Who was/is The Jewels ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Oh Yes I Know
R&B groups sometimes were covered by their peers. Such was the case with The Jewels, a Los Angeles aggregation whose debut for the tiny R and B label was taken by a better-established group and made into a smash, leaving The Jewels in the dust. They rebounded but never came anywhere near that close to stardom again.
Tenor Johnny Torrence had released a 1953 solo outing on Imperial prior to forming a quartet with two other gospel-trained singers, tenor Dee Hawkins and bass James Brown, and a San Bernardino deejay, tenor Rudy Jackson. They called themselves The Marbles when they waxed Golden Girl b/w Big Wig Walk for colorful record shop owner John Dolphin's Lucky logo in March of '54.
Vernon Knight came in as a fifth member and they'd changed their billing to The Jewels (named after Rudy's sister) by the time they signed with Larry Goldberg and Al Schlesinger's Hollywood-based R and B label. The Jewels' first release was the catchy Hearts Of Stone, penned by lead tenor Jackson and Eddie Ray (Runnin' sat on the flip). Issued in August of '54, Hearts Of Stone was stirring up regional dust when The Charms covered it for King-affiliated DeLuxe (see Track 8). King's superior distribution annihilated the original, which failed to chart while The Charms' more polished version topped the R&B charts and a pale Fontane Sisters cover paced the pop hit parade.
To their credit, The Jewels didn't give up. They encored with Oh Yes I Know that October, counted off at a similar mid-tempo pace to their lost hit with Jackson again in the spotlight and paired with an attractive ballad, A Fool In Paradise. The more sanctified-sounding Torrence took over on both sides of their third R and B outing before year's end, Rosalie b/w Living From Day To Day. R and B sold The Jewels' contract to Imperial in the spring of 1955. Lew Chudd released the answer song Hearts Can Be Broken as their first Imperial biscuit, but the gambit didn't work. Three Imperial encores took The Jewels into 1956, the group concentrating on up-tempo items such as Natural Natural Ditty and Rickety Rock.
After Goin' Goin' Gone didn't make it in the spring of '56, The Jewels broke up. Torrence gathered up a new batch of Jewels and made She's A Flirt for the Bihari brothers' RPM logo later that year. Meanwhile, Jackson made a '57 solo single for Imperial. Not one to be deterred, Torrence assembled a third Jewels lineup to make a solitary '59 single for Buck Ram's Antler label. That quintet included future soul star Al Wilson; they transformed into The Rollers without Johnny and hit in 1961 with The Continental Walk on Liberty.
- Bill Dahl -
Various Vol.6, Street Corner Symphonies 1954
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