The Five Crowns Biography

The Five Crowns were formed at Wadleigh Junior High School in Harlem, New York, USA, in 1952. The group comprised Wilbur ‘Yunkie’ Paul (lead), brothers James ‘Poppa’ Clark, Claudie ‘Nicky’ Clark and John ‘Sonny Boy’ Clark (all tenor) and Doc Green Jnr. (d. 10 March 1989; bass/baritone). Their distinctive sound (not least because of the presence of four tenors) brought them to the attention of Rainbow Records in July 1952. They found instant success in October when ‘You’re My Inspiration’ became a major regional R&B hit. However, they failed to follow up this breakthrough, with successive singles such as ‘Who Can Be True’, ‘Why Don’t You Believe Me’ and ‘Alone Again’ faring poorly. Finding themselves in dispute with an evidently disappointed Rainbow Records, they moved to the Old Town label in July 1953. However, neither ‘You Could Be My Love’ nor ‘Lullaby Of The Bells’ revived fortunes. In the aftermath they returned to Rainbow on its subsidiary label Riviera Records. A creative renaissance was witnessed by the powerful ‘You Came To Me’, but this again failed to translate into commercial sales. The group disbanded later that year. Green then put together a new Five Crowns who released one single, ‘God Bless You’, for Gee Records. He was also the only original member remaining in the reshuffled line-up who released ‘I Can’t Pretend’ for Transworld Records. Titled simply the Crowns by 1958, the formation that recorded ‘Kiss And Make Up’ was ironically closer to the original Five Crowns, with James Clark rejoining, plus the presence of Benjamin Nelson (later known as Ben E. King), Ellsbury Hobbs and Charlie Thomas. This was the only record ever to be released on Doc Pomus’ R&B Records label. Afterwards, they performed at the Apollo Theatre and so impressed George Treadwell that he immediately sacked the members of his band the Drifters, and replaced them in a straight swap with the Crowns.

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

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