at some clubs in nearby Wildwood, New Jersey, such as the Riptide.
Around 1955, there were two releases on the Reet label, owned by the Trio themselves. These were as the "Do-Ray-Me-Trio" ("Wrapped Up In A Dream"/"Why Did You Do It Baby? (Why O-Why O-Why)") and the "Do Ray Me Trio" ("Out Of Bounds"/"Walkin' Around The Town"). My sources don't reveal what they were doing in 1955 (except for playing the Cottman Bar in Philadelphia in late November), but in 1956, they played the Birdland in Florida and also Las Vegas' Fremont Hotel.
1956 saw some releases on the Trio's Variety label. The first of these (as the "Do Ray Me Trio") was a re-release of the prior year's Reet recordings: "Wrapped Up In A Dream"/"Why Did You Do It Baby? (Why O-Why O-Why)." Another (as the "Do Re Mi Trio"), probably from 1957, was "Holding Hands"/"Tell Me You Love Me." The earlier "Oo-Wee" and "I'm Used To You" were also re-released on Variety. The week of July 15, 1957, they were at the Lyric Band Club in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
A disc by "Buddy Hawkins & the Do Re Me Trio" was released on Joe Carlton's Carlton label in April 1958: "That's The Way Life Goes"/"How I Love My Baby."
Later in 1958, they reactivated their Reet label, to release two records. The first was "Holding Hands," backed with "I 'D' Double Dare You" These were by "Do-Ray-Me" (although "I 'D' Double Dare You" said "Do-Ray-Me Trio"). A treat for long-time fans of the Al Russell Trio: the guitar on these sides was played by Joel Cowan, one of the writers of "I 'D' Double Dare You," along with Al Russell and Buddy Hawkins. The second record, by "Do-Ray-Me," was "Walk Slow My Love" and a reasonable cover of the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace."
Then, there were some recordings by the guys (now the "Do-Ray-Mi Trio") that appeared on Morty Craft's Craft and Stere-O-Craft labels in 1959. Two singles were issued ("On A Slow Boat To China"/"Saturday Night Fish Fry" and "Old Man River"/"Oo-Wee"), as well as an LP (later re-released on Hi-Life) conveniently called The Do-Ray-Mi Trio. The Seeberg Juke Box Company financed the venture, an early experiment with stereophonic sound. The two 45 RPM singles were issued in mono (on Craft) and stereo (on Stere-O-Craft); the stereo versions were probably used to test the practicality of stereo singles for juke box consumption. With a sound which was clean and uncluttered, the Do Re Mi Trio was apparently viewed as ideal for stereophonic separation in recording. Note that while the mono and stereo singles were released on different labels, both versions of the LP were on Stere-O-Craft (catalog numbers RCS 508 for stereo and 508M for mono). The liner notes for 508M say that it's monaural, "made from a genuine true stereophonic master" and promised superior sound quality as a result.
(There were also at least four 33 1/3 RPM 7-inch stereo singles [as the "Do Ray Mi Trio"], intended for jukeboxes, but I can't date those. They were based on songs in the Stere-O-Craft LP, which was released again in February 1961, so this is a reasonable guess.)
The pinnacle of their appearances for 1959 occurred when the guys did a six-month engagement with Harry James at The Flamingo in Las Vegas.
An Ivory release ("Let's Go Down Town"/"Fla-Ga-La-Pa") by the "Do-Ray-Mi-Trio" was probably from 1962 (since that's when Timmie Rogers cut a new version of the song he'd first done back in 1945, with the Al Russell Trio backing him up). Both sides were led by Buddy (and "Let's Go Down Town" mentions The Twist). This is not the same Ivory Records that the group had recorded for back in 1949; this is another label that they owned themselves.
An intriguing blurb from June 1965 concerned singer Lacey James. It said that she'd cut an LP with fashion-themed songs, for the Model label, entitled Styles In Fashions And Song. On it, she was backed up by the "Buddy Hawkins Trio." I can't find a single other reference to this album or to the Buddy Hawkins Trio.
Their final album (The Exciting Do-Ray-Me Trio) came out around 1966 on Melbourne, a Montreal company that was a subsidiary of Rodeo and distributed by London Records. The signatures on one copy indicate that Al Moore was "Do," Buddy Hawkins was "Ray," and Al Russell was "Me." One known single was issued (on Melbourne) from the LP: "Way, Way Back In The Dark, Dark Days"/"People In Love."
In January 1974, "Buddy Hawkins and His Do Ray Mi Trio" were playing Joe's Pier 52 on West 52 Street in Manhattan (which is where I would interview them two years later). It looks like they'd been playing there since at least 1972.
When interviewed in 1976, Al Russell (vocals and piano), Buddy Hawkins (vocals and drums), and Al Moore (bassist) had been together for twenty-five years without a hit record. When Buddy Hawkins passed away, around 1977, he was replaced by someone named "Skeets" (who could have been Ed "Skeets" McKaine, formerly of the Piccadilly Pipers) and the Trio soldiered on for another year or two.
Buddy Hawkins, Al Moore, Joel Cowan, Doc Basso, Curtis Wilder, "Skeets," and (presumably) Joe Davis have all passed on. Al Russell, amazingly, was still performing (as Al "Stumpy" Russell), at Vincent's Restaurant, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, at the age of 88, in 2009 (he was forced to quit only because the restaurant closed!). Al Russell passed away on December 24, 2011, at age 90.
The Trio enjoyed a reputation as a professional, self-contained act, well-suited for engagements in quality supper clubs and night spots. Thus, the Do Ray Me Trio (however you spell it) can be looked on as one of the more successful vocal/instrumental combos.
Special thanks to Tony Fournier, Victor Pearlin, Mark Johnson, Tony Tisovec, Todd Baptista, Galen Gart, Neil Hirsch, Opal Louis Nations, Carl Tancredi, Neil Pellegrini, Jay Bruder, Dan Kochakian, and Marion Beach, as well as Al Russell's daughter Martina. Discography mainly by Ferdie Gonzalez.
501 It's So (DB)/Solid Mr. Kelly With The Jelly (DB) - 6/45
502 Shy-Ann (DB)/Eight, Nine And Ten (all) - 7/45
TR-136 Fla-Ga-La-Pa (TR)/Drop Another Nickel In The Jukebox (TR) - ca. 9/45
TR-138 Daddy-O (TR)/Hep Paderewski From Basin Street (TR) - ca. 9/45
[the above two records are by Timmie Rogers, backed by the Al Russell Trio]
OR-174 Cement Mixer (JC)/I Must Forget About You (DB) - 5/46
OR-175 What Kind Of Love Is That/Three Little Words (AR) - 7/46
OR-176 Cynthia (DB)/Mellow Jelly Blues (DB) - 7/46
OR-180 Dig, Mister K. Kay Kay (DB)/More Than You Know (DB) - 7/46
OR-180 Say What You Mean (AR)/More Than You Know (DB) - 8/46
20-22 Blue Prelude (DB)/Holiday Blues (DB) - ca. 12/46
20-23 I'm Yours (DB)/World War 2 Blues (AR) - ca. 12/46
20-42 Studebaker/Just Plain Love (DB) - 47
705 Say It Isn't So (DB)/Shy Ann (DB) - 1/47
706 Under The Stars (DB)/Down The Road A Piece (AR) - 1/47
707 Strike Blues (AR)/The Trouble With Me Is You (AR) - 2/47
708 Ramona (DB)/If I Could Steal You (From Somebody Else) (JC) - 2/47
QUEEN (20th Century masters)
4162 Holiday Blues (DB)/World War 2 Blues (AR) - 3/47
APOLLO (possibly Excelsior masters)
1058 Let's Get Together/Let's Go Down The Old Road - 4/47
3006 Shy Ann (DB)/Down The Road A Piece (AR) - 5/47 [also 6002]
[these are the Sapphire masters]
1081 Once In A While (AR)/Just Plain Love (DB) - 7/47 [also 3081]
["Just Plain Love" is the 20th Century master / "Once In A While" is of unknown origin]
1083 Nobody Loves A Fat Man (AR)/Please Be Kind (AR) - 7/47 [also 3083]
[both are of unknown origin]
KING (20th Century masters)
4162 Holiday Blues (DB)/World War Two Blues (AR) - 11/47
715 There's A Man At The Door (JC/AR)/I'm Just A Fool In Love (AR) - 11/47
Released as "Al Robbins & The Robins
TR = Timmie Rogers, backed by the Al Russell Trio; AR = Al Russell; DB = Doc Basso; JC = Joel Cowan
COMMODORE (subsidiary of Decca)
7504 There's A Man At The Door (JC/AR)/Teresa (AR) - 12/47
7505 Wrapped Up In A Dream (AR)/The Wise Old Man (AR) - 12/47
7504 There's A Man At The Door (JC/AR)/It's Like Taking Candy From A Baby (AR) - late 48
7549 How Can I Smile (AR)/You Can't Love Two (AR) - 12/48
7550 Cabaret (AR)/Darling You Make It So (AR) - 12/48
7554 Brother Boodie/Don't - 49
0600/0601 A.B.C. Boogie/Love You - Ca. 49
Re-released in October 1954
KEYBOARD (owned by the group)
AR-1 Take Me On Home with You/Every Joe Needs His Jane - ca. 49
750 Only One Dream (AR)/Tell Me You Love Me (CW) - 8/49
752 I Done No Wrong (HC)/I'll Get You When The Bridge Is Down (HC) - 49
[the above record is by Harold Conner, backed up, instrumentally, by the Do Ray Me Trio]
754 Rhumba Blues (AR)/I Couldn't Help It (AR) - 49
4-39385 No More Dreams (BH)/I Want To Be With You Always (AR) - 5/51
4-6806 May That Day Never Come (AR)/How Can You Say You Love Me (AR) - 7/51
4-6831 I Couldn't Help It (AR)/I'll Be Waiting (AR) - 10/51
4-6845 I Love Each Move You Make (AR)/I Don't Want To Be Alone For Christmas (AR) - 11/51
181 I'm Used To You (BH/AM)/She Would Not Yield (AR) - 9/52
1001 Oo-Wee (all)/I'm Used To You (BH/AR) - ca. 53
BRUNSWICK (subsidiary of Coral)
80218 I'm Only Human (BH)/I'll Never Stop Being Yours (AR) - 4/53
I Can't Get You Off My Mind
Is It A Crime
61184 I'll Never Fail You (BH)/I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire (BH) - 5/54
Sitting On Pins And Needles
You'd Better Stop Doing It
REET (owned by the group)
001/002 Wrapped Up In A Dream (AR)/Why Did You Do It Baby? (Why O-Why O-Why) (BH) - ca. 55
REET (owned by the group)
003 Out Of Bounds/Walkin' Around The Town - ca. 55
VARIETY (owned by the group)
001/002 Wrapped Up In A Dream (AR)/Why Did You Do It Baby? (Why O-Why O-Why) (BH) - ca. 56
VARIETY (owned by the group)
1001 Holding Hands (BH)/Tell Me You Love Me (BH) - ca. 57
1002 Oo-Wee (all)/I'm Used To You (BH/AR) - ca. 57
This had been the original 1001. My feeling is that they accidentally
released "Holding Hands" as 1001 and then, when it came time to
press up more of "Oo-Wee," they changed the number to 1002.
460 That's The Way Life Goes (BH)/How I Love My Baby (BH) - 4/58
REET (owned by the group)
D-101/D-103 Holding Hands (BH)/I "D" Double Dare You (BH) - 58
NOTE: "I 'D' Double Dare You" said "Do-Ray-Me Trio"
605 Walk Slow My Love (AR)/Chantilly Lace (AR) - 58
CRAFT (in mono; also on STERE-O-CRAFT, with the same record numbers, in stereo)
112 On A Slow Boat To China (AR/BH)/Saturday Night Fish Fry (BH/AR) - 4/59
115 Old Man River (BH/AR)/Oo-Wee (all) - 4/59
RCS 508 (stereo) and 508M (mono) The Do-Ray-Mi Trio - 4/59 (rereleased on Hi-Life SHLP - 62)
On A Slow Boat To China (AR/BH)
Saturday Night Fish Fry (BH/AR)
I May Be Wrong (AR)
Old Man River (BH/AR)
My Lucky Day (BH)
Route 66 (AR/BH)
Little Girl (BH)
I Can't Get You Off My Mind (BH)
There's Only One Dream (AR)
By Candlelight (BH)
Blue Skies (BH)
NOTE: The Stere-O-Craft LP was released again in February 1961. Presumably at the same time, the following singles were also released
(the 200 series were 33 1/3 RPM 7-inch jukebox records):
CRA-3 Old Man River (BH/AR)/Saturday Night Fish Fry (BH/AR) - ca. 61
200 I Can't Get You Off My Mind (BH)/On A Slow Boat To China (AR/BH) - ca. 61
201 Saturday Night Fish Fry (BH/AR)/Oo-Wee (all) - ca. 61
202 There's Only One Dream (AR)/I May Be Wrong (AR) - ca. 61
203 Old Man River (BH/AR)/Blue Skies (BH) - ca. 61
IVORY (owned by the group; not the same as their 1949 label)
001/002 Let's Go Down Town (BH)/Fla-Ga-La-Pa (BH) - ca. 62
3207 Way, Way Back In The Dark, Dark Days (all)/People In Love (BH) - ca. 66
4009 The Exciting Do-Ray-Me Trio - ca. 1966
People In Love (BH)
What More Do You Want (BH)
More Than That (BH)
Why Did You Do It Baby (BH)
Way, Way Back In The Dark, Dark Days (all)
Where Am I (BH)
I Still Believe (BH)
If I'm A Fool (BH)
I've Got News (BH)
Tonight's Our Night (BH)
AR = Al Russell; DB = Doc Basso; JC = Joel Cowan; CW = Curtis Wilder; BH = Buddy Hawkins; AM = Al Moore;
TR = Timmie Rogers, backed by the Al Russell Trio; HC = Harold Conner, backed by the Do Ray Me Trio
7555 Please Tell Me Now/How'd You Like To Have A Sweetheart - 49
7556 Am I Wasting My Time On You?/I'm Just A Dreamer - 49
1201 I Shouldn't Love You But I Do/Shake, Shake - ca. 8/50
1202 St. Louis Blues/I'm Lost - ca. 8/50