Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Try Them One More Time (14 Karat Soul)

Wow! I have just found some clips of my favourite ever doo wop revival group 14 Karat Soul, apparently reunited, however briefly, for a performance at the Morris Museum's Acappella & Doo Wop Concert #1, July 15, 2011, in Morristown, NJ, according to youtube (the group, originally came from New Jersey).

You can read my main piece about the group here, if you are so minded. But what makes this new find exciting - to me, anyway - is that when I saw them most nights of a one week residency in the early eighties, one of the songs was Take Me Back, Baby, which as far as I know was never recorded by them. And suddenly here it is below, the closest I will probably get to that initial thrill, even though Glenny T, the group's founder, is the sole constant across almost three decades:

Good, also, to hear their version of Jump Children (aka Vooit Vooit) - recorded by the Flamingos, but not, I'm guessing, the most wildly original composition even in the early fifties. Did 14KS sing this in Glasgow? Not sure; although they did sing the Flamingos' rarity, unreleased at the time, I Found a New Baby.

They made a studio recording of the latter, but without exception the studio versions of songs in 14 Karat Soul's live repertoire are antiseptically clean by comparion with my memory of their live equivalents, making it doubly annoying that I chose not to record any of those Glasgow gigs, thinking: "Well, they'll be out on vinyl soon, and probably sounding ten times better."

Oh, you Foolish and Deluded boy. There may be a few Radio One sessions still in existence, dating from the same period: I do recall the group singing Sixteen Candles on one programme, but I'm not holding my breath. So let's hear Jump Children:

By the way, youtube give a link to the same website I advised against clicking in that earlier post. Taking my PC's life in my hands, I have just clicked it and it was okay. But I won't provide the link here, just in case. In any case, the vital link in this case, namely for the Classic Urban Harmony website, is provided below, if you want to watch more clips.

The group appear to be reaching back to their early repertoire in the clips available from the 2011 performance. I'm not sure whether that might mean that some of those onstage with Glenny T are from the original group. To be frank, there is a bit more flesh on show, so it may be or it may not be.

But what I can say is that these live clips are a stronger reminder of what I saw in the Mk.1 (or at least early) version of the group in the Mitchell Theatre in the early eighties, though I believe I'm right in saying that at least of couple of the original members are no longer around.

You can find pics and other videos of the event on the Classic Urban Harmony website here; scroll down for pictures of the group and youtube clips of other songs. And looking through it seems that only Glenny T is left of that original lineup, so these others listed - Calvin Nadir Powell, BDavid, Anthony Holding and Mark Beckett - are, I assume, from the Mk 2 version of the group which found success in Japan:

But to close, for a blog founded on the magic of this song, I cannot leave out the event's grand finale:

Have just seen a Facebook page for 14 Karat Soul, and assuming the information is correct, I regret to say that three of the original members have gone: Reginald "Briz" Brisbon, Russell Foxx II and Brian "Le Mont" Simpson. Which only leaves David Thurmond and Glenny T of the quintet I saw and loved. I particularly remember Brian Simpson's really attacking Annie Had a Baby a few nights into the run - and unless the group habitually recorded themselves that has gone, vanished.

But those nights in the unlikely surroundings of the Mitchell Theatre (funky it ain't) meant and mean an awful lot to me. I think I wrote in that earlier post that when the group were queuing up for eats in the egalitarian surroundings of Glasgow's vanished Mayfest, I had the chance to go over and thank them, but didn't, because I'm me, basically. I had it in my head to mention the Dells and just say how glad I was they were continuing a tradition I had only just woken up to.

Anyway, that doesn't matter now. Because the point is that every time I saw them - Edinburgh at the Fringe, Glasgow at Mayfest and their residency at the Mitchell Theatre, London at Ronnie Scott's and the Fridge - they always captivated a crowd who may not have known much about them beforehand. Whatever recognition did or didn't come their way, they were good. And every night they heard the evidence that they were good.

Playing fast and loose with time zones again, if you don't fancy braving the group's website - and you'd be wise to be cautious - here is a biography extracted from it which freezes the the Mk. 2 group around December 2002 just before a tour of Japan.
 Have you noticed that lately everyone's craving a touch of soul? From fashion to art to music, soul is definitely on the rise. With the perfect blend of five silky smooth voices and uncanny showmanship, 14 Karat Soul's powerful vocal sound is a welcome alternative to modern day pop.

The strength and purity of their voices coupled with a captivating performance has led them to become one of the most popular groups in Japan. With albums, tours, and a devoted following, it is no wonder that Kleenex, Coca-Cola and Walt Disney Enterprises rode the wave of the Karat's popularity by signing them to write, produce and perform on their latest television commercials and recordings; and appear on billboards throughout Japan.

It all started when founder and vocalist, Glenny T., set out to find the best voices in East Orange, N.J. Under the devoted guidance of Stan Krause and Skip Jackson, these voices were soon hailed by the Village Voice, as "The best teenage singing group in America." Since then, Glenny and his group have been taking their audiences by storm.

Although other members have come and gone over the years, the current performing members of 14 Karat Soul are: Glenny T., Tony Zeke, Nadir, Mark Aaron, and Hervon.

Some of their credits include U.S. and European tours (including a five month U.S. tour with The Stray Cats and a European tour with Whitney Houston); two off-broadway plays (Sister Suzie Cinema and Gospel At Colonus), produced by Joseph Papp, written and directed by Lee Breuer, and music by Bob "Otis" Telson; radio and television performances in the U.S., Europe and Japan; various film work, including "Alphabet City" and an HBO Movie, "Tracy Ullman Takes On New York"; a host of U.S. commercials for "Roy Rogers”, "McDonald's”, and "3 Musketeers”; three appearances on NBC's "Saturday Night Live”; and were featured in Sesame Street's Emmy Award Winning Movie, "Elmo Saves Christmas".

In addition, 14 Karat Soul performed for the audience of NBC's "The Cosby Show" until its last taping; earned the "Best Arranger's" and the "TBS TV" awards in the 1990 Tokyo Music Festival; participated in the 1994 World Music Awards held in Monaco; co-produced and performed in video commercials for ESPN's Big East College Basketball Playoffs; and are continuously being aired throughout the world on re-runs and new videos of CTW's "Sesame Street."

Most recently, 14 Karat were invited by Brian Setzer to fly to L.A. to record backing vocals on a couple of cuts for his upcoming album; co-produced and record a new song, “Harmony”, for Nestle Coffee & Cream. They are currently in production for their upcoming December, 2002, Japan Tour, in support of their latest release, "Love You All".

After spending time captivated by the sounds and style of these charming men, you too will be happy to have added a touch of soul to your life.

Link, if you can access spotify, to my playlist of available studio versions of songs which I've heard the group singing live here.


  1. Glenny T was the only original at this 2011 show, I think. On "Jump Children" the lead is B. David Whitworth, who joined 14 K Soul in the early nineties but left in 1995(96?) to join Earth Wind and Fire. Like Glenny T and many of the others, he's a Jersey guy from East Orange High School.

    Fun videos, I wish I could have been at that show!

    I'm glad I discovered your blog -- great music history. Keep up the coolness.

  2. Thanks very much. The next post includes an extract from Jay Warner's Billboard Book of American Singing Groups with more information about 14 Karat Soul's early days.

  3. Thanks for the kind comments about the Morristown (NJ) concert. Paul Ressler is a close friend of 14 Karat Soul and he encouraged the group to reunite for the concert. We assisted in the concert production and promotion. We have known Glenny T. since 14 Karat Soul sang at UGHA (United in Group Harmony Association) in 1979. So glad to see the group is back. They are as fantastic as ever. We hope to book them again in 2012.
    Pam & Charlie Horner