The Shells Biography

This US, Brooklyn-based R&B vocal group was formed in 1957. The Shells were noted for their typical New York doo-wop stylings, in which the use of a prominent bass, piercing falsetto, and strong vocal riffing in support of a romantic lead, made for one of the great folk acts of the 50s. The group cut their first record, ‘Baby Oh Baby’, in 1957, which did little upon its release on the local Johnson label. The Shells broke up, but the following year, lead Nathaniel ‘Little Nate’ Bouknight formed a new ensemble, bringing in Bobby Nurse (first tenor), Shade Randy Alston (second tenor), Gus Geter (baritone), and Danny Small (bass). Subsequent records did nothing, but as a result of the resurgence of doo-wop on the charts in the early 60s owing to the promotion efforts of record collectors Wayne Stierle and Donn Fileti, the career of the Shells was far from dead. Stierle and Fileti began promoting ‘Baby Oh Baby’ in 1960 and were able to make it a Top 20 hit on the national pop charts (it went to number 11 on Cash Box’s R&B chart). The group re-formed and Stierle started acting as producer, coming out with some great sides, notably two excellent ones with new lead Ray Jones, ‘Happy Holiday’ (1962) and ‘Deep In My Heart’ (1962). However, the Shells failed to reach the charts and broke up. In 1966, Stierle reassembled the group for one last a cappella session using the four remaining members, without a lead.

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

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