The Youngsters didn't make much of a dent in the Los Angeles R&B scene, in spite of having some half-dozen releases (under four different group names).
Second tenor Charles Everidge was originally from Kansas City, Kansas. In the fall of 1954, he relocated to Los Angeles, attending Gardena High School. However, after only a single semester there, he transferred to Manual Arts, one of the hotbeds of L.A.'s vocal group scene (along with Jefferson and Fremont).
One night, in early 1955, Charles found himself at a party. There are many things to do at parties, but singing ranks up there near the top. That was the night he met Homer Green (first tenor), Donald Miller (first tenor), Harold Murray (baritone), and James Monroe Warren (bass). They started singing, decided they sounded pretty good, and Harold asked the time-honored question: "Why don't we form a group." After that, they sang anywhere they could in school: hallways, bathrooms, the lunch room, and the parking lot. "We rehearsed whenever we could get a few minutes," says Charles. There were also the talent shows at school assemblies; the guys appeared frequently on these. And, to keep them from getting lazy, there were plenty of other groups around to give them competition. At the time, Manual Arts was home to the Calvanes, Charles Wright's Twilighters, the Tantones, and some of Shirley Gunter's Queens.
Then, the most important decision: a name for the group. Several names were considered, but for the most part, they called themselves the Preludes.
There was a songwriter/arranger named Scott Johnson (a relative of the Johnson Brothers of the Souvenirs) who saw the Preludes at a talent show. He gave them some of his songs to practice and also arranged for them to audition for several labels during 1955. Nothing came of those introductions, but in late 1955 or early 1956, through the efforts of Jesse Belvin, they hooked up with the new Empire label.
Empire, at 1614 North Argyle, in Hollywood, was owned by Helen Krinitt, Emil Bailey, and George Motola. Empire wasn't interested in Johnson's songs, however, and all the songs they eventually recorded were given to them by Empire (of course, George Motola claimed to have written almost all of them).
Within a short time, they'd recorded their first four songs: "Don't Fall In Love Too Soon," "I Want Your Arms Around Me (All The Time)" (both led by Donald Miller), "Shattered Dreams" and "Rock'n Roll'n Cowboy" (both led by Charles Everidge).
All four songs were released in April 1956: the first two as the Preludes and the others as the "Youngsters," a name given to them by Empire. This was the era of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Empire saw a way of cashing in by emphasizing the youth of the singers (although, in truth, they were all 17 or 18). Since Empire released most of the Preludes' songs as by the Youngsters, they eventually gave in and took to calling themselves by that name.
The Preludes record was reviewed on June 2 (both sides "excellent"), along with the Charms' "One Night Only," the Dappers' "Unwanted Love," the 4 Tops' "Could It Be You," Lee Andrews & the Hearts' "Show Me The Merengue," and the Sonnets "Why Should We Break Up."
The Youngsters disc had to wait an additional week to be reviewed. On June 9, "Shattered Dreams" was rated excellent. Other reviews that week went to Billy Bland's "Chicken Hop," the 5 Keys' "My Pigeon's Gone," the Hawks' "It's All Over," the Cadillacs' "Woe Is Me," Fatso & the Flairs' "Be Cool My Heart," the Leaders' "Can't Help Lovin' That Girl Of Mine," the 4 Fellows' "Darling You," the Juniors' "I Promise," Jimmy Ricks & the Rickateers' "The Unbeliever," the 5 Satins "I Remember (In The Still Of The Night)," the Chorals' "In My Dream," and the Chestnuts' "Love Is True."
In May 1956, a different take of "Shattered Dreams" was issued on the HEG label. Another company owned by Empire, "HEG" stood for Helen, Emil, and George. The flip was "I'm Sorry Now" (led by Donald Miller). For unknown reasons, the release was credited to the strangely-named (for the 50s) "Them, featuring Him."
After high school graduation, in early June 1956, there were two defections. Homer Green left to join the Marines; his place was taken by tenor Herman Pruitt, former lead of the recently-deceased Calvanes (another group from Manual Arts). Donald Miller also quit, to be replaced by tenor Robert Johnson. Robert was Charles Everidge's step-brother and had recently relocated to Los Angeles from the East Coast.
Late June saw another release, this time as the "Tempters": "I'll See You Next Fall" featured a duet lead by Donald Miller and Homer Green; its flip was a re-issue of "I'm Sorry Now." Why the Tempters? It was simply another name that Empire dreamed up (they had considered calling the guys the "Temptations," but finally decided that was too suggestive).
The platter was reviewed on July 21 (both sides "good"), along with the Gassers' "Hum De Dum," the Cues' "Crackerjack," the El Dorados' "Chop Ling Soon," the Spaniels' "Baby Come Along With Me," the Hurricanes' "Dear Mother," the Phantoms' "Sweet Breeze," the 4 Dots' "Peace Of Mind," and the Dusters' "Sallie Mae."
In the summer, they went on a tour accompanying James Brown and the Famous Flames, whose "Please, Please, Please" smash was still in the middle of its 19-week run on the R&B charts. This two-week jaunt took them to New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.
In August, Empire issued another Youngsters record: "Counterfeit Heart" and "You're An Angel (With The Devil In Your Eyes)," two tunes led by Charles Everidge. They were reviewed on October 20, 1956, along with Ann Cole's "In The Chapel," the Angels' "Glory Of Love," the Cubs' "Why Did You Make Me Cry," the Charmers' "All Alone," the Meadowlarks' "Boogie Woogie Teenage," the Keystoners' "The Magic Kiss," the Parakeets' "Yvonne," the Romancers' "Jump And Hop," and Boogaloo's "Clothes Line."
In the early fall, they had their last session for Empire, recording "Dreamy Eyes" and "Christmas In Jail," two more songs fronted by Charles Everidge (who's singing in a very low voice on "Jail"). You can hear Herman Pruitt on the bridge to "Dreamy Eyes." These were released in October, and reviewed on December 1 (both "fair"). The other songs reviewed that week included Clyde McPhatter's "Without Love," Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me," the Moroccos' "Bang Goes My Heart," the Sophomores' "I Left My Sugar Standing In The Rain," and the Counts' "Sweet Names."
According to a blurb in the trades, "Christmas In Jail" prompted a letter to Empire from the National Safety Council. The Youngsters, the letter read, sent a clear message to kids (in a non-preachy way), about the evils of drinking and driving, that might help prevent holiday accidents.
On New Year's Eve, the Youngsters appeared at the Palladium in San Diego. This was right on the heels of having been part of the holiday show at the United Artists Theater in downtown Los Angeles, where they shared the stage (for three shows a day) with Googie Rene, Sonny Knight, Richard Berry and the Dreamers, the Six Teens, the Twilighters, and Jake Porter's orchestra. The MC was local DJ Dick "Huggie Boy" Hugg. Good exposure, but the Youngsters never got paid for the week.
"Dreamy Eyes" started to do well locally, prompting Aladdin Records to have the Squires cover it in January 1957. There was also a Pop cover by the 4 Preps on Capitol.
Since "Dreamy Eyes" did so well for the Youngsters, James Warren remembered that the next few months found the Youngsters in great demand. There were appearances with Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, Richard Berry and the Dreamers, the Penguins, the Medallions, the Meadowlarks, Don & Dewey (who had both been in the Squires prior to them covering "Dreamy Eyes"), Jesse Belvin, and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. James said that they got a reputation as one of the West Coast's "best singing, showmanship [sic], and hardest working groups."
In spite of this, "Dreamy Eyes" was their last release. In fact, it was also the last release for Empire, which folded in early 1957. Now, the Youngsters were stuck without a recording company.
In late 1957, Robert Johnson joined the Marines; only a year before, he'd replaced Homer Green, who had left for the same reason. At that point, the group just drifted apart.
Charles Everidge kicked around for a year hoping that his singing career would pan out. Finally, he signed up for the Air Force and was on a waiting list to be called. But then, in May of 1958, an odd record was released: the Shields' "You Cheated." For reasons I've never understood, this lackluster cover of the even more lackluster original by the Slades became a national hit.
As Kate Karp and I wrote in our Frankie Ervin/Shields article:
[Lead singer] Frankie [Ervin] abhorred the song itself, as originally recorded by the Slades (Domino 500). This was a good judgment call. It was a lackluster delivery of a childish song; the words were insipid, and the guitar work was boring at best. Frankie insisted on taking the demo and lead sheets home with him to work on it as he had done before. "The lyrics," he remembers, "were not my style. I did love the melody, though, so I had to work on it. I had to be comfy, you know."
However, there really was no "Shields" group, just a few guys that Jesse Belvin had corralled to back up Ervin. But with a hit record, you needed a performing group. Well, "You Cheated" was released on Tender Records, which just happened to be owned by George Motola, who had been one of the partners in Empire.
Motola contacted Charles and asked him to put together a group of "Shields" to go out with Frankie Ervin and promote the record locally. Charles got bass James Warren, along with James' cousin, Howard Gardner (tenor and baritone), and Tommy Youngblood (second tenor). One appearance that Charles remembers was at the El Monte Legion Stadium.
But Charles didn't particularly like "You Cheated" either and was still smarting over the demise of the Youngsters. The Air Force finally called (in August 1958), and off he went. His place in the "Shields" was taken by Toncie Blackwell. Charles was posted to a base near New Orleans and heard "You Cheated" become a national smash. Charles then felt a little remorse at no longer being part of the group. This didn't last too long, however; when he was home on leave in December, he found that James Warren had to be sent money to catch a bus for home after hardly being paid for a Shields tour.
James went on to join a group called the Lions. The original members were: Horace "Pookie" Wooten (second tenor/baritone), Charles Jackson (tenor) [both Wooten and Jackson had been in the "Zindy Lou" Chimes], baritone Jerome Evans, and bass James Warren.
They recorded "Two Timing Lover"/"The Feast Of The Beasts" for Rendezvous (released in January 1960) and "The Yokel (He Went To Town)"/"Hickory Dickory" for Imperia (issued in June).
In the summer of 1960, when Charles Everidge got out of the service, he became a member of the Lions, replacing Jerome Evans. While the group was usually a quartet, for their next session they added second tenor David Cobb (another former member of the Chimes) and first tenor Tony Allen (who had recorded "Night Owl" with the Chimes behind him [as the "Champs"]).
The Lions then recorded "No One" (led by David Cobb)/"Giggles" (fronted by Tony Allen); these were released on the Everest label in September 1960. The next month they were re-issued on James McEachin's Mack IV label. Their last record (as a quartet again) was also on Mack IV: "Til The 13th Month"/"Girl Of The World."
When the Lions broke up, Charles Everidge and James Warren teamed up with Robert Johnson again, this time as a trio called the Mad Lads (named after, E. Rodney Jones, "The Mad Lad," a Kansas City DJ that Charles used to listen to). They recorded "Hey Man" and "Why" for H.B. Barnum's Mark-Fi label (the audition for Barnum was arranged by Kent Harris, the former "Boogaloo"). There was also 1963's "Eli The Iceman" and "Quit Shuckin'" for Melic, owned by drummer Lee Young, brother of saxman Lester Young.
Later in 1963, the Lions re-formed, with Ray Daughtery replacing Charles Everidge (the others were still Charles Jackson, James Warren, and Horace Wooten). Calling themselves the Resonics, they recorded three records (one each for Unity, Lil-Larry, and Lucky Token).
In spite of James Warren also singing with the Resonics, the Mad Lads continued on through the 60s and early 70s (they weren't the more famous Mad Lads group on Stax/Volt). The only other recordings they made were as backup to a singer named Towana, on 1971's "Wear Your Natural, Baby" and "Help Me Get That Feeling Back Again". These were on Kent Harris' Romark label, with the Mad Lads billed as "The Total Destruction." (Towana, whose real name was Veatrice Thomas, but who also performed as "Ty Karim", was Kent Harris' girlfriend, and later, his wife. Kent "Boogaloo" Harris was the brother of the Harris Sisters.)
In 2006, Charles Everidge, James Warren, Donald Miller, and Herman Pruitt are still alive. Robert Johnson, Harold Murray, and Homer Green have passed away.
The Youngsters were part of the infinitely-complicated Los Angeles R&B scene of the 50s and 60s. While their contribution wasn't world-shaking, several of them remained in the music business for many years.
Special thanks to Victor Pearlin, Elaine Wade, and Jim Dawson. Discographies, as usual, from Ferdie Gonzalez. Ads from Galen Gart's First Pressings series.
103 Don't Fall In Love Too Soon (DM)/I Want Your Arms Around Me (DM) - 4/56 [as THE PRELUDES]
104 Shattered Dreams (CE)/Rock'n Roll'n Cowboy (CE) - 4/56 [as THE YOUNGSTERS]
HEG (subsidiary of Empire)
501 Shattered Dreams (CE)/I'm Sorry Now (DM) - 5/56 [as THEM, FEATURING HIM]
[NOTE: "Shattered Dreams" is from the same session as the release on Empire, but a different take]
105 I'll See You Next Fall (DM/HG)/I'm Sorry Now (DM) - 6/56 [as THE TEMPTERS]
107 Counterfeit Heart (CE)/You're An Angel (CE) - 8/56 [as THE YOUNGSTERS]
109 Dreamy Eyes (CE/HP)/Christmas In Jail (CE) - 10/56 [as THE YOUNGSTERS]
109 Dreamy Eyes (CE/HP)/I'm Sorry Now (DM) - 12/56 [as THE YOUNGSTERS]
109 Dreamy Eyes (CE)/Christmas In Jail (CE) - 9/60 [as THE YOUNGSTERS]
116 Two Timing Lover (HW)/The Feast Of The Beasts (HW) - 1/60
5678 The Yokel (He Went To Town) (HW)/Hickory Dickory (HW) - 6/60
19388No One (DC)/Giggles (TA) - 9/60
1/2 No One (No One But You) (DC)/Giggles (TA) - 10/60
104 Til The 13th Month (HW)/Girl Of The World (HW) - 3/61
1934 Hey Man (RJ)/Why (RJ) - 10/62
4140 Eli The Iceman (CE)/Quit Shuckin' (RJ) - 1963
101 Pepe La Phew/Split Personality - 63
1005 It Won't Be Long/With Your Love To Guide Me - 64
108 I'm Really In Love/Think Right - 4/64
102 Wear Your Natural, Baby/Help Me Get That Feeling Back Again - 1971
DM = Donald Miller; HG = Homer Green; CE = Charles Everidge; HP = Herman Pruitt; RJ = Robert Johnson;
TA = Tony Allen; HW = Horace Wooten; DC = David Cobb