Maurice Williams: Little Darlin' - Maurice Williams & The Gladiolas - Zodiacs
There may be a rose in
Spanish Harlem, but Gladiolas at their best come from Lancaster,
While attending Barr St. High School in
Lancaster, Maurice Williams met Earl Gainey (tenor), -when they both
sang in a gospel group called The Junior Harmonizers. After awhile
they left to form their own group, The Royal Charms (a combination of
their two favorite groups’ names — The Charms and The Five
Royales). The other members were William Massey(tenor and baritone),
Willie Jones (baritone) and Norman Wade(bass).
The Royal Charms got a
job doing a Saturday morning show on WLCM Radio in Lancaster, where
they sang whatever were the biggest R&, B hits of that particular
week After doing this for about a year, they decided to go on to
bigger and better things. Their big chance came when Maurice
contacted Ernie’s Record Shop in Nashville(owner of Excello
Records). Young told them to stop in for an audition when they were
playing in the area.
Well, Maurice said that they’d stop by soon
(neglecting to mention that they had no gigs anywhere in Tennessee).
The Royal Charms now began to get things ready for the big trip. To
raise money, they visited local businessmen explaining their needs.
When all contributions were in, they left for Nashville with $40.00
among them, riding in Willie Jones’ old Chrysler with four slick
tires. Luckily, they made ‘ll to Nashville without any trouble and
went to see Ernie. After hearing LITTLE DARLIN’ and SWEETHEART
PLEASE DON’T GO, Ernie announced that he liked SWEETHEART and could
possibly use LITTLE DARLIN’ for the flip. The Royal Charms then
faded into history as Ernie re-named them The Gladiolas (Although The
Gladiolas’ LITTLE DARLIN’ was the original, The Diamonds’ cover
version hit the Billboard Top 100 twenty-one days earlier.)
While with Excello, they recorded TREES and several other unreleased cuts. The Gladiolas also moved towards being a self - contained group by utilizing their instrumental talent: Earl Gainey aside from being a tenor, also played guitar and drums, William Massey played trumpet, Maurice played piano, and drummer Mac Badskins was added. Bob Robertson, a tenor, was also added and was on the last two Excello records. When The Gladiolas left Excello, Ernie told them that they could no longer use the name for recording (however, they still could use it for appearances).
While on a tour through West Virginia,
Maurice’s Mercury quit and had to be taken to a shop for repairs.
While waiting, The Gladiolas’ manager, Harry Goins, was thumbing
through a magazine. He stopped at an advertisement for a foreign car
called a Zodiac and said “That’s it! That’s our new name.”
Around this time, tenor Henry Gaston replaced Earl Gainey and
Badskins and Robertson left.
The Zodiacs’ first recordings were done for Cole, a small South Carolina label. Due to lack of promotion, neither record sold well. One more small label, Selwyn, and the group began to fall apart: Bill Massey went into the Air Force, Norman Wade moved to- New Jersey, and the group’s three- year career was over. Maurice immediately picked up the pieces and formed a new Zodiacs group. They consisted of tenor Henry Gaston, tenor Wiley Bennett, baritone Charles Thomas, bass player Albert Hill and a drummer named Little Willie Morrow. They recorded two records for Soma around 1960, including a follow-up to LITTLE DARLIN’. It was at this point that they approached Al Silver of Herald with STAY. Silver liked the song, but said it was too smooth and polished - it needed a stronger beat with a choppy lyric that would be catchy to the ear. He suggested that Maurice sing in a nonchalant, flat voice to project this idea (The falsetto part was done by Henry Gaston.) The Zodiacs didn’t like the way their song had been changed, but they gave in and soon had a number one spot on the Top 100.
STAY they had two minor successes with l REMEMBER and COME ALONG
(done in the style as STAY). ' In the mid-1960’s The Zodiacs went
from one label to another(Atlantic, Scepter, Sphere Sound, 440/ Plus,
Vee Jay, Sea- Horn/Deesu, and Veep) without another big hit. During
this period, Johnny Mobley(tenor and baritone) would replace Wiley
Bennett from time to time.
ln 1966 they linked up with Marshall Seahorn who recorded MAY l and gave it to Vee Jay, When Vee Jay folded, Seahorn released it on his own Deesu label and it was a local hit for The Zodiacs. Seahorn knew Bobby Robinson who had Gladys Knight and The Pips under contract. Since they were doing studio work, Seahorn got them to back up Maurice on several sides. The theory behind this was that with Maurice as a single and also with The Zodiacs, the chances for a hit were in- creased. Alas, except for some local successes, it didn’t work The Zodiacs are still going strong in the Carolinas today, doing mostly club and college dates.
Article properties: Maurice Williams: Little Darlin' - Maurice Williams & The Gladiolas - Zodiacs
|Williams, Maurice - Little Darlin' - Maurice Williams & The Gladiolas - Zodiacs LP 1|
|02||Be Bop Girl|
|03||Hey Little Girl|
|05||Sweetheart Please Don't Go|
|06||Comin' Home To You|
|08||Another Little Darlin'|
|10||Run Run Little Joe|
|13||Say you'll Be Mine|
|14||I Wanna Know|