The Mills Brothers
The Mills Brothers were a popular middle of the road vocal group in the 1930s. Billed as "Four Boys and a Guitar, " they were experts at imitating instruments including trumpet, trombone, tuba and string bass. With the backing of just a guitar, they simulated a full band and amazed listeners. The Mills Brothers (Herbert, Harry, Donald and John Jr.) started out singing in vaudeville and tent shows, were featured on a radio show for ten months in Cincinnati, arrived in New York and by the end of 1931 were an instant hit. They recorded frequently throughout the decade, made appearances in many films (including 1932's Big Broadcast) and recorded with Bing Crosby, the Boswell Sisters and Duke Ellington. John Jr.'s death in 1935 was a tragic loss although John Sr. effectively took his place. However by 1942 with their hit "Paper Doll, " the old sound gave way to a more conventional pop setting.
The Ink Spots
The original group was formed in Indianapolis, Indiana in the late twenties when Jerry Daniels, Orville Jones, Charles Fuqua and and Ivory Matson met in Indianapolis. After moving to New York in the early thirties they changed their name from from, King, Jack and the Jesters to The Ink Spots. Soon after signing with Decca Records in 1935 Billy Kenny replaced the groups lead singer who had left. Kenny's quavering high tenor presaged street corner leads that were to come and was backed by flawless sweet harmonies. In 1939 the group released "If I Didn't Care" their first million selling record. Other hits were "My Prayer, " "We Three, " "Maybe, " "Whispering Grass, " "To Each His Own, " and "I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire." The last Ink Spots hit was 1948s "To Each His Own".
The Ink Spots were one of the most successful black acts of the 1940sand inspired younger groups that took their sound into a R&B direction.The Ink Spots were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 in the early influences category
The Ravens formed in New York in 1945 were an early R&B vocal group that sang a wide range of material.There were one of the first groups to feature a bass voice as a lead, probably the first to feature a lead falsetto and the first to choreograph their act. With a smooth harmony like the Mills Brothers recorded for Hub Records "My Sugar Is So Refined" in 1946. Shortly thereafter, Maithe Marshall, whose lead falsetto became the group's trademark joined The Ravens. Their first big hits "write Me A letter and "Write Me A Letter" were recorded in 1947. "White Christmas" was a major hit in 1948. The groups next hit was "I Don't Have To Ride No More" in 1950. "Count Every Star" of the same year, with full range vocal backing highlighted by wordless vocal bass lines and high falsetto constitute the virtual definition of doo wop. 1952 to saw their last hit "Rock Me All Night".
(top l-r Alexander Sharp, George Nelson and Sonny Till)
(bottom l-r Tommy Gaither and Johnny Reed)
The Orioles formed in Baltimore Maryland in 1946 are cited by many as the first R&B vocal group and the precursor of the doo wop sound. As teens they were known as the Vibranaires and were manage by Deborah Chessler a local songwriter who would write many of their hits.. Chessler got them a spot on Arthur Godfrey's talent scouts. Though they didn't win they became regulars on the show.
In 1948 they joined It's A Natural Records and changed their name to The Orioles after recording "It's Too Soon To Know" which went to #1 R&B chart and #13 Pop chart. It was the first black sounding record to place that high on the Pop chart. Other hits included "Lonely Christmas' and "Tell Me SO" in 1949. "Tell Me So" was important because it use a wordless falsetto doing a kind of obbligato to the lead vocal.. This would become a staple of the doo wop style. Other hits were "A Kiss And A Rose", "Forgive And Forget", and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve."