Who was/is The Jarmels ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
A Little Bit Of Soap
From the moment he became immersed in the New York uptown soul scene, Bert Berns' love for Latin rhythms and the chord changes to Guantanamera (the same ones powering La Bamba) were at the heart of his zesty sound. One of the first successes Berns had as a songwriter (using his Bert Russell alias) was The Jarmels' A Little Bit Of Soap, a thrilling slice of uptown soul.
The quintet came from Richmond, Virginia and sang together in the Armstrong High glee club. Nathaniel Ruff, Ray Smith, Paul Burnett, Earl Christian, and Tom Eldridge initially called themselves The Cherokees after forming in 1957. Smith's father, Lonnie Smith, sang with gospel's Harmonizing Four; Ray's brothers, keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith and flautist Donald Smith, would develop into renowned jazz players. Some of The Jarmels sang at Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Richmond. Ray had first-hand contact with gospel's finest.
"Every year they would have an anniversary. And it was The Harmonizing Four in Virginia, then The Dixie Hummingbirds, they were in Philly," says Lonnie. "So they'd all be on each other's shows, and they'd just come by the house. We met Sam Cooke when he was the Soul Stirrers." But it was The Drifters' Ben E. King, who invited The Jarmels to New York so they could look for a record deal. The group got lucky at Laurie Records - a bit of a surprise, since the company tended to concentrate on white groups like Dion and The Belmonts rather than R&B acts.
Hiring Jim Gribble as their manager (he handled The Fiestas, Mystics, Earls and Del-Satins), the group was renamed The Jarmels. Little Lonely One, their attractive early '61 Laurie debut, didn't sell appreciably, but that wasn't the case once Berns gave them A Little Bit Of Soap for an encore. Arranger Glen Stuart's layering of lush strings, soulful voices, and rumbling percussion over a spicy Latin-tinged rhythm translated into a #7 R&B and #12 pop smash during late summer of 1961. A swaying revival of The Way You Look Tonight, the Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields-penned Tin Pan Alley standard from 1936, was an elegant flip.
Gee Oh Gosh, The Jarmels' next Laurie single after Soap, was a strong rocker. Their gorgeous revival of Red Sails In The Sunset saw airplay in New York, and One By One was the violin-enriched work of Ben E. and Drifters road manager Lover Patterson). But The Jarmels never saw anything close to a hit again (future soul star Major Harris joined the ranks later on).
Various Street Corner Symphonies 1961 Vol.13
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