Talk about a sleeper: it took The Edsels' Rama Lama Ding Dong three years, two labels, and a title change to find an audience. Once it did, the sky was the limit.
Hailing from Campbell, Ohio (outside of Youngstown), the quintet came together in 1957, lead tenor George Jones, Jr. joined by first tenor Larry Greene, second tenor James Reynolds, Larry's brother Harry Greene on baritone, and bass Marshall Sewell. They initially named themselves The Essos after a brand of gasoline, then switched it to The Edsels when Ford's ill-fated auto of the same name hit the highways. Jones wrote Rama Lama Ding Dong, which interested local music publisher Jim Maderitz. The group waxed the rocker and its ballad flip Bells at Cleveland's Snyder Studios with the band of Del Sinchak (aka Del Saint); Ed Ryczaj was the sax soloist. After a lengthy search, Maderitz located an unlikely taker for the masters in Little Rock, Arkansas: Foster Johnson's tiny Dub Records. Dub released it in the summer of '58, but Johnson reversed the title so it read Lama Rama Ding Dong. Maybe that's why it stiffed.
The Edsels found a new producer, Tony March, cutting Rink-A-Dink-I-Do for Roulette in 1959 and What Brought Us Together the next year on March's own Tammy label. Street corner-style doo-wop was making a big comeback, in part due to the action at Irving 'Slim' Rose's Times Square Records shop in a midtown Manhattan subway arcade. The teens that congregated there were aficionados, visiting small labels up and down Broadway to buy stocks of old doo-wop 45s and reselling them to Slim - thus planting the seeds for several failed singles to achieve national hitdom. Four Times Square regulars who recently started the Lost Nite imprint, including Jerry Greene, talked Old Town label owner Hy Weiss into picking Rama Lama Ding Dong up from Maderitz. Hy put it out on his Twin imprint under its correct title, and Rama Lama was a surprise #21 pop seller in the summer of 1961.
The rejuvenated Edsels moved up in class, making three 1961-62 singles for producer Manny Kellem at Capitol, notably Jeff Barry-penned Shake Shake Sherry. Tammy and Dot issued '61 Edsels singles as well. None captured the public's fancy the way Rama Lama had. March persevered, issuing three more Edsels singles in 1963, but by then most of the group had taken menial jobs in Youngstown. Jones made two mid-'60s singles for Ray Charles' Tangerine label as George Wydell.