Notebook Cover

  Tommy Evans
and the Carols

  Part of the Ravens Article By Marv Goldberg

© 1999, 2009 by Marv Goldberg

Tommy Evans, from Detroit, began singing in the late 40s, with a gospel group called the Unity Baptist Five. The other members were: Richard Coleman (first tenor), William Davis (second tenor), Wilbert Tindle (baritone), and James Worthy (piano/arranger). Sing they might, but they all had day jobs working for the Ford Motor Company. Little by little, they considered moving away from gospel and into R&B. It doesn't take much to realize that this was prompted by Tommy's ability to imitate Jimmy Ricks.

In late 1949, they changed their name to the Carols, and entered an amateur contest at the Frolic Show Bar. After winning, they were kept on at the Frolic, on weekends, earning the astronomical sum of $4 per man per night. Their manager was Hymie Gastman, owner of the Frolic. In 1950, he brought them to New York, where they appeared on TV with Lionel Hampton on the Cavalcade Of Bands (DuMont, Tuesday, 9 - 10 pm). After the show, the Carols played the Baby Grand on Harlem's 125th Street.

While in New York, Gastman got them an audition for Columbia Records, which rushed to record them (on April 20, 1950). There was thus a Ravens sound on Columbia months before the Ravens. Tommy Evans was lead on all songs recorded by the Carols.

   COLUMBIA (The Carols)
      30210 Please Believe In Me / Drink Gin - 6/50
      30217 If I Could Steal You From Somebody Else / I Should Have Thought - 8/50

Columbia 30217 Columbia 30210 However, Columbia didn't promote the two records. The first was reviewed in Billboard on June 24, 1950; the second wasn't sent out for review.

Please Believe Me [sic] (40): Unimpressive male vocal group doesn't register on this uninspired hillbilly ditty taken at medium jump.

Drink Gin (28): Group is utterly unable to carry thru a would-be comic vaude material of a would-be comic novelty. [This is the worst rating I've ever seen in Billboard.]

And so back to Detroit, where Richard Coleman left and was replaced by Kenneth Duncan. However, by the time the group was written up in the December 9, 1950 Detroit Tribune, he'd been replaced, in turn, by Richard Hawkins:

Making a special guest appearance at the Frolic Show Bar this week is one of the nation's newest sensations, the Five Carols.

These five youngsters have just returned from a limited stay in New York City where they recorded several of their original numbers for Columbia, and made a guest appearance with Lionel Hampton on television.

These gents of rhythm are really down with some mad jive and their records are really on the kick. Take a tip and latch on to one called "Please Believe Me" [sic]. The group is made up of Thomas Evans, bass; Richard Hawkins, second tenor; Wilbur Tendel [sic], baritone; William Davis, first tenor; and James Worthy, piano and arranger.

By early 1952, Hymie Gastman had been replaced by Al Green, manager of the Flame Show Bar (and former manager of Lavern Baker and Johnny Ray). It was reported, in May 1952, that they were going to New York to record for Decca, but nothing ever came of it.

In 1953, Green arranged for them to record for New Jersey's Savoy Records, although the (the April 27 session was held in Detroit.

Savoy 896    SAVOY (The Carols)
      896 I Got A Feelin' / Fifty Million Women - 5/53

The record was reviewed in Billboard on June 6, 1953:

Fifty Million Women (68): Material here could catch some coin in the right location. Group is okay, but not strong.

I Got A Feelin' (66): So-so hunk of blues material gets a so-so reading from an ordinary vocal group with a pretty fair bass lead.

      Mighty Like A Rose
      Call For Me If You Want Me

            "Call For Me If You Want Me," you might guess, sounds a great deal like the Ravens' "Send For Me If You Need Me."

That was it for the Carols' brief recording career. They continued to sing at the Frolic, but when Tommy was tapped for the Ravens, it was the end of the line for the group.

The Ravens - Part 1

The Ravens - Part 2

The Ravens - Part 3

The Ravens - Part 4 - Discography

Warren Suttles' Dreamers

The Marshall Brothers

Joe Van Loan's early career

Joe Van Loan's extracurricular activities

Jimmy Ricks' post-Ravens career

Warren Suttles wins an award

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