The Clovers Biography

This US R&B vocal ensemble formed in Washington, DC, in 1946, and built a career recording smooth ballads and bluesy jumps for New York independent Atlantic Records, in the process becoming one of the most popular vocal groups of the 50s. By the time the group first recorded for Rainbow Records in early 1950, the Clovers comprised John ‘Buddy’ Bailey (1930, Washington, DC, USA; lead), Matthew McQuater (tenor), Harold Lucas (baritone) and Harold Winley (bass), with instrumental accompaniment from Bill Harris (b. 14 April 1925, Nashville, North Carolina, USA, d. 5 December 1988; guitar). Later in the year the Clovers joined the fledgling Atlantic label. In 1952 Charles White (b. 1930, Washington, DC, USA), who had earlier experience in the Dominoes and the Checkers, became the Clovers’ new lead, replacing Buddy Bailey who was drafted into the US Army. In late 1953 Billy Mitchell (d. 5 November 2002, Washington, DC, USA) took over from White. Bailey rejoined the group in 1954 but Mitchell remained and the two alternated the leads. Whoever was the lead, from 1951-56 the Clovers achieved a consistent sound and remarkably consistent success. They had three US number 1 R&B hits with ‘Don’t You Know I Love You’, ‘Fool, Fool, Fool’ (both 1951) and ‘Ting-A-Ling’ (1952), plus four number 2 R&B hits with ‘One Mint Julep’, ‘Hey, Miss Fannie’ (both 1952), ‘Good Lovin’ (1953) and ‘Lovey Dovey’ (1954). The best-known of the remaining 11 other Top 10 hits for Atlantic was ‘Devil Or Angel’, a song frequently covered, most notably by Bobby Vee. The Clovers only made the US pop charts with ‘Love, Love, Love’ (number 30, 1956) and ‘Love Potion No. 9’ (number 23, 1959). The latter, one of Leiber And Stoller’s best songs, was recorded for United Artists Records, the only label other than Atlantic that found the Clovers reaching the charts. In 1961 the Clovers split into rival groups led, respectively, by Buddy Bailey and Harold Lucas, and the hits dried up. Various permutations of the Clovers continued to record and perform for years afterwards, particularly in the Carolinas where their brand of music was popular as ‘beach music’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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