A short-lived vocal group who were prolific in a variety of ways for Federal Records throughout 1952 but the label failed to make their success as a stand-alone group a priority and so they left the label and broke up by the end of the year, a tantalizing prospect of what might’ve been.

The group owed a good deal to the enduring prototype of The Ravens, particularly with lead singer Ellison White who came from The Wings Over Jordan gospel group, but who seemed perfectly comfortable singing rock ‘n’ roll.

The other members, tenors Bowling Mansfield and Buelle Thomas along with baritone George Comfort supplied the backing vocals and harmonies and they sounded good but their material vacillated between rock and pop on the four sides under their own name, all done at one March session.

However they got plenty of other opportunities singing backup to solo acts on the label including Shirley Haven, Cora Williams, Lil Greenwood and Little Willie Littlefield, most of which – including their own two singles – were released within a three month period by Federal, thereby almost canceling each other out in the market.

Though the idea to have the group act as versatile do-it-all contributors was a solid one in theory, the fact that Federal’s boss Ralph Bass – who was heavily involved in the musical decisions – didn’t seem to have a clear-cut plan beyond that when it came to releases, promotion and primary job requirements for the group meant that none of the records they were associated with became hits, despite some fine performances.

The group broke up when they left Federal, but lead singer White did not return to gospel as might be expected, but rather landed with Doo-Tone Records as a solo act where he fared no better.
THE FOUR JACKS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Federal 12075; May, 1952)
Though it’s somewhat generic by nature and owes a good deal to The Ravens approach, lead singer Ellison White is very good in his role while the others provide decent support as does the musicians in a sadly underdeveloped arrangement that could’ve used a solo. (6)

(Federal 12079; May, 1952)
Though they try hard to convince you of their experience with sex as they try and coerce a willing and frustrated Shirley Haven into bed, there’s not enough lewdness in the delivery or excitement in the musical accompaniment to satisfy in spite of a few good lines. (5)

(Federal 12087; July, 1952)
Despite trying to revive the corpse of The Dominoes “Sixty Minute Man” with this, there’s still some life to be had in the body as the addition of saxophone instead of guitar gives it a strong pulse and while the lyrics aren’t as good or as suggestive, they sound alright singing it. (7)

(Federal 12087; July, 1952)
Even though this is nicely sung by Ellison White it’s still a very pop-leaning and sappy song despite going relatively easy on the usual bland pop touches, choosing instead to be more discreet with the arrangement and keep the focus on the lead. (4)

(Federal 12092; August, 1952)
Despite a great opening by Ellison White and a prominent co-lead by Browning Mansfield who delivers the best sung line in falsetto alongside lead artist Shirley Haven, the song itself is pretty shallow and the overall arrangement is not strong enough to support the decent melody. (4)

(Federal 12092; August, 1952)
Though relegated mostly to background roles behind Shirley Haven, their parts are at least vibrant and they carry them out well enough, particularly in the opening which sets a good tone for the record which unfortunately begins to crumble slightly in the second half. (5)

(Federal 12093; August, 1952)
While they don’t get all that much to do, the group’s presence here certainly helps, but it’s the song’s structure and arrangement which carries the day while Lil’ Greenwood turns in a somewhat reluctantly good performance on the record they’ll all be remembered for. (7)