It would be an interesting project for a sociologist to research why so many R&B vocal groups were named after birds. Whatever the reason, there were many, and by the mid-50s, it was getting harder and harder to find a hitherto unused name. There may have been a simpler reason why this group called itself the Ospreys (a fish-eating bird that
looks like a small eagle), but if so, it's lost in the mists of time.
There were many street corner groups in East Harlem in the early 50s; some had names, some didn't. For those who hadn't yet made it to the organized talent contests, there was always the informal "battle of the groups" in someone's hallway.
Around 1955, one member from each of five groups that had been battling it out, got together and formed a "supergroup" that would represent (they hoped) the best voice from each original aggregation. Thus, the Ospreys were born.
The group consisted of Ronald Council (lead, first tenor, and bass), Maurice Williams (first tenor; he was the one who picked the name "Ospreys"), Jackson Thompson (second tenor and baritone), John Miro (bass), and another second tenor/ baritone named "Tarzan," who remained only as long as it took the others to find out that he was fooling with drugs.
Although they tried to develop a unique sound, their greatest strength was the ability to copy the sound of all the hit-making groups of the day. They rehearsed seven days a week, as many hours a day as they could, singing for pure enjoyment.
The Ospreys were managed by James A. Dailey. While he would eventually represent many New York City groups, the Ospreys were his first.
He got them appearances at Alan Freed record hops, Dr. Jive shows, and Herb Sheldon's Rooftop Festival TV show. (It was here that Dailey met another group that he was to manage: the Bobbettes.)
In mid-1957, when the Ospreys felt they were ready for stardom, they started auditioning for some record companies. The company showing the most interest was Herald, but when the Bobbettes told the Atlantic people about them, an audition was quickly arranged and Atlantic became their home.
The Ospreys did four songs at their first session, which was held on November 8, 1957. Ironically, the ones that were released were those that they didn't really want to do. "Do You Wanna Jump Children" was something that they'd been fooling with, but Leiber & Stoller made them revise it. The other, "It's Good To Me," was a song that Dailey had written. Their favorite, "Wrapped Up In A Dream," was never released.
In March of 1958, prior to their own record being released, they returned to the studio to back up Chuck Willis. The four songs recorded were: "You'll Be My Love," "Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes," "What Am I Living For" and "Keep A-Driving." On the first two cuts, they're only a trio, since Maurice Williams showed up late for the session.
"Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes" and "What Am I Living For" were issued in March 1958. They were reviewed on March 31 (with "Shoes" receiving an "excellent" rating), along with Lee Andrews & the Hearts' "Try The Impossible," the Versatones' "Bila," the Cellos' "I Beg For Your Love," the 5 Keys' "You're For Me," the Tangiers' "Don't Try," the Maharajahs' "I Do Believe," and the Columbus Pharaohs' "Give Me Your Love." Sadly, the Ospreys didn't receive any label credit on the Willis records.
Ironically (based on the titles of the songs), on April 10, within only a couple of weeks of the release, Chuck Willis died (at age 30) after an operation in Atlanta. He was fondly remembered in the trades as a genuinely nice person, as well as a songwriter who gave us "Close Your Eyes," "The Door Is Still Open," "From The Bottom Of My Heart," "Oh What A Dream," and "Search My Heart." The record shot up the R&B charts, with "Living" going all the way to #1 (#9 Pop), and the flip reaching #9 (#24 Pop).
In April, Atlantic released the Ospreys' "Do You Wanna Jump Children" and "It's Good To Me" on their East-West subsidiary. Both sides got good reviews on April 7, along with Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Clyde McPhatters' "Come What May," the Bay Bops' "Follow The Rock," the Gladiolas' "Shoop Shoop," the Bobbettes' "Rock And Ree-Ah-Zole," the Kuf-Linx's "Service With A Smile," the Moonglows' "In The Middle Of The Night," the Ladders' "Counting The Stars," the Gaylarks' "Somewhere In This World," and the Rob Roys' "Dance Girl, Dance."
Although Atlantic liked the Ospreys, John felt that the group wasn't disciplined enough to make it, even with Atlantic pushing. Although they stayed together for about another year, they never went back to do any more recording.
October 1958 saw the release of the other two Chuck Willis tunes that the Ospreys had provided backup for: "You'll Be My Love" and "Keep A-Driving." "Driving," which received an excellent rating on November 3, was a minor hit, reaching #19 on the R&B charts. Other reviews that week were for Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee." the Shields' "Nature Boy," the Versatiles' "Crying," Wade Flemons' "Here I Stand," and the Pharaohs' "Pray For Me."
After the group broke up, John Miro did some Atlantic backup sessions behind Clyde McPhatter and Ivory Joe Hunter. In 1959, he joined the Lincolns: Harold Anderson (lead), Willie Williams (tenor), John Anderson (baritone), and John Miro (bass and lead baritone). They did one record for Mercury (all other Lincolns groups are different). When interviewed, in the mid-70s, John Miro owned a company that manufactured bathrobes. He looked back with pride on his small contribution to the R&B music scene of the 50s.
ATLANTIC (uncredited backup to Chuck Willis)
1179 What Am I Living For/Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes - 3/58
EAST-WEST (Atlantic subsidiary - the Ospreys)
110 Do You Wanna Jump Children (all)/It's Good To Me (RC) - 4/58
Wrapped Up In A Dream (RC)
My Baby (RC)
ATLANTIC (uncredited backup to Chuck Willis)
2005 You'll Be My Love/Keep A-Driving - 10/58
71553 Baby Please Let Me Love You (JM)/Can't You Go For Me (HA) - 11/59
LEADS: RC = Ronald Council; JM = John Miro HA = Harold Anderson