The Harptones Biography

An R&B vocal group formed in 1953 in Harlem, New York City, New York, USA. The members were lead Willie Winfield, first tenor Nick Clark, second tenor William Dempsey, baritone Bill ‘Dicey’ Galloway, bass Billy Brown and pianist/arranger Raoul J. Cita. The Harptones were one of the smoothest and most polished R&B vocal groups to emerge during the early rock ‘n’ roll era. Although considered a part of the doo-wop phenomenon, they rarely employed nonsense syllables. Instead, the chorus would answer in words employing a special ‘opened mouth harmony’ devised by Cita. The Harptones were giants on the east coast but virtually unknown elsewhere in the country. Among their best numbers (all ballads) are ‘A Sunday Kind Of Love’ (1954), ‘My Memories Of You’ (1954) and ‘Life Is But A Dream’’ (1955); none of their jump songs were particularly convincing. By 1956, with the death of Brown, the group was beginning to break up, and during this time Jimmy Beckum appeared on many of the tracks recorded for George Goldner’s Rama/Gee complex. Top notch songs during this period included ‘On Sunday Afternoon’ and ‘Shrine Of St. Cecilia’. Their final recordings were released in 1957. During the 70s and 80s Winfield and Cita made up various permutations of a Harptones group to play the east coast oldies circuit.

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

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