A talented but relatively short-lived and commercially unsuccessful vocal group in the early 1950’s who suffered more from unforced production errors than a lack of ability or versatility.

The group members began singing gospel in the 1940’s and by 1947 had switched to secular music in the standard Ink Spots and Mills Brothers style before rock ‘n’ roll made its inevitable impact soon after, especially when fellow Maryland natives The Orioles became the biggest group in the field starting in 1948.

Still, it took until 1952 for the group to be signed to Jubilee, the same label that had scored big with The Orioles but whose questionable decisions regarding material and production increasingly hurt their standing, especially as the Nineteen Fifties brought far more variety in style to the rock vocal group idiom.

Yet the group could definitely sing well as they had two capable leads in tenors Buster Banks and Johnny Paige to go along with baritone David Jones and bass singer Henry Abrams, plus guitarist Tommy Bonds.

Their initial problem was the Baltimore disc jockey who brought the group to the attention of Jubilee, Bill Franklin, meddled with their first recording session by recommending they use a lot of echo on their vocals to distinguish them from other groups, a move the Flamingos would later show had great potential. But either the technology in 1952 wasn’t sufficient for this to work well, or the engineer was incapable of doing it right, and as a result it made their singing sound unnecessarily murky and hard to decipher the words.

Despite good performances it practically ruined their debut and while it was modified or simply less apparent on later releases, their style remained a tough sell as they made good use of standard rock vocal group techniques – falsetto, bass intervals and switching off leads with some complex backing parts – but they also tended to veer towards ballads that had a hint of pop in them, much like The Orioles, and featured no strong musical backing to energize their records.

When their singles didn’t sell Jubilee didn’t bother to re-sign them and while Franklin remained a loyal supporter, even making sure they were paid properly, the group never were able to hook up with another label. When Jones left they hired a replacement who caused their break with the dee-jay and the group fractured as Banks and Paige put together an all new lineup for the dwindling live gigs around their home area.

By 1958 only Paige was left and formed a new group with a name change to The Stylists for the small Jay Wing label but this too went nowhere although Paige continued to sing and perform professionally well into the 1970’s

The original group had just three singles but had the skill to be a more consistent presence on the scene than they were. Unfortunately in music it’s not always the artists, but rather who they are connected to, which can make or break you and in The Marylanders case it broke them and they remain largely an obscurity despite some decent records.
THE MARYLANDERS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date on Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Jubilee 5079; April, 1952)
Though the song itself is rather blandly written the group sings it very well, switching off leads and creating a good fragile mood throughout their performance, but the record is marred by excessive and badly engineered echo which robs the vocals of their clarity. (6)

(Jubilee 5079; April, 1952)
The outdated Ink Spots pastiche negates a decent lead vocal and a fairly interesting, though non-commercial, bit of songwriting, but the spoken-word interlude by bass Henry Adams is so stale and offensive that it ruins what was shaping up to be only a fair record to begin with. (2)

(Jubilee 5091; August, 1952)
A sterling performance that should’ve been a hit as Buster Banks’ fragile tentative lead conveys the mixture of uncertainty and hope in a relationship gone astray while the others add immensely to the atmosphere with some memorable communal vocals behind him. (8)

(Jubilee 5091; August, 1952)
Despite some good trading off by three leads including the exceptional falsetto responses, there’s only so much they can do as the overall song and arrangement lean way too far into the pop realm for this to be competitive in the current rock landscape. (4)