The first of of the teenage vocal groups that proliferated rock ‘n’ roll in the Nineteen Fifties whose impact in showing the commercial potential of such aggregations goes far beyond their lone hit.

The Mello-Moods were students in junior high who began as imitators of The Orioles as the Nineteen Forties turned the corner into the Nineteen Fifties and began singing together outside of the Harlem River Houses where they lived. They sang mostly Orioles material, another clear sign of the influence the first rock vocal groups were having on developing the styles of the second generation of artists who’d take their place on the charts in the early 1950’s.

Oddly enough though, it was an uptempo song The Orioles included in their live shows to break up their preponderance of ballads, but never recorded, which became the burgeoning Mello-Moods signature number, “Where Are You”, a pop song done by Doris Day among others the year before.

When the group began to coalesce they’d slowed down that song at the behest of an older rival group who took them under their wing and when they discovered local record shop owner Bobby Robinson was starting his own label they auditioned and cut their first session out of which “Where Are You” was chosen for the first single and made the national charts, giving Robin Records their first hit. The group ranged in age from 12 to barely 16.

It’d also be The Mello-Moods only hit, as the label and their manager tried changing their style, not surprisingly featuring songs he’d written, then took them away from Bobby Robinson’s label and placed them on Prestige Records. Being so young they had little chance to play live dates which interfered with school and no real life experience to fight back against a self-serving manager. Eventually his interference caused the group to break up simply to get out of their contract with him.

The individual members didn’t stop singing professionally however. Bobby Williams, Monte Owens and Bobby Baylor joined the Solitaires before their run of classic sides. Bass vocalist James Bathea tried club singing before moving away from music, while the distinctive high tenor lead of Buddy Wooten was voluntarily silenced as he chose not to continue in the business that had done them wrong and got married.

One hit, but a lot of influence on the increasingly young perspective of rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t tell the whole story, but unfortunately rather than be a story about kids realizing their dream early in life it’s mostly a story about how adults – as always – decide they know better than the kids at the heart of a revolution and greedily and shortsightedly try to manipulate and take advantage of someone else’s talents to further their own stunted dreams.

THE MELLO-MOODS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Robin 105; December, 1951)
A stunning debut that transforms a well-written standard into an emotional plea of epic proportions as Buddy Wooten’s trembling voice expresses all of the doubt, confusion and pain of young love gone bad while the others lend sublime support. ★ 10 ★

(Robin 105; December, 1951)
Although the performance itself is stellar, the song itself was a blatant rip-off of the top side mimicking everything from the delivery to the subject, even the title, undercutting its effectiveness in the process. (6)

(Red Robin 104; April, 1952)
Chosen to try and crassly duplicate the magic of their debut – an older pop tune with the same pensive trembling vocal, the same uncertainty being shown in the lyrics and same basic vocal arrangement, what’s not the same is its legitimacy because it wasn’t their decision to cut. (4)

(Red Robin 104; April, 1952)
An inappropriate pop composition for the teenage group with its lyrical concessions of love with an arrangement equally unsuited for a rock group trying to maintain their standing with young fans, this was a bad decision from those controlling them. (2)