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"Chicago Streetwise Editorial "



         Some might argue for New York but we say the windy city blew the most soulful raw smooth beautiful groups in the world.  A list of Dowhop regions would include Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, Cleveland-Cincinnati, and New Orleans.  Of course there are others to be considered but thelisted  cities generated the most group harmony recording activity starting in the mid 1950s.

     We so proudly claim Chicago as the center of the universe because efforts of the following groups: THE SPANIELS, FLAMINGOS, DELLS, MOONGLOWS, IMPRESSIONS, and most of all my favorite Chicago group THE EL DORADOS.

     Pirkle Lee Moses, Richard Nickens, Arthur Bassett and James Maddox were students at Englewood high school when Harry Truman was in the White House and the 1952 Cadillac was a brand new car.  Vee Jay records signed the group in ’54 and released several singles before the big one.  In the summer of 1955 “At My Front Door” was on the radio and on the shelves of Chicago’s record stores.  Most fans bought the El Dorados hit by asking for “Crazy Little Mama”….the catchy hook line.   We also bought our 78’s from the barbershop, beauty shop, the cleaners and other outlets in Chicago because retail outlets like Sears and others did not stock “Negro” artist records in their stores.  But enough people found enough copies of the ElDorados’ hit to drive it up to number two on the national charts wherever they got it.

     The El Dorados are at the top of my list because of the unique expressive voice of lead singer “Pirk” and the smooth yet biting harmony of the group.  Technically the El Dorados were one of the only groups to use the unique sound of the major 6th in their harmonies.   Based on the on going Miracles Temptations comparison that we do on the Best Music Of Your Life, the Chicago version would be the El Dorados VS the Spaniels.  Both groups formed in 1952 and were with the same label and had their biggest hits in the same year.  “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” was the breakout hit for Gary Indiana’s Spaniels.

     As we have stated, it’s the arrangers musicians and producers who determine the final sound of the record, and all other things being equal, the El Dorados and the Spaniels represent the finest of the 50’s groups from Chicago.  However the Dells, Impressions and Moonglows were millimeters away from our favorites.

     Chicago is number one in doo-wop because our city appears to have had just the right mix of all the elements that make a great group, song and record.  We used jazz, blues, gospel and rock and roll ingredients (and just a little bit of country like Ray Charles used).

      I had the good fortune of working with the El Dorados on a commercial jingle for Out Of The Past Dusty Records and they were soooo good!!!

     A salute to Alderman Willie B. Cochran who returned my calls about naming a street for the ElDorados in the Englewood high school area. The alderman told me about the city’s halt on honorary streets.  So could the next stop be a visit to the fifth floor?  Maybe the two Richards can work something out.  Time to go to work.

     P.S. >> If you ever see a paper back book called “DU-WOP” by Johnny Keys, buy it immediately and suck it up.  This very important work is an insightful look into the 50s-60s Chicago doo-whop from a member of another Vee Jay Records group…The Magnificents. On our WKKC radio show “The Best Music Of Your Life” we’ll be returning to our “waaaaaay-back” show now on the second Sunday of the month. 

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