Short-lived vocal group of the early 1950’s who exhibited a diverse stylistic approach on each of their sides which robbed them of a more distinctive image despite the benefit of a strong lead singer and a unique background for the era.

The group emerged from the New York gospel scene in the mid to late 1940’s where they were known as The Brooklyn Crusaders with a somewhat revolving membership, but with lead singer Jimmy Beckum being the constant.

After getting jobs together in New Jersey they transitioned to a barbershop quartet which was their first attempt at secular music, albeit hardly a commercial style for the times. After a name change to The Majors, taken from a department store of all things, they began to diversify their singing by adding gospel, pop and rock ‘n’ roll styles into the mix which led them to Derby Records in 1951 where they cut two sessions, one in the spring and another in the fall.

The first date produced just one rock song along with a pop tune composed in part by the label’s Sales Manager who was their liaison to the company, along with a gospel tune. The rock side, “You Ran Away With My Heart”, got sporadic interest across the country – charting in Pittsburgh, Richmond and Los Angeles – but never enough at any one time to make the national listings.

In the fall they cut a second session, one split with bluesman Brownie McGhee, backing him on one song while he added his guitar to one of theirs, but while both of The Majors’s cuts were more or less in a rock vein, they failed to draw any notice and the group’s live performances were all local clubs in New York and New Jersey.

Failing to see any money from these ventures the group broke up by 1953 but two of the members, Alvin Scott and and Clyde Lee, used the name on a later release for Original Records in 1954.

Lead singer Jimmy Beckum who had been the clear star of the group during their brief career went on to factor into a few other notable rock groups, first being a member of the nacent 4 Fellows before their recording career took place (and after their days on record Alvin Scott would join them) and then Beckum joined The Harptones in in 1955, singing on some of their best remembered songs in his year with them. He’d later rejoin them in the early 1960’s and again in the 1970’s for revival tours.

Though they had a very small role in the music’s history, The Majors were among those who acted as an early bridge between gospel and rock and with a little more perseverance and focus might’ve had a more substantial career.
THE MAJORS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Derby 763; June, 1951)
A good first effort at a rock song with an impressive and emotional lead full of gospel-rooted vocal mannerisms which flesh out the melody and masks the somewhat limited backing of the others as well as the scant musical bed. (6)

(Derby 779; December, 1951)
Unlike pop vocalists who had distanced themselves from the feelings this song expressed in favor of letting the melody handle the load, Jimmy Beckum pours his heart out in this standard but the rest of the group and the backing musicians aren’t quite as committed. (5)

(Derby 779; December, 1951)
A blatantly sexual song which pulls no punches lyrically and features the rest of the group far more prominently than their ballads had while they also get a solid sax break and the usual stellar lead by Jimmy Beckum who also wrote it… a fitting coda for their brief tenure. (7)