Jim McGowan - Four Fellows

        A Book By Jim McGowan


107 Lincoln Drive

Ambler, PA 19002-3801 (215-628-2291)

ISBN - 0-913911-01-1

Card Number 83-61178


In April of 1955, Alan Freed, the most popular disc jockey in the country was handed a record entitled "Soldier Boy," recorded by a new vocal group, the Four Fellows. The story goes that, before he played the record, Freed made the comment that he would play it only once on his program. If he got any requests after that, he might play it again. If not, he would never play it again. Freed played the record and, in three months the song was number "1" in New York City and among the top rhythm and blues songs on the musical charts around the country.

Less than two years later both the song and the group were all but forgotten. They were, in the parlance of the music business, "here today and gone tomorrow" (the original title of this book).

However, today, the Four Fellows and their music has been resurrected: dug out of the attics and cellars and dusty record collections of those never-say-die rhythm and blues vocal group enthusiasts; who have vowed that the music of those fabulous 50s is "Hear Today and Here To Stay".

Throughout this book, particularly in the first part, I have gone to lengths to name the people, dates and events associated with the Four Fellows and their music. And I have been specific about it. Indeed, as one reviewer remarked, "It reads, in the beginning," like a "Who's Who in Rhythm and Blues."

Although this emphasis on specificity may make the early reading cumbersome to the casual reader, I hasten to add that this book was written primarily to preserve an accurate history of the Four Fellows. And, secondly, that it was written for those people who have a need and interest in that specific information, namely, the rhythm and blues historians, writers and followers.

The second part of this book highlights many of the personal experiences of the four Fellows during their brief career. These are punctuated with the author's opinion of the people, trends and events that contributed to the development of the music. But they are also presented to place the career of the Four Fellows in its proper historical context so that the reader may assess for himself the Four Fellows' contribution to the music.

There were so many people whose expertise in the field of rhythm and blues vocal group music was so invaluable to my writing this book, that I hesitated in the beginning to name them for fear of leaving someone out. However, my appreciation for their assistance is so great that I must name at least those who come immediately to mind and hope those I forget to mention will understand that they are certainly in my heart even though their names may not appear in this book.

There is Marv Goldberg, who waded doggedly through what must have seemed an ocean of detail and personal opinion, often tied together with poorly constructed sentences that made up the first draft. He set out to determine what was consistent with the facts and what was not. If this book contains any information that is not, the fault must be contributed to the author and not to Marv Goldberg. For those who know Marv Goldberg know that, in reporting on rhythm and blues vocal groups, he will settle for nothing less than absolute accuracy.

Also in this mode is Marcia Vance, who gave me information on cover records, vocal groups and numerous people connected with the music. Marcia's sincerity and enthusiasm for the music and the people who created it, is as infectious as it is boundless. She has been a constant source of inspiration and ideas, always ready with a new lead, another source, a forgotten newspaper clipping, or the name no one else can remember. Thanks, "Sultry Voice."

And there was Phil Groia, author of the classical book, They All Sang On The Corner, about the boys and girls of New York City who helped create the sound that eventually became known the world around as "Rock and Roll." Phil spent long and agonizing hours transcribing a taped interview with me which enabled me to recall many of the experiences mentioned in this book. With such patience and persistence it is no wonder his book has become a bible to rhythm and blues vocal group enthusiasts. Phil and Val Shivley, Art Berlowitz, Carl Tancredi, Bob Leszczak, Bob Burnette, Bill Swanks and K.J. O'Doherty supplied me with relevant books, photographs and records. I am humbly grateful to all of them.

And I can never forget Paul Ressler. During those "dark days," when endless publishing problems seemed to destroy every hope of this book becoming a reality, Paul was always there; friend among friends; never losing faith; always holding forth the promise that, one day, there would be a Hear Today. No words can describe my gratitude to him, his wife Arlene, and their son, Todd.

And there were others; people whose love of the music and its history has been a steady supply of motivation, which helped me to make this book a labor of love. They helped me to relive those "golden days" of the 50s from the other side of the lights. Through their encouragement I was able to relive the joys, the struggles, and the tears I hope I have recalled in these pages. Among them are my friends, author and disc jockey, Will Anderson (to whom the Four Fellows were the best group to come out of Brooklyn), Barbara Nelson and John Corrado.

Joan (Kelly) Padro deserves thanks and praise beyond words for her patience, persistence and endless labor in retyping parts of the manuscript and compiling the index. She has made this labor of love a lovely labor. Thanks, Virgo.

Finally my thanks and heartfelt appreciation to the members of UNITED IN GROUP HARMONY ASSOCIATION of Clifton, New Jersey, especially their President, Ronnie Italiano. Through his leadership and their infinite patience, understanding and loyalty, the publication of this book was made possible.

 Jim McGowan - St. Petersburg, Florida 1983


It's hard for me to say when the idea for writing this book began. I do know for certain, however, that it did not begin when I was singing and performing. During those times I rested comfortably, even complacently, in the mistaken notion that the story of my singing and performing had to be left for "writers" and, if necessary, historians. All that was important for me was to sing and perform.

By 1973 that mistaken belief began to change while I was doing research for a book about the Underground Railroad, that famous network of human beings that helped runaway slaves from the southern United States during the last century. As a naive amateur historian, I was stunned to discover that our history was so replete with inaccuracies, deliberate distortions, inexcusable omissions, just plain sloppy and irresponsible writing. Trying to get to the "truth;" to discover what really happened, was disheartening. Writers, I concluded, were human; many of them simply could not be trusted!

In time, however, I came across the famous "slave narratives;" stories uneducated, illiterate, slaves told to literate whites who wrote them down; stories about their life in slavery. In Philadelphia, a black man, William Still, working with the Pennsylvania Antislavery Society, opened his house as a place of refuge to runaway slaves. As the chairman of a four-man "Acting Committee," Still's assignment was to personally interview the slaves that the Society helped pass on to freedom. In the execution of his duties Still recorded his personal observations; he told what the slaves looked like, what their attitudes were and, in his own opinion, their individual level of intelligence. He took from them, in their own words, details of their lives as slaves where they came from, the kind of work they did, who their masters were, what motivated them to escape, how they escaped; what dangers they encountered during their flight. Still's recordings,. along with the slave narratives, today comprise one of the greatest bodies of authentic, primary source, information about slave life in the United States; authentic because it came directly from the mouths of the slaves, themselves. The frightening question that this raises in the mind of anyone interested in faithfully recording historical events is, What if those simple, uneducated, illiterate, slaves chose not to talk about themselves!?

Thereafter, my complacency turned into a sense of responsibility. I realized that I was fortunate to have lived through, and participated in, a musical change that affected the music of the world. I therefore had a responsibility to tell my story. And that responsibility turned into inspiration when I discovered all the inaccuracies being written about my singing and performing, And that inspiration was fueled by the memories of the black boys and girls I grew up with; whom I sang with in the churches, and the school yards, and the hallways and on the street corners; who, out of their own unique experiences, created that music that awesomely beautiful imperfect sound that captivated the hearts of the white teenagers. It was fueled by my growing realization that a majority of white kids today are unaware that the music we call "Rock" began with kids like the ones I grew up with. It was fueled by my growing realization that black kids of today are unaware that it was the white teenagers of the fifties who were responsible for making black music the most popular in the world; that it was those white teenagers of the fifties who are today the majority of writers, historians, disc jockeys and collectors who are preserving that music's history. In short, the music began as a symbiotic relationship between black kids and white kids; a partnership in love and creativity that, today, seems to have become separated. And since I was a part of that symbiosis, that love affair, I have a responsibility to tell my story,

The actual process of putting words on paper began in October of 1978. I finished the manuscript by January of 1980 and sent it to literary agents. One gave me a scholarly, computer-like, printout analysis saying, in essence, that it wouldn't sell. The other scratched out all the things I had to say about Elvis Presley, saying it wasn't necessary, Being hard-headed, I believed that the book would sell, and that all the things I said about Elvis Presley was necessary (I put them all back in). I then sent the manuscript to a couple of publishers, who were kinder. They skipped all the malarkey and rejected the manuscript right out.

After that I concluded that, if I didn't pay to have the book published it would either never get published, or would do so when I was too old to appreciate it. So I took out a loan and sent the manuscript to a subsidy book publisher, Alvin Levin of William Frederick Press. He took all of my money, never produced the book, then died before I could sue him leaving me with no book and no money and a pretty bad attitude.

By this time I was like a man swimming in the middle of the English Channel. What's the use in turning back or giving up after having come that far? The distance to your destination is the same as the distance you left. You might as well keep swimming. I had come too far. The book now had to be published.

In October of 1981, 1 relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. I rented a one room cabin off the side of Gulfport Road. There, in May of 1983, a girlfriend, Joan Padro, and I, began a slow and tedious process of creating a copy ready book. We spent weekends and evenings after work, with an IBM Selectric typewriter and a Brother word processor, typing, proofreading, and creating an index on hundreds of little pieces of paper. We formed the Sixth House Press, Incorporated.  By October of that year the book was on the market.

That first printing contained numerous typographical and grammatical errors. Fortunately, with today's computer technology, and my growing proficiency in the WordPerfect word processing software I have reduced the "typos" (at least I hope I have), and I do believe my grammar has improved. However, in spite of its imperfections, the first book never received a bad review. Indeed, the reviews have all been favorable, enabling us to sell out the entire printing in nine months, flat. Copies were sold in West Germany, England, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, Canada and all over the United States without advertisement!

The banner on the cover of the present book states that is is an expanded" edition. However, there have been no major changes in the text (Why tamper with success?). I expanded only a few stories,for example, the story of "Willie The Bus Driver." Larry Banks, the baritone of the Four Fellows, pointed out that the story's real significance - that is, the depth of Willie's character may be lost unless I make it clearer to the reader that Willie was a white man. He then reminded me of another incident involving Willie which makes that point. I added that incident.

Some small, but interesting, items about Chuck Berry were also added, as well as the fact that the late Bert Convey, the television game-show host, was among those with whom we established a brief, but enjoyable relationship,

To be sure, after the book was originally published many more stories emerged that I wish I had included. For example, I wish I had spent some time talking with Lou Sprung, co-partner of  Glory Records  with Phil Rose. Lou's personal experience and knowledge of the vocal groups of the fifties is invaluable.

I also wish I had spoken with some of the Four Fellows' fans, who brought to mind some of the most beautiful experiences, such as the time, after we appeared on Alan Freed's radio show. Outside the studio we were approached by a number of fans. Among them was 15 year-old, Mark Beshara, who asked why we didn't sing our latest recording, "In The Rain," his personal favorite. We pretended we never heard of the song. Shocked, he couldn't believe it! We asked him to sing it so we would know how it goes. He started singing, and we immediately joined in with the background, providing him with the opportunity to sing lead with the Four Fellows.

But then perhaps these and other stories are the basis for another book, tomorrow. Whatever the case, "Here Today, is Here to Stay".

Jim McGowan - Ambler, Pennsylvania  1997  

 A Book By Jim McGowan



Box 166            Moylan, PA 19065

ISBN 0-916178-00-5

Library of Congress Catalog

Card No. 77-84816

No one did more to help fugitive slaves than Thomas Garrett.  Through his house in Wilmington, Delaware passed more than 2700 runaway slaves on their way to freedom.  Now in this first part biography of Thomas Garrett we see not only the man himself but many other famous abolitionists.  Much of the material in Jim McGowan's fascinating story is made available for the first time.

                 If you wish to contact Jim about purchasing the books, you can 

him at:  Jim McGowan