Oldies But Goodies Cruise IISailing to the Mexican Riviera October 6-13, 2013
The Orioles are one of the most influential vocal groups of all time. They first were formed in 1946 as the Vibranairs in Baltimore after World War II by Earlington Tilghman better known as Sonny Til, a charismatic tenor who loved rich arrangements and had a knack for picking and writing great material. Other members included Alexander Sharp, George Nelson, Johnny Reed, and Tommy Gaither. These five street-corner harmony pioneers imparted a skilled, soulful edge to the standard pop-crooning style of the day, and their appearance marked a shift in popular taste from big bands to small vocal groups. The Orioles established the basic pattern for the doo-wop sound: wordless, melismatic harmonies surrounding the tenor vocals of Sonny Til.
The Orioles differed from groups like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots in that they made purely vocal music without orchestration and accompanied only by the solo guitar of Tommy Gaither. They began to make a name for themselves with performances at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and on Arthur Godfrey’s talent show. From 1948 to 1954, the Orioles cut 121 sides for the Natural and Jubilee labels, including such vocal-group classics as “I Need You So” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” Music historian Greil Marcus has likened the Orioles’ debut single, “It’s Too Soon to Know,” to Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right (Mama),” “Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” in that it came out of nowhere: “a shock...a sound that was stylistically confusing and emotionally undeniable.” The song was written by their manager, Deborah Chessler, who also penned “Forgive and Forget,” a Top Five R&B hit.
While the Orioles’ singles fared well on the R&B charts, orchestrated covers by white pop singers tended to be the versions that made the pop charts - with the notable exception of “It’s Too Soon to Know” and “Crying in the Chapel,” which reached #11 and #13, respectively. (A decade later, Elvis Presley covered “Crying in the Chapel” in a version faithful to the Orioles for his gospel album How Great Thou Art.) “It’s Too Soon to Know,” which went to #1 on Billboard’s R&B and Jukebox charts and #2 on the Best Seller chart, was a watershed recording in the history of American vocal-group music.
The Orioles’ breakthrough triggered the formation of more vocal groups who sang in a similar style and also adapted bird names. Among them were the Penguins, the Flamingos, the Falcons and the Robins (later the Coasters. At the height of the Orioles’ popularity, an automobile accident in 1950 claimed the life of one member (Tommy Gaither) and seriously injured two others (George Nelson and Johnny Reed). Nelson left the group shortly thereafter, and he and Gaither were replaced by Gregory Carroll and Ralph Williams, respectively. The reconstituted lineup had some of their biggest hits over the next few years, including “Baby Please Don’t Go” (1952) and “Crying in the Chapel” (1953).
Albert "Diz" Russell had landed in New York in 1951 with his vocal group The Four Jays. They would sleep on the docks at night, while during the day making the rounds to club talent buyers and booking agents. They met jazz singer Eddie Jefferson, who introduced them to Duke Ellington in one memorable Brill Building meeting. The Duke hired the Four Jays to perform at a club called Snooky's, where their one-night stand turned into a year's engagement. Boxer great Joe Louis heard them at Snooky's and got them into the Apollo, and it was there in 1954 that they ran into Sonny Til, who really liked what he heard.
Til was having disagreements with the other Orioles, and was looking for a new sound and new talent. He fired The Orioles and asked the Four Jays who had since changed their name to the Regals if they would consider becoming The Orioles. "I thought, with us being established already, this makes sense,' " Russell says. "But I want to tell you, it was Sonny who joined the Regals, we didn't really join the Orioles, even though that was the name we used after that." With the popular name, the band hit the road, constantly touring over the next decade, with Russell sharing the lead on a few of thier recordings
The Orioles broke up in the mid-'60s, when sophisticated doo-wop groups weren't finding an audience. Russell left music and went into the eye care business in Washington D.C., where he had family. He returned to the stage only after Til called him in 1978 saying he was getting the group together for one show. The reception they received at that concert convinced The Orioles to give it another shot. Then when Til died in 1981, Russell decided to keep the Orioles going and they inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Today's Orioles are Russell, with Clark Walker, Raymond Allen Jr. And David Warren. The Legendary Orioles were one of the first rhythm and blues groups ever. Influenced by celebrities such as the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots, they fused traditional pop songs with gospel style and arranged blues and gospel material with smooth harmonies, resulting in a style that appealed to a wide audience. In the late 1980s they added "Legendary" to their name.
It's Too Soon To Know
Dare To Dream
Would You Still Be The One In My Heart
I Miss You So
Trust In Me
I Miss You So
There's No One But You
Come On Home