BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

Shortlived vocal group of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s whose first release was a national hit but who failed to parlay that initial success into sustained interest despite some stellar recordings.

The group was formed as a trio in New Haven, Connecticut in the mid-1940’s, calling themselves The Melody Kings who were comprised of singers in their thirties, Raymond Reid, Sam McClure and Jasper Edwards. They were strictly an East Coast club act but they received an unexpected break when an established group, The Jubilaires who appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s popular radio show, found themselves with a hit in 1946. The group was scheduled to tour with bandleader Andy Kirk but Godfrey was reluctant to let them leave and disrupt his program.

A compromise was reached wherein a new group would be recruited to go on the road and promote the hit record with one member of The Jubilaires to make it “authentic” while the rest of the Jubilaires remained in New York on Godfrey’s radio show. The group enlisted was The Melody Kings.

After the tour ended The Melody Kings had only experience to show for it. The songs they had sung weren’t their own, the exposure they got was under another group’s name and their own opportunities beyond that weren’t made all that much better as a result of this endeavor. They did see however what a distinctive lead could mean to their chances at reaching those heights themselves and so when they met 19 year old Scott King they offered him the position of lead singer, as well as recruiting pianist Bobby Buster who doubled as their arranger.

For three years they worked clubs on Eastern Seaboard, New York and Philadelphia primarily, and finally in 1949 their manager, Ed Levy, whom they met through their brief association with The Jubilaires, started Lee Records explicitly to record the group, whom he renamed The Shadows.

Like most vanity start-up labels Lee Records was underfunded and lacked connections but their debut single, highlighted by the breathy tenor lead of King, became a Top Ten hit and got a on the bill at the Apollo Theater and began making their first appearances outside their local market.

Though presumably there was now enough name recognition to ensure future sales their two follow-ups on Lee Records failed to make the same impact despite tremendous reviews and Levy’s ambitious enterprise came to an end in mid-1950, having issued a handful of other singles by a hodgepodge of artists in other fields. He sold his unissued masters, including those cut by The Shadows, to Sittin’ In With Records, but those too failed to sell.

The Shadows then saw their promising career brought to a sudden halt when Scott King was drafted and spent the next two years in the Armed Services. The group had cut a few sides with McClure on lead that got released in King’s absence but without their most distinctive voice and lacking a record contract they called it quits, having to watch in frustration as the vocal group market rapidly expanded during that time.

When King finally was discharged in 1952 The Shadows reformed and tried making up for lost time, managing to land a contract with Decca Records, undoubtedly seeing them as a way to have a pop-influenced vocal group with which to infiltrate the booming rock market. But though they released a few records in 1953 and 1954 their time had passed and after a few more years of club work, all of it seemingly east of the Mississippi River, they broke up for good in 1958.
 
 
THE SHADOWS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

I’VE BEEN A FOOL
(Lee 200; December, 1949)
Breathtaking vocals by lead singer Scott King and modest but suitable support by the others, offsets a sparse arrangement highlighted by a haunting saxophone making this a well-deserved hit and a portend of the vocal group ballad approach of the future. (8)

NOBODY KNOWS
(Lee 200; December, 1949)
More than serviceable B-side which is held beck slightly due to minimal instrumental and vocal support for Scott King’s strong lead, parts of which sound uncannily like a young Elvis Presley who surely was taking notes. (5)