Who was/is The Cues ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

The Cues & Jimmy Breedlove

Burn That Candle

The Cues didn't form the usual way. No standing under the street corner lamp, harmonizing and hoping for some record exec to stroll by. Atlantic Records A&R man Jesse Stone wanted an in-house vocal group to back his label's stars, so in 1954 he contacted tenor Ollie Jones, formerly of The Ravens and The Blenders, and baritone Winfield Scott (aka Robie Kirk). Two more singers were also recruited; the ad hoc quartet was billed as The Playboys behind Charlie White (see our previous volume). No matter who they backed at Atlantic, they were disguised under different names and sometimes incorporated different members.

Although Aladdin Records was based in L.A., the label maintained a New York logo called Lamp, and Stone ran it for the Mesner brothers. Jesse brought his group to Lamp, and in September of '54 they officially debuted as The Cues with Scoochie Scoochie (led by Jones) b/w Forty 'Leven Dozen Ways, fronted by fellow ex-Blender Abel De Costa, a first tenor. It came out in November and sank without trace, but the group was too busy at Atlantic to worry about it. They were The Gliders on LaVern Baker's '55 smash Tweedlee Dee, which was written by Scott. Bass Edward Byrnes was now a permanent fixture in The Cues.

The Cues had a '55 release on Jubilee coupling Only You (not The Platters' smash) and I Fell For Your Loving (both Jones vehicles), and they masqueraded as The Four Students for Hot Rotten Soda Pop and its flip So Near And Yet So Far on RCA's Groove subsidiary before settling in at Capitol as The Cues with Apalachicola, Florida-bred Jimmy Breedlove their other tenor. The Cues cut their first date for their new label on August 11, 1955 at Capitol's New York studios on 47th Street. Scott brought Burn That Candle along; bouncy and infectious, it was expressively sung by Breedlove, and Sam 'The Man' Taylor turned in a scalding sax solo. Jones led the other side, the Stone-penned ballad Oh My Darlin', at a followup session 13 days later. Capitol issued Burn That Candle in September only to see Bill Haley and His Comets' Decca cover go to #9 pop while The Cues' original languished at #86.

While maintaining their busy background schedule at Atlantic behind Big Joe Turner, Ivory Joe Hunter, and Ruth Brown, The Cues tried to land a Capitol hit of their own with the perky Jones-led novelty Charlie Brown (not The Coasters' future hit) near year's end as well as the rocketing Destination 2100 And 65 (penned and fronted by Ollie),a Breedlove-fronted Crackerjack with no other Cues in evidence, and a Stone-penned Why that Breedlove led in '56 that made a #77 pop showing in early '57. The Cues were demoted to Capitol's Prep logo for their swan song Crazy, Crazy Party, led by Ollie. Stone was their producer all the way.

Songwriting proved lucrative for both Jones ( Nat Cole'sSend For Me and the Crests' Step By Step) and Scott (The Five Keys' Gee Whittakers and Elvis' One Broken Heart For Sale) after The Cues faded out. De Costa participated in countless sessions as a background singer, while Breedlove made a '58 solo LP on RCA Camden. 


The Cues - Why
BCD 15510 AH - EAN 4000127155108

The Cues were America's favorite vocal group for a couple of years in the mid-1950s, but the record buyers just never knew it. The only records by the Cues to peek into the Top Pop charts under their own name were Burn That Candle in 1955 and Why? in 1957, yet they were heard on dozens of hits for Atlantic, RCA-Victor, Capitol, MGM and Columbia. They were the first of a new breed – a back-up vocal group, and two men were responsible for their success and the continuing popularity of back-up groups.


Both the Cues and the concept of having a group solely for background work were fathered by Jesse Stone, possibly the most influential figure in the development of American rock 'n' roll (never mind what you've been reading in 'Rolling Stone'). The group he formed was under the leadership of Ollie Jones, a gifted writer and possessor of an uncanny musical ear – which made Jones the vocal equivalent of a sight-reading musician.

Before the Cues, there were vocal groups who cut only their own records, and there were large regimented choruses, such as the Ray Charles Singers, who provided background for many pop tunes in the 1940s. Jesse Stone, in his position as arranger and conductor for Atlantic Records and other companies, saw a need for a permanent cadre of singers who could sing in the new R&B style, which the multivoiced choral groups could not approach.

Stone had been with Atlantic from the very beginning in 1947, coming to the label with credentials in music  hat extended back to 1927 and a moderately successful career as a bandleader. With fellow National Records alumnus Herb Abramson, he determined the direction that the fledgling Atlantic label needed to go, if it were to survive.

"When Atlantic first started, at the end of 1947," Stone recalls, "we were trying to do jazz. The jazz didn't sell. We tried to analyze what was wrong. We eventually made a trip down South – Ahmet, Herb, and myself. We found out that our music wasn't right because it wasn't danceable. The kids were looking for something to dance to. I listened to the stuff that was being done down there, and I concluded that the only thing that was missing from the stuff we were recording was the rhythm. All we needed was a bass line. So I designed a bass pattern, and it sort became identified with rock 'n' roll—doo, da-doo, dum; doo, da –doo, dum—that thing. I'm the guilty person that started that."

A few years before, Ollie Jones, born in Philadelphia on December 9, 1929, was hanging around Jimmy Evans' Booking Agency in New York City with Leonard Puzey when a call came in for two singers. Ben Bart, head of Universal Attractions, was building a vocal group around the extraordinary talents of Jimmy Ricks.

"The Ravens were actually looking for a high tenor", Jones says, "because Bill Kenny and the Ink Spots were the thing. Everybody wanted that high sound.

I never did do that, but I said, if they want a high tenor, I'm a high tenor. They hired me and I stayed until Maithe Marshall came along. After that I went with another group of three guys looking for a fourth. We called ourselves the Four Notes and I worked a summer carnival circuit with them before coming back to New York. I think Rickey (Jimmy Ricks) felt a little guilty about the way I was let go by the Ravens and he helped me put together the Blenders."

Jones was heard with Jimmy Ricks, Leonard Puzey, and Warren Stuttles on three recordings made for Ben Bart's own Hub label in the Fall of 1946. Although still only in his teens, Jones contributed the lovely composition Lullaby to the group, the biggest hit the Ravens had during their time on Hub. After a bit of touring in the Midwest, he left the group at the end of 1946, replaced by the thrilling falsetto voice of Maithe Marshall.

During the summer and fall of 1947, Jones worked with the Four Notes, a group that included baritone Tommy Adams. When he decided to form his own group, he acquired Adams, Abel DeCosta, and Jimmy DeLoach. DeLoach did the 'Ricky' bass part on the Blenders' first recording for National in October, 1949. From 1950 to 1952, with numerous personnel changes, the Blenders recorded for Decca, but even this association with a major label could not bring them a hit record. After working for MGM in 1953 they did a few sessions for Joe Davis and then disbanded. While with Davis, the Blenders recorded another Jones composition, Please Take Me Back.

The Cues Why
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The Cues: Why
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1-CD with 24-page booklet, 28 tracks. Playing time approx. 69 mns. An absolute must-have for doo-wop and vocal group collectors! The Cues from New York City backed everyone! LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner...! They recorded the original version of Bill...

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