Notebook Cover

  The Solitaires

By Marv Goldberg

Based on interviews with Buzzy Willis
Bobby Baylor, Pat Gaston, Monte Owens,
Milton Love, and Cecil Holmes


© 2001, 2009 by Marv Goldberg


The Apollo - 7/8/55

The Solitaires were the embodiment of the New York sound. Relatively successful as groups of the day went, their career began during the Rhythm & Blues era, continued throughout the Rock & Roll period, and extended into the early days of Soul.

The Solitaires formed on 142nd Street and 7th Avenue in Harlem with original members Eddie "California" Jones (lead), Nick Anderson (first tenor), Winston "Buzzy" Willis (second tenor; he got the nickname "Buzzy" for the way he could "buzz" around the basketball court in High School), Rudy "Angel" Morgan (baritone), and Pat Gaston (bass).

Like so many other amateur groups of that time, the Solitaires would sing on street corners and in hallways. However, Buzzy and Pat dreamed of a professional singing career and would spend hours at the Apollo Theatre idolizing the artists who had made it professionally.

At the same time, second tenor/baritone Alvin "Bobby" Baylor (the neighborhood star, since he had been a member of the Mello-Moods on their first recording, "Where Are You") had formed his own group, the Hi-Lites, on 142nd Street and Edgecombe Avenue.

The Solitaires and the Hi-Lites became well-known around the community, each having its own following (made up, of course, mostly of girls). When the reputations of the two groups crossed paths a "challenge" was made. They clashed head-on in a crowded hallway, and Bobby Baylor (showing no loyalty to his own group) said that he would permanently join whichever group landed a recording contract first.

Fortunately, Buzzy knew Hal Jackson: DJ, promoter, and manager. Buzzy worked as unofficial program librarian for Hal's show at WLIB and Jackson made arrangements for Buzzy to meet Hy Weiss of the newly-formed Old Town Records (on which the 5 Crowns had already released "You're My Inspiration" in September 1953).

Hy Weiss Hy Weiss would hold auditions for his Old Town label around midnight at the Tri-Boro theater on 125th Street and Lexington Avenue after it had closed for the night. (His "office" was under a staircase.) Imagine the scene of a deserted movie theater suddenly coming to life at midnight with acts such as the young Solitaires and Valentines singing their hearts out trying to get that record contract and the fame that lay beyond. It was at one of these auditions, toward the end of 1953, that Hal Jackson's introduction paid off: Hy Weiss recognized the ability and potential of the Solitaires, starting a relationship that extended from 1954 to 1963.

This was good enough for Bobby Baylor, who switched over to the Solitaires, replacing Eddie "California" Jones (who went on to become a member of the Demens/Emersons, before giving up singing to rehearse groups on a free-lance basis).

The first professional appearance of the Solitaires (Rudy, Buzzy, Bobby, Nick, and Pat) was filmed for a TV program. They sang "Hitting My Head Against The Wall" (probably not a romantic ballad).

Since Rudy Morgan and Nick Anderson often didn't show up for rehearsals, more permanent members were needed. (Rudy was more interested in baseball than singing anyway, and subsequently wound up on a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team.) Since the Mello-Moods had recently disintegrated, Bobby Baylor recruited a couple of his old friends from that group: Bobby "Schubie" Williams (tenor/piano) and Monteith "Monte" Owens (tenor/guitar).

Solitaires - 1954 To round out the group, Buzzy brought in Herman Dunham as lead. Herman had been the second lead of the Vocaleers, who were also winding down (Herman initially sang in both groups at once). Since Herman was married, at the time, to Marie Curtis (a relative of Buzzy's), he called himself "Herman Curtis" in his early days with the Solitaires. Thus, the Solitaires were a sextet: Herman Curtis (first tenor), Buzzy Willis (second tenor), Bobby Baylor (second tenor/baritone), Monte Owens (tenor/guitar), Bobby Williams (tenor/piano), and Pat Gaston (bass).

Most of the Solitaires' recordings were done as a lead backed by three-part harmony. Bobby Williams and Monte Owens sang as needed, but they both did the arrangements for the group and played in the background.

The Solitaires not only had their share of great recordings, but also their share of managers (four to be exact). Prior to their recording days, the Solitaires first turned to Maurice "Chink" Hines (father of actor Gregory Hines) to be their manager. They remember him best for obtaining the white jackets they wore in their most common photograph (which Hines arranged for them at the famous James Kriegsmann studios). The Solitaires' next manager was Fritz Pollard, the Brown University All-American football player. Buzzy knew of him because he had a studio above the penny arcade on 125th Street. Pollard had previously handled the Four Buddies, and at the time of the Solitaires, also managed a young Leslie Uggams. Under his direction, the group started appearing at local dances and shows. Pollard continued as their manager until their first record was cut. Then they turned to Hal Jackson, who managed them briefly, and finally to Teddy Reig (former a&r man for Savoy Records and owner of Royal Roost Records), who handled them through most of their Old Town career.


Chink Hines Fritz Pollard Hal Jackson Teddy Reig

Hy Weiss held marathon recording sessions which would often begin about 9:00 at night and continue through until the following morning (this probably had nothing to do with sneaking past Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians). Four or five artists would be ready with two to four songs each. (The artist with the last hit record would get to go first.) At the outset, there was little instrumentation, with a studio band of about four pieces (even though "Blue Valentine," for example, sounds almost devoid of instruments beyond a piano). As the years progressed, up to nine pieces were used. Tenor saxophonist Buddy Lucas was a mainstay of the Old Town studio band, as were saxman Sam "The Man" Taylor, Mickey "Guitar" Baker, and trumpeter Gil Askey.

At a typical session the Solitaires would rehearse with the band, and the charts would be written in 15 to 20 minutes. Bobby Williams provided the piano accompaniment on the earlier recordings. The Solitaires, in effect, co-produced themselves. The songs would usually be cut in two or three takes on the one- or two- track equipment available at the time.

While Hy Weiss was capable of coaxing some great music out of his artists, he was an utter failure when it came to keeping notes about the sessions (or even correctly marking the tape boxes). Thus figuring out which songs were done when (or even by what artist) is mainly a matter of digging, re-creation, logic, and magic. For the most part, the master numbers were assigned at pressing time (except for their first record, where the master numbers aren't sequential), so it becomes very difficult to assign titles to particular sessions.

It looks like the first Solitaires session was held in January 1954. Considering the number of masters involved, it probably took place over several days, not necessarily contiguous ones. The lowest numbered master is 799 ("Chapel Of St. Claire"), followed by "Wonder Why" (led by Herman, with Buzzy on the bridge), "If I Loved You," "Blue Valentine" (Herman and Buzzy), "Come Back To Me," and the hilarious "Stranger In Paradise" (fronted by Herman; if only they'd spent the 50¢ for the sheet music!).

Ursula Reed They were also recruited to back up Ursula Reed on at least two numbers: "(I'm A) Fool About The Man I Love" and "You're Laughing Cause I'm Crying" (also known as "Laffin'"). Although it's hard to detect more than Herman's tenor in the background of these tunes, Herman, Buzzy, Bobby, and Pat are all singing (according to both Bobby and Pat). When the record was played for Bobby Baylor, he had no trouble picking out the other voices. Either the voices were originally blended with the instruments or were made to do so during the mixing.

The first Solitaires' record, "Wonder Why," coupled with the magnificent "Blue Valentine," was issued in late January 1954. As far as can be determined, the disc wasn't sent out for review.

Sometime in April, they had their second session, which produced "Please Remember My Heart" and "Lonely" (both led by Herman Curtis). Another two tracks were laid down in May: "South Of The Border" (led by Bobby Baylor) and "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance" (led by Bobby Williams). The latter song has an arrangement that's almost identical to that of an unreleased 5 Keys version. It turns out that the Solitaires had been on tour playing Baltimore's Royal Theater, in a show which included the 5 Keys and the Clovers. At the hotel, where groups would do some practicing, Bobby Williams heard the 5 Keys sing the song. He evidently found out that they had recorded the song a couple of years earlier, and he assumed there were no plans for its release. So he worked on the arrangement until he developed what he considered a musically superior sound (and one which is definitely more polished than what the 5 Keys had recorded). Williams took no chances with the arrangement and personally sang lead. The ghostly falsetto voice at the intro and the coda was provided by Herman Curtis.

There's a third song originally thought to have been recorded at the same time as "South Of The Border": "Listen, Listen Baby." It's not clear if this is by the Solitaires at all. If it is, it's probably Buzzy Willis doing lead; if not, just who it's by is a mystery. It doesn't have the same sound that the group exhibited during this period, so it's either by someone else or from a later Solitaires session. As I said, the Old Town files and tapes are a mess.

Hy Weiss insisted that the next Solitaires' record was "Stranger In Paradise," backed with "Come Back To Me" (supposedly Old Town 1003). Since no copies have ever been found, it's probable that it was scheduled for release, but cancelled at the last minute. An Old Town release using that number ("Chapel Of St. Clare"/"If I Loved You") was a limited pressing that came out in 1979.

In June 1954, Old Town released the second Solitaires record: "Please Remember My Heart"/"South Of The Border." While Solitaires records did well in the New York region, the group, like most Old Town artists, was never to have a national hit.

October saw their next session, which produced "Chances I've Taken" (all) and "Girl Of Mine" (Herman). "Chances I've Taken" (along with "Lonely") would be their third release, in November. The fourth release, "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance" and "Girl Of Mine," was issued in December, to close out 1954.

Early in their career, the Solitaires appeared at local shows and dances, such as those that were held at Hunts Point Palace and Rockland Palace. As the group's popularity grew, they began to appear in the big packaged shows put on by Alan Freed, Hal Jackson, and Dr. Jive. They played the east coast circuit and Canada where they appeared with the Flamingos and Bill Haley.

The Solitaires even appeared as other groups in their early days. Booking agents would "forget" to tell them that they had been booked somewhere as, for example, the Drifters. Fortunately, Bobby Baylor looked and could sound somewhat like Clyde McPhatter, but, of course, this was only done in small cities.

Solitaires - 1955 In the Spring of 1955, they held another session, at which "What Did She Say" and "My Dear" were recorded; both were led by Herman Curtis. By the time these had been paired for an April 1955 release, however, Herman had been drafted. Fortunately, Monte Owens knew a guy from the neighborhood, Milton Love, lead of the Concords (who'd recorded "Candlelight"), and Milton was asked to come to the auditions that were being held in the Harlem River Projects.

At The Apollo - 7/55 Thus, when the Solitaires played a week at the Apollo Theater, with Hal Jackson (beginning on July 8), Milton was with the group. Also on the bill were Titus Turner, Willie Mabon, the Cadillacs, and the Arnett Cobb Orchestra. They were also with Hal Jackson at the Club Carib on July 30. The balance of the show consisted of the "stars of tomorrow": the 4 Debs, Yvonne Charles, Terri Francis, Dimples Johnson, Annette Swinson, and (my personal favorites) "many others".

The group's next session was held sometime in the summer of 1955. It produced three songs: "The Wedding "(Milton Love in a duet lead with Bobby Baylor and Pat Gaston as the "preacher"), "Don't Fall In Love" (Milton), and "Magic Rose" (Milton).

In August, Old Town released "The Wedding" (backed with "Don't Fall In Love"), which became a big hit in New York. Pat Gaston wrote "The Wedding" at 3 O'clock in the morning, after his brother Paul's wedding. He woke up, started writing, and 10 minutes later "The Wedding" was finished.

And the sessions rolled on. Sometime in the fall of 1955, the Solitaires recorded "Later For You Baby" (led by Milton), as well as the topical "Davy Crockett," which was never released. "Later For You Baby" was subsequently paired with "Magic Rose" for a November 1955 release.

It was reported (unfortunately by me, back in the 70s) that the Solitaires backed up Ruth McFadden on "Darling, Listen To The Words Of This Song"/"Since My Baby's Been Gone" as the "Supremes." In truth, however, it was Old Town's Supremes themselves who backed Ruth; the Solitaires had nothing to do with the session.

At The Apollo - 11/55 Beginning on November 11, the Solitaires played a week at the Howard Theater (in Washington, D.C.) along with the Clovers, the 5 Keys, and Big Joe Turner. The week after that (November 18), the Solitaires began a week-long engagement at the Apollo Theater, as part of a Hal Jackson show. Also on the bill were Arthur Prysock, the 4 Fellows, the Valentines, Chuck Berry, and the Buddy Johnson Orchestra, with Ella Johnson and Floyd Ryland.

On January 3, 1956 the Solitaires recorded a single tune. "The Wedding" had done so well locally that Old Town had them do a follow-up, "The Honeymoon" (with Milton Love and Bobby Baylor once again doing a duet lead). Also recorded that day was a solo by Herman Curtis, "Fine Little Thing" (aka "Fine Young Thing"). Presumably Herman was home on leave, and took the opportunity to do some recording, both on his own and with the Solitaires.

A few days later, there was another session, at which the lead vocal tracks and instrumentation to "Fine Little Girl" (Milton; this is basically the same song that Herman had just recorded as "Fine Little Thing," although Milton is singing "Fine Young Thing" instead of "Fine Little Girl"), "Please Kiss This Letter" (Herman), and "Come Back My Love" were recorded (as well as another solo effort by Herman: "I Won't Cry No More"). On January 19, the rest of the group was brought in to overdub these sides. There was also a tune by Herman Dunham (he's beginning to revert to his real name) and Ruth McFadden, called "Little Hearts," that probably has the Solitaires doing backup work.

"The Honeymoon" was released in February 1956 (with "Fine Little Girl" on the flip). Played nightly by Alan Freed, this was one of my favorite songs of the time.

At The Apollo - 3/56 As "The Honeymoon" started to take off, the Solitaires were booked into the Apollo again, this time as part of Dr. Jive's Easter R&B Revue that began on March 30. The other acts were Bo Diddley, the Moonglows, Charlie & Ray, Dean Barlow, Brook Benton, the Fi-Tones, the Schoolboys, Sugar & Spice, and the Buddy Griffin Orchestra, featuring Claudia Swann.

Around July 1956, the Solitaires had another session, this time laying down "You've Sinned" and "You're Back With Me." Both tunes, released in July, were led by Milton. The first pressing had the title as "You're Back With Me," however, it was changed to "The Angels Sang" on all subsequent issues.

Soon after this, Old Town held a session for the Supremes (the "Tonight" group), at which they sang "Come Back And Give Me Your Hand." This tune was physically recorded at the end of the tape on which the Solitaires did "You've Sinned" and "The Angels Sang." Therefore, when the tape was found in 1984, it was mistakenly credited to the Solitaires. (Old Town had forgotten to note the Supremes' name on the tape box.)

"The Angels Sang" was the last session for Pat Gaston, who had joined the Air Force (let's face it, while the Solitaires were doing in New York, there were to be no national hits for them; we can probably lay the blame for this squarely on Old Town's lousy distribution). Pat said it was an agonizing decision not to rejoin the Solitaires when his military service was over, but fame in a singing group can be a very ephemeral thing, so he opted for college.

Pat was replaced by bass Freddy Barksdale (a friend of Buzzy's), who had been in the Crickets and the New Yorkers 5. If you were going to be a bass in R&B, "Barksdale" was as good a name as any. Freddy wasn't related to Chuck Barksdale (bass of the Cats And The Fiddle), Chuck Barksdale (bass of the Dells), or Andrew Barksdale (bass of the Sparks Of Rhythm). Not long after Freddy joined, Bobby Williams left to join jazz great Charlie Mingus (although he would occasionally return to the Solitaires). Herman Curtis was another defection; he'd be in and out of the group for the rest of their career. The Solitaires now consisted of Milton Love, Bobby Baylor, Buzzy Willis, Monte Owens, and Freddy Barksdale. Freddy introduced a more pronounced bass line; Pat's style was oriented more towards skillfully blending with the background (better for R&B) than being heard up front (generally more typical of R&R).

This is the group that, on October 10, 1956, recorded "Give Me One More Chance," "Nothing Like A Little Love," "How Long," "Silent Grief," and the song the Solitaires would always be remembered for: "Walking Along." All leads were by Milton Love (and "Walking Along" features foot-stomping by not only the group, but by Hy Weiss and his brother, Sam).

At The Apollo - 10/56 Two days later, the Solitaires opened for another week at the Apollo, this time as part of the "New R&B Stars of 1956" show. They shared the stage with the Pearls, the Dells, the Velours, the Channels, the Flamingos, Ruth McFadden, and Titus Turner.

Then it was on to the Howard Theater again, as part of a Dr. Jive show. The other acts were: the Dells, the El Dorados, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Eddie Cooley & Dimples, Robert & Johnny, and the Debutantes.

"Give Me One More Chance" and "Nothing Like A Little Love" were paired for an October 1956 release. Then, at the end of the year, the departed Bobby Williams held his own Old Town session, recording two solos which were never released: "I'll Be Around" and "Your Tomorrows."

In January 1957, Old Town released the Solitaires' signature song, "Walking Along," with "Please Kiss This Letter" on the flip. As big a hit as it was in New York, and as beloved an oldie as it is today, it never cracked the national charts at all.

February 8 found the Solitaires beginning another week at the Apollo. This time they were part of a show called "R&B Stars of 1957." Others on the bill were: the Pearls, the Velours, the Belltones, the Playboys, Ann Cole, Robert & Johnny, and the Paul Williams Orchestra. They were back for the week starting May 17, 1957, along with Clyde McPhatter, Moms Mabley, and the Buddy Johnson Orchestra, still featuring Ella Johnson and Floyd Ryland. A month later they did a week at the Howard with the Cardinals, the Harptones, Nappy Brown, Ocie Smith, and Big Maybelle.

On April 16, 1957, the Solitaires became part of Alan Freed's "Easter Jubilee Of Stars" at the Brooklyn Paramount. Others on this extravaganza were the Cleftones, the Harptones, the Del Vikings, the Cellos, the Pearls, Bobby Marchan, Bo Diddley, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, Charlie Gracie, the Rhythm Jesters, the G-Clefs, the Rosebuds, and Anita Ellis. It was at this time that each of the guys actually got a royalty check of $200 from Hy Weiss (for "Walking Along").

Dates get really fuzzy around this time. There was a Solitaires session held sometime in 1957 (summer or early fall), which produced "I Really Love You So" (aka "Honey Babe") and "Thrill Of Love." The former song was led by Herman Curtis, who had been discharged from the army and had once again rejoined the group; the latter features Milton (with Herman on the bridge). Missing from the session is Freddy Barksdale. On "I Really Love You So," the bass part is being done by Milton Love! (Freddy Barksdale didn't show up because he thought that Hy Weiss wasn't going to allow Milton to be part of the session; Freddy pretended to be sick and Hy ended up calling up Milton to ask if he could do the bass part!) The tunes were released in November.

ad for Walkin' And Talkin' Around February 1958, the Solitaires recorded "Walkin' And Talkin'" (led by Herman), "No More Sorrows" (Milton) and "When Will The Light Shine For Me" (Milton). These weren't all done at the same time, and missing from the "Walkin' And Talkin'" recording, for some reason was Freddy Barksdale; bass chores on that one song were handled by the Heartbeats' Wally Roker. "Walkin' And Talkin'" and "No More Sorrows" were paired for a March 1958 release.

By the summer of 1958, Herman Curtis had departed again (to rejoin the re-formed Vocaleers) and Freddy Barksdale had returned from his temporary absence. The Solitaires were now Milton Love, Bobby Baylor, Buzzy Willis, Monte Owens, and Freddy Barksdale.

Bobby gets married They did another stint at the Apollo, starting on July 4, 1958. They shared the stage with Clyde McPhatter, Lavern Baker, Doc Bagby, Valerie Carr, Leslie Uggams, and Ralph Mathis & Ambers. Gone from the group at this time was Bobby Baylor. There was a blurb in the July 5, 1958 New York Age that talked about his wedding to Merle Treadwell, daughter of Drifters' manager George Treadwell. He was characterized as "... former singer with the Solitaires quartet who is now a postal employee."

That summer they recorded "Big Mary's House," a re-make of "Please Remember My Heart," "Embraceable You," and "Round Goes My Heart." These were all led by Milton. In August, Old Town released "Big Mary's House," backed with the re-make of "Please Remember My Heart."

In September 1958, "Walking Along" got a new lease on life. The Diamonds, Mercury's white cover group, had released a version of the song. To try to get some additional sales, Old Town leased the masters to Chess, which released the tune on its Argo subsidiary.

Sometime in the fall, by which time Bobby Baylor had returned, the Solitaires had another session, from which nothing was issued. The four songs done were: "Hully Gully Roll," "At Night," "The Girl Is Gone," and "The Bells." All Were led by Milton, except for "The Bells," which featured Bobby Baylor doing the old Dominoes tune. Later in 1958 (date unknown), they recorded "September Song," also led by Bobby.

In early December, the Solitaries were part of a Ted Steele show at the Brooklyn Paramount. They shared the stage with Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Clyde McPhatter, the Shields, Jerry Butler, Lloyd Price, and others.

The next Old Town release was "Embraceable You" and "Round Goes My Heart" in December, just in time to coincide with an appearance at the Apollo Theater, the week beginning December 26, 1958. This time the show featured Clyde McPhatter, the Olympics, Duane Eddy, Moms Mabley, the Versatones, and Billy Barnes.

Cecil Holmes In early 1959, both Buzzy Willis and Bobby Baylor were drafted into the Army; they were replaced by Cecil Holmes and Reggie Barnes, who could both sing tenor and baritone. Cecil and Reggie were members of the Fi-Tones, a group that was disintegrating at this time; Monte Owens was instrumental in bringing them into the Solitaires. The group was now Milton Love, Cecil Holmes, Reggie Barnes, Monte Owens, and Freddy Barksdale.

ad for Helpless This was the group that recorded "Helpless," "Light A Candle In The Chapel," and "The Time Is Here," all led by Milton, in May 1959. The first two were released that same month.

The Solitaires were at the Apollo again the week beginning July 17, 1959. The show also featured Roy Hamilton, Mauri Leighton, the Mattison Trio, and Pigmeat & Freddy.

It was a long time before the Solitaires saw the Old Town studios again: almost a year and a half. The guys were getting disenchanted by this time, and the group was trying hard not to fall apart. Milton spent some time appearing with the Harptones and recording with the Cadillacs (he's lead on "I'm Willing," released on Mercury in November 1960).

ad for Lonesome Lover The next Solitaires session was held on October 25 1960, and produced "Lonesome Lover" (led by Milton) and "Pretty Thing," (a duet lead: Milton and Reggie). They were released in November, and I remember Jocko playing "Lonesome Lover" a lot in the next few months.

Solitaires - 1963 When Milton Love went into the Army (1961-1963), the group became somewhat inactive, although some appearances were made by a group consisting of Bobby Baylor, Cecil Holmes, Reggie Barnes, Monte Owens, and Harriet "Toni" Williams, who had sung with the Harptones and whom Reggie subsequently married. In early 1963, the Solitaires were composed of Bobby Baylor, Milton Love, Freddy Barksdale, and Cathy Miller. Later that year Herman Curtis rejoined and Cathy left.

The last Old Town release by the Solitaires was issued in March 1963. This paired 1959's "The Time Is Here," and 1957s "I Really Love You So" (now retitled "Honey Babe").

Later in 1963, the Solitaires went to MGM. They (newly-returned Milton Love, Buzzy Willis, Reggie Barnes, Cecil Holmes, and Freddy Barksdale) did one record for MGM ("Fool That I Am"/"Fair Weather Lover"), which was released in February, 1964. This was to be the group's last record as the "Solitaires."

The same month, an interesting record appeared on the Roulette label. One side, "What Would You Say," featured the dual lead of Milton Love and Bobby Baylor (with a forgotten tenor in the background) singing over a previously recorded instrumental piece. The flip, "Through A Long And Sleepless Night," was recorded on a different day, and had Milton Love, Bobby Baylor, Buzzy Willis, Monte Owens, Cecil Holmes, Reggie Barnes, and Freddy Donovan (bass of the Willows). Cecil Holmes was the conductor for both sides, which were released as by the "Chances."

In November 1964, some of the Solitaires (Milton Love, Bobby Baylor, and Freddy Barksdale) backed up Ray Brewster, as the "Cadillacs," on Esther Navarro's Arctic label, where they recorded "Fool"/"The Right Kind Of Lovin'." They also toured for a while as the Cadillacs.

While the Solitaires kept re-forming in different combinations, each of them eventually went off to pursue his own career. Buzzy Willis ended up as Director of Marketing for RCA's Rhythm & Blues Division and then Vice President of R&B Operations for Polydor. Cecil Holmes worked for Buddah Records as a "record man" (the guy who visits DJs all over the country to push the company's records); then, in the 70s, he formed Casablanca Records (along with Neil Bogart). Bobby Baylor became a Transit Conductor (he passed away in January of 1989); Milton Love became a Medical Technician at Roosevelt Hospital; Freddy Barksdale and Monte Owens went to work for the Post Office. Pat Gaston, originally a high school dropout, went on to get his doctorate in clinical psychology, and in the early 70s was the special assistant to the Corrections Commissioner of New York City; by 1984, he was a warden at the Rikers Island prison. Herman Curtis played the organ in a combo; and Reggie Barnes became a drummer, and was with Jimmy Castor on "Hey Leroy." Bobby Williams, who was heavily into jazz, joined the Charlie Mingus orchestra, and died in 1961, probably from sickle-cell anemia.

Solitaires in the1970s In the early 70s, the trio of Milton Love, Bobby Baylor and Freddy Barksdale appeared as the Solitaires at oldies revivals. At times they'd be joined by Monte Owens (and even once by both Monte and Buzzy Willis).

In the 90s, Milton Love and Freddy Barksdale kept the Solitaires name alive, adding George Magnezid (of the original Wrens) and Robby Mansfield (son of Wrens' lead, Bobby Mansfield).

While never achieving the national stature of many of their contemporaries, the Solitaires managed to outlast most of them in a career that saw them as one of the top vocal groups on the New York scene.


THE SOLITAIRES

OLD TOWN
1000 Wonder Why (HC/WW)/Blue Valentine (HC) - 1/54
1001 You're Laughing Cause I'm Crying (group not credited) (UR)/[Ursula's Blues - Ursula Reed (no group)] - 2/54
1006/1007 Please Remember My Heart (HC)/South Of The Border (BB) - 6/54
1008 Chances I've Taken (all)/Lonely (HC) - 11/54
1010 I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance (BW)/Girl Of Mine (HC) - 12/54
1012 What Did She Say (HC)/My Dear (HC) - 4/55
1014 The Wedding (ML-BB)/Don't Fall In Love (ML) - 8/55
1015 Magic Rose (ML)/Later For You Baby (ML) - 11/55
1019 The Honeymoon (ML-BB)/Fine Little Girl (ML) - 2/56
1026 You've Sinned (ML)/You're Back With Me (ML) - 7/56
1026 You've Sinned (ML)/The Angels Sang (ML) - 7/56
            "You're Back With Me" and "The Angels Sang" are the same song
1032 Give Me One More Chance (ML)/Nothing Like A Little Love (ML) - 10/56
1034 Walking Along (ML)/Please Kiss This Letter (HC) - 1/57
            also released as Argo 5316 - 9/58
1044 I Really Love You So HC)/Thrill Of Love (ML/HC) - 11/57
1049 Walkin' And Talkin' (HC)/No More Sorrows (ML) - 3/58
1059 Big Mary's House (ML)/Please Remember My Heart (ML) - 8/58
            "Please Remember My Heart" is re-sung
1066 Embraceable You (ML)/Round Goes My Heart (ML) - 12/58
1071 Helpless (ML)/Light A Candle In The Chapel (ML) - 5/59
1096 Lonesome Lover (ML)/Pretty Thing (ML-RB) - 11/60
1139 The Time Is Here (ML)/Honey Babe (HC) - 3/63
            "Honey Babe" is the same song as 1957's "I Really Love You So"

   UNRELEASED OLD TOWN
      At Night
      Chapel Of St. Claire
      Come Back My Love
      Come Back To Me
      Davy Crockett
      Fool About The Man I Love (backing Ursula Reed)
      Have A Good Time (Ursula Reed; unclear if the Solitaires are backing her)
      How Long
      Hully Gully Roll
      If I Loved You
      Listen, Listen Baby (unclear if this is the Solitaires)
      September Song
      Silent Grief
      Stranger In Paradise
      The Bells
      The Girl Is Gone
      When Will The Light Shine For Me


MGM
13221 Fair Weather Lover (ML)/Fool That I Am (ML) - 2/64


ROULETTE (as the Chances)
4549 Through A Long And Sleepless Night (ML-BB)/What Would You Say (ML-BB) - 2/64


ARCTIC (backing Ray Brewster, as "Ray Brewster & The Cadillacs")
101 Fool/The Right Kind Of Lovin' - 11/64


LEADS
      BB = Bobby Baylor
      BW = Bobby Williams
      HC = Herman Curtis
      ML = Milton Love
      RB = Reggie Barnes
      UR = The Solitaires backing Ursula Reed
      WW = Winston "Buzzy" Willis



Unca Marvy's Home Page

More Articles