A group that managed to stick around despite getting few releases and no success under two names who likely had any chance for commercial relevancy in the early to mid 1950’s, curtailed by bad management and a slightly outdated sound.

Though they actually were from Northern Virginia, the area was within the radius of influence of The Orioles, the Baltimore group whose arrival on the national scene in 1948 sent countless musical kids in search of fame and fortune within likeminded vocal groups.

By the time The Clefs got their break in 1952, The Orioles influence had long since waned and a new more advanced sound had taken hold, making this act’s approach a bit behind the curve.

Comprised of Scotty Mansfield on lead, Pavel Bass, Frankie Newman, Fred Council and Gerald Bullock – later replaced by Leroy Flack – and rounded out with guitarist Leo Carter, the group were smart enough to work up original material and take as many gigs around the nation’s capital and surrounding area as possible to hone their abilities.

After managing to cut some local demos they were signed by Lillian Claiborne, a local entrepreneur and talent scout who got them their first release on Chess Records in the fall of 1952 but never responded to the Chess Brothers purported interest in a follow-up release which meant the group – now down two members when Flack and Carter left – went two full years without recording.

Somehow they managed to stay together and keep working, writing and practicing and upon signing with a new manager got offered contracts by Chess Records again, as well as Peacock Records and Vee-Jay and it was Big Mama Thornton who talked them into going with her label, Peacock where they got two releases two years apart, the second after changing their name to Scotty Mann and The Masters.

With no response from the public, and despite that lack of public interest no chance to escape their contract with the notoriously domineering Don Robey, the group were broken apart by the draft as Pavel Bass started his hitch in 1957 and then Mansfield went in just as Bass was getting out two years later, thereby killing off any chance for a reunion until 1961 by which time the scene had changed so much that their approach was no longer appropriate for the current market and they drifted apart.

THE CLEFS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Chess 1521; October, 1952)
Though the group’s enthusiasm seems legitimate and they’re fairly convincing, the song as written is lyrically out of step while the band, in spite of a good sax solo, has the misfortune of having a dual trumpet player, Frank Motley, playing both his horns until your ears bleed. (3)

(Chess 1521; October, 1952)
Though there is some beautiful singing found within and even a surprising double-paced bridge that takes it farther away from its Ink Spots origins, the composition itself, combined with a few too many lighter touches, means this can’t make enough inroads with rock sensibilities. (3)