The Capris: Gotham Recording Stars (LP)
The street corners of Philadelphia have given birth to many vocal groups that have become legends in the Rhythm &, Blues music field. Among the most respected of the early groups were the Buccaneers, Castelles, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, and the Capris.
The Capris story began in
the early 195O’s when West Philadelphia youngsters Ruben Wright,
Eddie Warner, Harrison Scott, Bobby Smart and Charlie Stroud began
harmonizing on the corner. When Charlie Stroud left the group in
1953, the Capris looked for a replacement. They eventually settled on
Rena Hinton who had been singing with a popular local female quartet.
Thinking a female lead would distinguish them from other groups, the
Capris quickly taught Rena the lead parts of all their songs. Rena
had only been with the Capris a couple of months when they signed
with Gotham records in June 1954.
In the year that followed, Gotham
released three records (six sides) by the Capris. “God Only Knows"
was an instant hit, drawing quite a bit of local airplay. The Capris
found themselves making radio and even television appearances. Like
“God Only Knows," the ballads “It Was Moonglow" and
“It’s A Miracle" were beautiful examples of
Philadelphia-style R&,B, featuring Rena Hinton’s tenor lead.
Capris career was cut short when some of the guys entered the Air
Force. Although the group was reactivated in 1958 to record “My
Weakness)” (Fred Hale replaced Harrison Scott) the group could not
recapture the success of “God Only Knows” and decided to go their
When I agreed to help assemble this Capris album from
the original Gotham recording session tapes, I had only a slight idea
of what was ahead. I remembered Rena telling me about the Capris
recording “God Only Knows” over and over again until they felt it
was perfect. I recalled Charlie Stroud telling me about some of the
great songs in the Capris’ repertoire-songs like “Just A Fool"
and “You’re Mine Again” which I had never heard. What I found
was a total of thirteen reels of tape, all in their original boxes.
Some boxes looked like they hadn’t been opened in twenty five
years. One tape disintegrated from age when we tried to play it. The
other twelve, however, provided a glimpse back in time to those days
in 1954 when the Capris recorded.
This vinyl-album truly contains the best
of the Capris’ recordings. Twelve of the sixteen cuts contained
here have never before been released. The Capris’ hits “God Only
Knows," “It’s A Miracle," “Too Poor to Love" and
“Yes My Baby Please” are included here as they were released
during the 195O’s. The versions of “My Weakness," “It Was
Moonglow,” and “Let's Linger Awile” are alternate takes from
the sessions that produced the released versions.
When the Capris
recorded “That's What You're Doing To Me” Rena was not familiar
with the song’s lyrics and sang from a lead sheet. The song was
written for a male lead, and contained the line “. . .why I love
that woman so. . ..” After the first take, Rena changed the lyrics
but Gotham mistakenly released the first take on the Capris’ 1954
single. This album contains an alternate version of “That’s What
IYou’re Doing to Me” where Rena sings the corrected Lyrics.
“He Still Loves Me” is a beautiful ballad in classic Capris’ style featuring Rena’s tenor lead. A male lead version of the same song, “She Still Loves Me,” is also included. Rena also leads the group in the outstanding ballads “You’re Mine Again," “Just A Fool” and a cover of the Chord’s record, “Bless You." Ruben leads on the mambo influenced “How Long." Rounding out the album are two more fine Capris songs, “Please Believe’ Me” and “I Miss Your Love.”
Our knowledge of early Rhythm &, Blues vocal group styles is limited by the few recordings we have from them. This historic album allows us to better appreciate one of the finest of the 1950’s harmony groups-the Capris.
Article properties: The Capris: Gotham Recording Stars (LP)
|Capris - Gotham Recording Stars (LP) LP 1|
|01||God Only Knows||The Capris||
|02||He Still Loves Me||The Capris||
|03||You're Mine Again||The Capris||
|04||How Long||The Capris||
|05||Let's Linger Awhile||The Capris||
|06||It's A Miracle||The Capris||
|07||Bless You||The Capris||
|08||That's What You're Doing To Me||The Capris||
|09||It Was Moonglow||The Capris||
|10||She Still Loves Me||The Capris||
|11||I Miss Your Love||The Capris||
|12||Just A Fool||The Capris||
|13||Please Believe Me||The Capris||
|14||My Weakness||The Capris||
|15||Yes My Baby Please||The Capris||
There's A Moon Out Tonight
Another group of New York Italian-American teens into singing street corner doo-wop, The Capris were in their mid-teens when they formed in 1957. They had to wait three years for their debut single to become a hit, and by the time it did they'd gone their separate ways, only to reform in the wake of its surprise success.
Hailing from the Ozone Park section of Queens, The Capris were fronted by Nick Santamaria (professional surname Santo, born November 10, 1941), first tenor Mike Mincelli, second tenor Frank Reina, baritone Vinnie Narcardo, and bass John Cassese. Named after the Lincoln Capri auto (they weren't aware of The Capris who recorded God Only Knows for Gotham in '54), the quintet auditioned for a couple of producers in the autumn of '58 with the luxurious ballad There's A Moon Out Tonight and cut it at Bell Sound along with the jumping B-side Indian Girl for tiny Planet Records. Despite a gorgeous, largely acappella ending, it sank without trace. Nick enlisted in the Army and The Capris folded.
Fast forward to 1960. Jerry Greene, a young record collector manning the counter for Slim Rose's Times Square record shop in a midtown Manhattan subway arcade, gave a collector 50 cents in trade for a copy of The Capris' obscure single. He took it to local oldies deejay Alan Fredericks to play on his program, offering a buck in credit to anyone who brought in another copy. No one did, and customers streamed in wanting to buy the song. Greene and two other collectors got a lead from a pal and bought 100 copies from Planet for $60, selling them to Rose for $100. They flew out of the store like hotcakes. They did the same thing the next week, but when they went back a third time, Planet's owner said there were no more copies to be had. He sold the trio the masters for $200. They passed on picking up the publishing for an extra 10 bucks.
Greene's crew formed Lost Nite Records to repress There's A Moon Out Tonight, and thanks to airplay on Murray The K's radio show, orders poured in. Realizing their fledgling operation couldn't handle the overload, Lost Nite passed the master on to Hy Weiss' Old Town Records. By late February of '61, There's A Moon Out Tonight sat at #3 on the pop charts and made an #11 R&B showing that earned the reformed group gigs at the Regal Theater in Chicago and New York's Apollo. The Capris got back to recording after their lengthy studio hiatus, nailing a minor hit with Where I Fell In Love for Old Town that spring. Girl In My Dreams creased the charts for them that fall. A switch to Mr. Peeke Records gave The Capris their last chart entry in 1962 with Limbo. Santo joined New York's police department, and only Frank and Mike from the original lineup were on board after 1965.
There's a postscript. Nick returned to the group for the 1982 album 'There's A Moon Out Again' for Ambient Sound Records. The set's irresistible Morse Code Of Love, penned by Nick, became a huge 'oldie' on the East Coast even though it was newly recorded. Once again, the Capris were back in business. Santamaria died December 30, 2010 of mesothelioma.
- Bill Dahl -
Various - Vol.10, Street Corner Symphonies 1958
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