Who was/is The Vocaleers ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
All too often, a young, inexperienced group would enter a recording studio for the first time, cut a classic performance, and never reach those same rarified heights again. Is It A Dream, The Vocaleers' second release for Bobby Robinson's Red Robin label, actually did far better than their fine 1952 debut, Be True (it's on our previous compilation), propelling the Harlem quintet into the national spotlight.
They started out as The Rainbows in 1952, lead tenor Alfred Martinez (known professionally as Joe Duncan) joined by first tenor Herman Dunham, second tenor William 'Red' Walker, baritone Melvin Walton, and bass Teddy Williams (a different singer from the Teddy Williams in The Checkers). A demo they waxed in a recording booth on 116th Street led to Robinson escorting them to Beltone Studios in Manhattan for their first professional session in December of '52 - the one that produced Be True. By then, they were known as The Vocaleers. That Red Robin debut offering did well up and down the East Coast without breaking nationally
Lamar Cooper had replaced Williams as bass singer by the time The Vocaleers convened at Beltone for their followup Red Robin session in March of 1953. Lead singer Duncan and label owner Robinson split writer's credit on Is It A Dream, another standout ballad that took off on a much bigger scale than its predecessor, not stopping until it sat at #4 on 'Billboard's' 'Juke Box' R&B chart early that summer (it maxed out at #8 on the magazine's 'Best Seller' R&B list). Another ballad, Hurry Home, occupied the flip.
Duncan's distinctive tenor fronted both sides of all three Vocaleers encores on Red Robin. I Walk Alone came first, paired with How Soon, and 1954 brought Love You b/w Will You Be True and Angel Face b/w Lovin' Baby. Dunham had left The Vocaleers before they cut the last coupling to join The Solitaires as their lead tenor; he was replaced by Joe Powell. But not for long; the group soon called it quits. Walker and Walton joined Jimmy Jones in The Savoys, later known as The Pretenders (Jones achieved solo stardom in 1960 with Handy Man and Good Timin'), while Duncan served in the military from 1956 to '58.
After Duncan got out of the service, The Vocaleers reformed with Dunham, Cooper, Walton, and The Dubs' Richard Blandon his mates. The quintet made a 1959 single for Paradise Records, a subsidiary of Hy Weiss' Old Town logo, coupling a Dunham-led I Need Your Love So Bad and a Duncan fronted Have You Ever Loved Someone. There was also a 1960 outing on Old Town proper, Love And Devotion, led by Duncan, and This Is The Night, a Dunham showcase. Joe didn't sing on subsequent Vocaleers one-offs for Vest and Twistime, though he did participate vocally when the group anonymously backed Dinah Washington on her '62 Roulette waxing of Soulville. Duncan died May 31, 2002.
Various - Street Corner Symphonies Vol.05, 1953 The Complete Story Of Doo Wop
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