A long-tenured group who only momentarily ventured into rock, but when they did they managed to surprise people with how well they pulled it off.

The origins of the group date back to the late 1930’s when two members joined The Norfolk Jazz Quartet who managed to be regulars on WMCA radio in New York under the name The Four Alphabets. When their lead singer passed away in 1940 the two future Master Keys moved to gospel with The Selah Jubilee Singers who also lasted a few years. After that group broke up three of the members, two formerly with the Jazz Quartet and one of the gospel group, found a new lead singer, John Moore, and became The Master Keys, back to singing secular music.

They got a record contract in 1945 and released some very pop-slanted singles that did little other than perhaps give booking agents evidence of their viability and they embarked on a long and fairly successful club career, their versatility in singing all different styles – as evidenced by their diverse résumés – enabled them to appeal to a wide faction of the audience. Meanwhile they cut some more gospel records, saw their original singles sold to another label and re-released (and a third label, Jubilee, down the road) and toured Europe, all seemingly unaware, or unconcerned, of rock’s encroaching presence on the scene.

When they returned only Moore was left from the original foursome, but he added new members and got signed to Abbey Records in 1950 where they cut a stand four song session. Their first release was purely pop, as was the top side of the second, but their final side was pure Ravens-inspired rock ‘n’ roll and they pulled it off with shocking credibility for the most part, but whether they didn’t feel comfortable pursuing it further, or if their reputations prevented other companies from seeing the promise in this new direction, their careers seemed to have come to a rather abrupt end after that.

THE MASTER KEYS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Abbey 3017; July, 1950)
Though their unlikely shift to rock ‘n’ roll has a few hiccups, the majority of the record – both the backing music and especially Phillip White’s suggestive lead vocal – are first rate and they sound entirely convincing in their attempts at fitting into the rock landscape. (6)