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Vernon Green & The Medallions: Speedin' (CD)
When I first saw the Medallions recalled the late Dootsie Williams of Dootone Records in 1990 I was attracted by the intense young leader Vernon Green. He had a bluesy quality I liked, and he wrote his own material. Vernon was a polio victim who walked with difficulty, and the group members were rough street kids. Even though vocal groups were big around town at that time, nobody would touch them - they were too scruffy.
Johnny Otis, who was working for Aladdin at the time, had rejected Vernon and the boys outright because he wanted clean-cut kids with cuddly sex appeal.From their first recording session in 1954, Dootsie Williams sought to preserve that infectious street delivery rather than polish the group into something professional but contrived. these kids had always sung together a cappella. I wanted to catch their style undiluted. When releasing the group's records Dootsie would match an uptempo number on one side with a smoochie ballad on the other. One of these - The Letter - was about as far out as ballads can get. Check it out: Oh my darling, let me whisper sweet words of pismatality and discuss the pulpitudes of love, and put 'em together and what do you have: matrimony! Green's sweet-talk was developed, he says, to compensate for his polio- withered leg and small stature.
As a youngster he had practised on the phone, talking to recorded messages to convince his elder brother that he was cool with women. As sleevenote writer Jim Dawson comments: His earnest soliloquies became a staple of nearly all of his slow material.Speedin' assembles 25 great Medallions songs, including 23 from the magic years 1954-1960, running from their first single Buick '59 b/w The Letter through to their eleventh, and last, Rocket Ship b/w Behind The Door. A previously unissued side Ticket To Love is included as are I'm In Love With You and Give Me The Right from a comeback 1973 session.
Article properties: Vernon Green & The Medallions: Speedin' (CD)
|Medallions, The - Speedin' (CD) CD 1|
|03||I Wonder, Wonder, Wonder|
|05||Dance And Swing|
|07||Push Botton Automobile|
|08||A Lover's Prayer|
|12||Ticket To Love|
|13||I'm In Love With You|
|15||Behind The Door|
|16||Don't Shoot Baby|
|17||I Want A Love|
|18||My Mary Lou|
|19||For Better Or For Worse|
|20||Give Me The Right|
|23||Did You Have Fun?|
|24||Coupe De Ville Baby|
|25||Shedding Tears For You|
The rules had changed since the days of The Ravens and Orioles, much less The Ink Spots. Some young groups held their harmonic ambitions to a minimum, emphasizing the message and the beat. One of those loose-limbed crews was the Los Angeles-based Medallions.
Lead tenor Vernon Green, born May 1, 1937 in Dallas, Texas or Denver, Colorado, had been a polio victim as a youth (he sometimes brought a cane with him onstage). The Medallions were rounded out by tenors Randolph Bryant and Willie Graham, baritone Rudolph Brown, and a bass singer only remembered as Chuck. They auditioned for DooTone Records boss Dootsie Williams in June of '54 after having formed earlier that year. Dootsie shepherded the teenagers into Ted Brinson's garage studio to cut the careening Buick 59 (a simplification of Todd Rhodes' jump blues Rocket 69) featuring the guys' humorous automotive sound effects, and a dreamy ballad, The Letter. Pianist Andrew Blue provided accompaniment on both.
Much of The Letter was a romantic recitation by Green, laid over The Medallions' rudimentary harmonies and a few flowery terms that Vernon invented for the occasion. Issued that July, both sides were hits in several cities besides their hometown but didn't break nationally. Tenor Donald Woods and bass Ira Foley replaced Rudolph and Chuck for their DooTone encore date that fall. Green closely followed the formula of their debut on The Telegram, a sequel to The Letter, while Coupe De Ville Baby kept the car motif intact.
By the time DooTone issued their third offering in May of '55, coupling the Bryant-led ballad Edna and another automotive anthem, Speedin', the group had mutinied, leaving Green to form The Bel-Aires and record for Max Feirtag's Flip label with Woods their lead (they changed their billing to The Vel-Aires that summer for Death Of An Angel). Green carried on, pulling together various permutations of the group to record for DooTone except for a brief hiatus when he defected to Specialty in 1956, cutting Sweet Breeze with The Phantoms. One Medallions single on DooTone a few months earlier, I Want A Love, didn't have Green on it.
But Vernon was back with them for 1956's Push Button Automobile at DooTone. He just wouldn't let go of the car concept: Vernon Green and The Medallions, as they were then billed, released 59 Volvo in (you guessed it) 1959. Although an auto accident severely damaged his face in 1965 (ironic in a macabre way, eh?), Green came back to make a '67 single with yet another incarnation of Medallions for Minit and came full circle in '73, recording anew for DooTone. Vernon died December 24, 2000 after suffering a stroke.
- Bill Dahl -
Various Vol.6, Street Corner Symphonies 1954
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