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Saturday, April 9, 2011

How The Five Delights created Mood Making music and made the world Watusi with them for Eternity

In the world of vocal groups it’s easy for a group to get lost; this is not the case of The Five Delights, though the records are rare the popularity of group is better now like fine wine. This is the story of recollections of stories that I remember from my father’s best friend and former member of The Five Delights Ray Figueroa and interviews Waldo Champen had with Marv Goldberg.

The Five Delights story begins with Waldo Champen!

In 1950, Waldo formed the original Wrens with Frenchie Concepcion, Raoul McLeod and a guy just known as Archie. The group did perform at the Apollo and apparently recorded but no one quite remembers for whom (the recording doesn’t seem to have been released). Though the Wrens break up around 1952, Frenchie continued on with a new version of the Wrens featuring Bobby Mansfield and cut the original “Come Back My Love”.

By 1953, Waldo finds himself joining The Chimes (My Dearest Darling) with Arthur Crier, Gary Morrison & Gene Redd. Waldo replaced lead singer John Murray. This group breaks up in 1955.

Waldo meets Sonny!

In late 1955, Waldo forms The Supremes with former lead singer of the Twilighters Larry “Lonnie” Gales. Besides Waldo & Larry the group consisted of Donald Redd, Billy Baines and future “Five Delight” Ed “Sonny” Jordan. The Supremes signed on with Hy Weiss’s “Old Town Records” and recorded and released in 1955 as back up to Ruth McFadden the original version of “Darling Listen to the Words of this Song”.


In 1956, the group was back in the studio and recorded the beautiful “Tonight” & “She Don’t Want Me No More” with Larry singing lead on both sides. On a third session, Waldo sings lead on “Come Back and Give Me Your Hand” which at the time went unreleased.

Somehow at this time The Supremes without Larry Gales become The Wrens for one record that was never issued called “Reckless” and the flip “House of Cards” with both Bobby Mansfield singing lead.

By mid 1956 Donn Redd and Bobby Mansfield left The Supremes/Wrens; Waldo, Sonny & Billy joined Dean Barlow in a group called The Bachelors (due to contractual reasons they couldn’t use The Crickets). The signed to Sammy Lowe’s Earl Label and they cut “I Want to Know About Love” with Dean singing lead and the original and calypso version of “Dolores” with Waldo singing lead. Their second release featured Dean on lead on both sides “Baby” and “Tell Me Now”. With two releases and no promotion and no appearances they leave Earl records.



In 1957, The Bachelors change their name to The Montereys and signed to Jerry Winston’s label “Onyx”; they record “Through the Years” with Sonny singing lead and Waldo singing the top falsetto background part. The flip was the great and immortal “Dearest One” with Dean and Billy singing a duet. The records were reviewed on Billboard magazine on September 9th, 1957 but not as a Montereys record but as Dean Barlow record. The Montereys did cut “Angel” & “Tell Me Why” but were not released. The group breaks up.

Billy Baines joins Bobby Spencer & J.R. Bailey to record as The Cadillacs; all they were missing was a bass, somehow Waldo who is usually a 2nd tenor and at his lowest a baritone becomes The Cadillacs Bass. This version of The Cadillacs cut the beloved and revered “My Girlfriend” led by J.R. and Champ gives a great performance on Bass and the flip “Broken Heart” with Bobby Spencer on lead. The single was released in 1957 and reviewed on Billboard Magazine.
This version of the Cadillacs also photographed one of the most famous
pictures on the Cover of the Cadillacs lp that featured a third song from this version of the group called “Don’t Be Mad with my Heart”. Waldo leaves the Cadillacs and J.R. & Bobby joins whatever is left from the The Original Cadillacs to cut “Jay Walker” & “Please Mr. Johnson” among other great Cadillacs recordings.



Champ & Sonny reunite!

In 1958 Champ joined Sonny in the already formed Five Delights with Douglas Ferrer, George Rosa & Danny Levy on Bass. They signed on with Jerry Winston again on his Newport label to cut the classic “There’ll be No Goodbyes” with Sonny and Champ in duet leads and “Okey Dokey Mama” with Doug on lead. Both songs along with The Montereys and The Bachelors singles were arranged and conducted by the great Sammy Lowe. The song began to pick up steam and United Artist re-released the song on their UNART division. The record really goes nowhere on the new label and afterwards Doug and George leave the group.


Danny at this time recruit two classmates from James Monroe High School in the Bronx; Eddie Stokes and Raymond Figueroa join the group in 1959 at this time they went in the studio around February or March to record “Wachibamba” & “Kalahari” on the Prince label but the credis was to The Watusi Warriors Arranged and Conducted by the mysterious “Rocky Gibraltar”. The record was reviewed, everybody thought they were listening to an actual South African group, not realizing the group was really a Bronx group made up of two blacks, one Jewish, one Puerto Rican and one Polish member. Nevertheless the record was reviewed by Billboard in 1959.

By July they had reverted back to the Five Delights name and recorded “The Thought of Losing You” with Sonny on lead and “That Love Affair” with Champ on leadand with the great Teacho Wiltshire Arranging and Conducting the session. This time the record were released on Abel records which was distributed by George Goldner’s Gone records; though the records fantastic the label did not promote the singles.

Around 1960 the group recorded a couple of Acapella rehearsal tapes recording songs like “You’ll Send Me”, “Goodnight Sweetheart”, “Gloria”, “The Thought of Losing You”, “Over the Rainbow”, “Begin the Beguine”, “I Believe”, “That love Affair”, “Man on the Moon”, “There’ll Be no Goodbyes”, “Dream a Dream”, “I Woke Up this Morning”, “Dearest Darling”, “Close Your Eyes” among other recordings. But listening to the tapes not only are hearing a great group singing, but five guys having fun and the respect they had for each other.


After a year of not recording the Five Delights were back in the studio but this time they changed their name to The Mood Makers and they cut a song from the rehearsal tapes “Dream a Dream” with Sonny and Champ on Duet leads a la The Dells. The flip is cover of The Bachelors “Dolores” with Sonny on lead and Danny giving one of the bass parts performances ever on record. The songs were released on Bambi Records and reviewed by Billboard Magazine; on a side note it seems they also cut a song called “Sweet Little Girl” but was never released.

The Mood Makers did have one more record backing Tommy Stagg on his record “Memories of Love” & “Four in Love”; this was released also on Bambi Records.

On a side note the story of Bambi records have always eluded me, it seems the owner was a guy named Vince Peters and the arranger and Conductor was a famous conductor who had to change his name due to contractual reasons so he went by “Rocky Gibraltar” but no one quite remember his real name. If anybody knows any history on Bambi or even want to add to these articles please feel free to do so. Any info will be appreciated!

In 1964, The Five Delights recorded 12 songs for their manager Jerome Tarter in a New Rochelle Studio to be produced for an album. This material was never released and the whereabouts of the tapes are unknown.

Jerome was the writer of most of The Five Delights and Mood Makers materials he also wrote an unreleased Solitaires record.

Around 1965, Waldo left The Five Delights and music as a whole to go work for the NY Transit Authority.


The Five Delights meets The Eternals

Years are a little shaky but around 1965 George Villanueva the former lead of the Eternals (“Today”) joins The Five Delights, besides a few rehearsal tapes nothing gets recorded for release. Sonny leaves the group either in late 1965 or 1966 and the remaining members of Ray, Eddie, Danny & George join Sammy Marrero to become The Eternals.

It was this version of The Eternals in 1966 that recorded a version of the Bob Lewis jingle based on the original Eternals “Babalu’s Wedding Day” song from 1959. The jingle was recorded live from a Freedom Land performance.

This version of the group also records in 1967 or 1968 “Decent Girl” with Sammy on lead and George on the bridge. “Mister Night” again with George on lead and a version of “Big Troubles”; sadly none were released.

After this Ray, Eddie & Danny decided to end their singing careers and concentrate on having careers and supporting their growing families. All five members of the Five Delights have had great careers outside of singing, but that’s for another article.

Around 1995, The Five Delights were inducted into UGHA, where four of the five original members (Champ, Ray, Eddie & Sonny) alongside George Villanueva performed together since the sixties. By this time Danny sadly had passed away in 1992.

In the late nineties, Sonny alongside the rest of The Five Delights released some of the songs from their 1960 rehearsal tapes on cd called "Best of Bronx Acapella". Pick up this CD if you find a copy.

I hope you enjoy reading this article as much as I had the pleasure of writing it. Hopefully most people will agree The Five Delights is a group worth searching out for. Just check out Youtube alone and you see great comments from not only fans but from Champs kids and Ray’s kids on not just how great singers they are now but how great human beings.

I had the pleasure of knowing Ray for all of my life or most of it at least and I thank my father Roberto Perez De Leon for introducing me to not just the Five Delights but to the whole Vocal Group Scene. Some of my memories as a kid was seeing my dad and Ray singing together at Christmas parties or just having fun. Just brilliant memories forever stored in my head.

This article is dedicated to Danny Levy,Eddie Stokes & my dad (I miss you).

2 comments:

  1. Was a grammar,high-school friend of Eddie Stokes. All our 1950s friends are trying to regroup, or to re-acquaint at a gathering on Long Island. Eddie and I were from Queens Village. His family moved to the Bronx, mine to Massapequa Park, but I would drive up to the Bronx to hang out w/Eddie and watch him harmonize with his friends (The 5 Delights). Am looking for a way to contact Eddie--can anyone help? john hanley, 607-498-9971.

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  2. Interesting article. I went to James Monroe HS with Ray and Danny Levy. My father had a candy store on Home St. in the Bronx and saw Danny every day. Last saw him at the 30th anniversary school reunion in 1989. This filled in some missing info for me on the formation of the Five Delights. I remember them singing on stage in Monroe. They did some heartbeats tunes and were just fantastic.

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