A Book By Jim McGowan
107 Lincoln Drive
Ambler, PA 19002-3801 (215-628-2291)
ISBN - 0-913911-01-1
Card Number 83-61178
TO THE FIRST EDITION
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
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).
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".
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."
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.
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
TO THE SECOND EDITION
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.
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!
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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.
then perhaps these and other stories are the basis for another book, tomorrow.
Whatever the case, "Here
Today, is Here to Stay".
McGowan - Ambler,
A Book By Jim McGowan
THE WHIMSIE PRESS
Box 166 Moylan, PA 19065
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
INDEX - FOUR FELLOWS - DISCOGRAPHY - PHOTOS - BOOK - TODAY - LINKS - RECOLLECTIONS