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

The Excellents

The Excellents

Coney Island Baby

Hurricane Sandy recently put a serious hurt on Coney Island, an oceanside beach area of New York City's Brooklyn borough. The Excellents immortalized it in song.

Formed as The Premiers in early 1960, the Bronx-based high school group was comprised of lead and second tenor John Kuse, his brother George as first tenor, falsetto Phil Sanchez, baritone Joel Feldman, lead baritone Denis Kestenbaum, and bass Chuck Epstein. Kestenbaum fronted both sides of their '61 debut single on the Mermaid logo, a remake of The Jesters' Love No One But You and the ancient pop ditty Red Red Robin. By then, they were officially known as The Excellents.

For their encore, The Excellents prepared a lickety-split remake of The Cleftones' You Baby You. Blast Records head Vinny Catalano, who arranged and conducted the February '62 session, co-wrote the Kuse-led Coney Island Baby, a sumptuous slice of street corner harmony that turned out to be the A-side when it was pressed up that April (like Mermaid, Blast was a subsidiary of Sinclair Recording Corporation). New York deejay Murray the K gave it spins and it eventually went national, entering the pop hit parade in late November and peaking at #51 early the next year. Blast only issued one followup by the group, coupling I Hear A Rhapsody and Why Did You Laugh. Supposedly it's by another group entirely after the original Excellents missed an all-important 'American Bandstand' appearance because Blast wouldn't bankroll the trip (the phony group replaced them on Dick Clark's TV show).

Lou Cicchetti's Cousins label (original source of The Regents' '61 smash Barbara-Ann) made some 1963 demos by The Excellents. Their last single came out in '64 on Bobby Miller's Old Timer label, pairing Sunday Kind Of Love (a doo-wop perennial thanks to The Harptones' reading) and Helene (Your Wish Came True). Kuse still fronts a group of Excellents with new members.

Various - Street Corner Symphonies Vol.14, 1962 The Complete Story Of Doo Wop


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