Nondescript vocal and instrumental group which dabbled briefly in rock at the end of the 1940’s and into the 1950’s without any success.

The most notable aspect of the group was their unusual choice of instruments, which aside from Thomas La Gon on bass (replaced in 1951 by Buzz Cottman) were hardly typical for any style of commercial music, especially rock ‘n’ roll. Danny Johnson played four string tenor guitar, his twin brother Eddie Johnson played mandolin while Thomas Harrod and Charlie Hooser, the leader of the group, both played tiple, a Colombian soprano guitar that was similar to a ukulele. They also sang which made them unique among early rock instrumental groups.

When signed by Derby Records whose only success its first few months of operation was in rock ‘n’ roll, The James Quintet were steered in that direction and in spite of their lack of experience in this field they made a sincere effort to fit in but had just two releases that sold little. Surprisingly however they soon landed with major label Decca for a release in 1951 before winding up on the increasingly powerful Atlantic Records where they backed resident superstar Ruth Brown on some sides that failed to chart.

Their club career wound down as their recording opportunities evaporated, their names simply an unusual curiosity in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.

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

(Derby 726; November, 1949)
Enthusiastic but silly fun as this role reversal domestic dispute has no details to give it any depth, just an absurd set-up and punchline, but there’s some charm to be found in their over-the-top presentation all the same. (4)

(Derby 726; November, 1949)
Radical change of pace from the top side, this gentle group harmony effort sounds quite lovely and contains some sneak peaks into the future of this style but doesn’t go far enough to separate it from the mannered pop vocal groups that had defined the pre-rock era. (4)

(Derby 732; March, 1950)
The inevitable end result when a pop-bred vocal group attempts to pass for rockers, eventually their instincts take over and they revert back to the bland, lifeless deliveries and mawkish sentiments they were accustomed to. (2)