One of the more unlikely rock groups in history, both from the perspective of their advanced age when they formed and their background in another genre of music far removed from rock ‘n’ roll. They nevertheless stuck it out and scored some legitimate hits while working hard to modify their approach to remove all doubts as to their authenticity.

In 1952 rock vocal groups were all the rage. Whereas they’d been something of a rarity in the late forties when rock began with primarily solo male vocalists, then exploded in part due to honking sax instrumentalists after which females started making their presence known, the vocal group followed suit in 1951 and over the next few years became arguably the biggest component of the entire idiom.

In the late 1940’s a gospel group called The Dixieaires occasionally crossed over into rock, taking their established style and melding it to secular lyrics. The songs were okay, the performances good, but the commercial reception was muted and so they gave it up.

But lead singer J.C. Ginyard did not stop thinking about it and after that group broke up in 1950 and he saw the rock vocal group field expanding rapidly beyond just The Ravens and Orioles who had almost exclusive claim to it during The Dixieaires brief run, he decided to try again.

Recruiting other former gospel singers Willie and Harvey Ray, brothers from the decidedly amateur Southwest Jubilee Singers and Eddie Hashew who was replaced after their first session by former solo singer Bob Kornegay an acquaintance of Ginyard. But the group were already middle-aged, with the 42 year old Ginyard out front they seemed an bad bet for stardom, especially since they took a tentative approach on their first single for Red Robin despite its racy theme.

When they switched to RCA after that their chances to become more legitimate appeared to be even more far-fetched, as major labels were not comfortable with authentic rock – and RCA was about to give up on it altogether – and would be likely to urge them to try and appeal to an older audience. Instead they did the opposite, scoring a huge hit their first time out by embracing the more authentic style of rock.

Another hit followed and for a few years they were highly regarded for their records, but their ages meant they were working at far different live venues than their younger peers.

Personnel changes to recruit younger singers and a shift to RCA’s rock-oriented Groove label didn’t solve their problems – not surprisingly RCA signed all older artists to that subsidiary, showing they had no clue of how to recruit young acts and little interest in doing so. Then

just as the group was re-organizing and bringing in other vocalists to bolster their sound as they planned to head to the smaller Herald label when their contract was due to expire, they were told that RCA picked up their one-year option which not only cost them the kind of hands-on attention Herald might’ve provided, but also lost them James Van Loan who couldn’t break that separately signed contract to join them at RCA.

As a result he toured with them while another singer, future Drifters member Charlie Hughes, sang with them in the studio without being a member, only further hurting their chances at making a belated impression now that rock had exploded across previously rigid racial boundaries. With RCA now forcing them to cover other acts songs and clearly having no awareness of the realities of the market, the writing was on the wall and there was no realistic path for The Du Droppers to recapture their fleeting success and consequently the group split up in mid-1955.

Ginyard returned to gospel with the famed Golden Gate Quartet while ironically the Ray brothers tried joining forces with other, much younger, rock soloists to form a group which sadly never recorded. Van Loan and Kornegay (after cutting some solo sides including a small hit) along with another singer made one record as The Valients in 1959 but that was more or less the end of the road for the group members in rock circles.

Though their formation at the time seemed opportunistic at best and even their success appeared improbable, The Du Droppers were in fact a solid group who quickly course-corrected and came up with some worthy records along the way and as such earned their small spot in Fifties rock lore.
THE DU-DROPPERS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Red Robin 108; September, 1952)
A racy – if belated – follow up to the Dominoes hit in which Ginyard’s voice sounds good in a technical sense, but attitudinally it is far too laid-back, and the arrangement is even worse, until a decent sax solo leads to the others putting more enthusiasm in their vocals. (4)

(Red Robin 108; September, 1952)
Though this is really well sung by the entire group, it’s stylistically confusing as their vocal approach stems from gospel, the lyrics are sort of secular but use strange imagery to make their points and the guitar backing is nice but of indeterminate origins itself. (4)