Archives for : APOLLO THEATER

BILLY ECKSTINE: Happy Birthday


Louis Jordan: Happy Birthday!


Della Reese: Happy Birthday!


Bobby ” Blue” Bland: Apollo Legend


Tony Rock: Happy Birthday!


Lena Horne: Happy Birthday!


Mr. Smokey Robinson: Man Of Many Miracles

Mr Smokey Robinson….”If its a Hit its a Miracle”1001451_10151924734365910_1204050268_n

Cornelius Grant: R & B Best Kept Secret!



Who is Cornelius Grant?  For shame!  You call yourself a historian of soul?  Well put this in your Trivia Pursuit.  What man was the original guitarist, arranger and co songwriter for some of the Temptations biggest hits?  Wait there’s more.  In addition he was a musical conductor for Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye as a teenager.  That’s right, Cornelius Grant.  As of late, Grant has been trying to give props to some legendary folks that he feels have not quite gotten their shine. It is to that end that he created the “Skoole Awards.”

The award show is about showing love to the music industry.  “We invented an award called the ‘Skoole’ that we’re going to give to Old School artists and old school pioneers in the business,” he explained.

“The first recipient will be the last surviving member of the Platters, Herb Lee.  By the way, at the Grammy’s this year, ‘Wait Mr. Postman’ has been nominated for the Hall of Fame.  I figured they deserve an award.  I’m also working on Little Richard.  It’s looking pretty good.  I’ve been waiting to speak to him directly.  I’ve already spoken to Herb and his manager, we’re flying him in and we’re also flying in Katherine and the Marvelettes.  Little Richard should be in town shortly.  So, we should be finalizing that.”


As mentioned previously, Grant was creatively involved with the Temptations for about 20 years.  He has witnessed, and sometimes aided in, the creation of some of their greatest hits.  In addition to the “Skoole Awards,” Grant also runs an Internet TV show called Flashbacks and Newtraks at

Ella Fitzgerald: Gone But Not Forgotten

ella-fitzgeraldREMEMBERING on this DAY 1996.THE GREAT ELLA FITZGERLAD. April 25th 1917-June 15th 1996.

Diva: Celebrition


OTIS BLACKWELL: The Original Hit man

Otis Blackwell



Blackwell worked as a singer/songwriter/pianist in the 50’s,- 70’s. Although his recordings never met with much success, many of the songs that he wrote went on to become very well-known, million-selling songs.

Otis was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1931. He grew up listening to cowboy songs, particularly those by Tex Ritter, and R&B songs by artists such as Chuck Willis. As a teenager he entered and won a contest at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. He was introduced to songwriter Doc Pomus, who encouraged him and helped him early in his career. One of Otis’ early records titled Daddy Rollin’ Stone was released by Jay-Dee in 1953. It was revived later in a version recorded by The Who.

Things changed for Otis Blackwell on Christmas Eve, 1955. That night he sold six songs that he had written for a total of $150. One of the demos included in these six had been recorded with Otis playing piano and the drummer using a cardboard box. It was picked up by Elvis Presley, who did not write his own songs and whose style at the time was to pick songs that he liked from demos that he heard and then use the same arrangement that he had heard on the demo. The song was Don’t Be Cruel, which went to number one in 1956, as did another Presley song the following year that had been written by Otis, All Shook Up. It had been inspired a shaken bottle of Pepsi Cola.

The success of Don’t Be Cruel gave a jolt to the songwriting career of the talented Otis Blackwell. He wrote more songs for Presley, among them One Broken Heart For Sale and Return To Sender. Blackwell admired Presley, and Presley looked to Blackwell for inspiration on the arrangements of some of his early pop songs. Most of what Presley had done to that point had come from the R&B or country fields of music. Otis Blackwell’s compositions were more rock-and-roll, or pop-oriented.

Otis Blackwell continued to record many records, although none of them ever managed to crack the top forty. But it was a different story for many of the songs that he wrote. One of these was Fever, for which Little Willie John took the writing credit, and which became a hit for both Little Willie John and Peggy Lee. There were many other hits written by Otis, such as Hey Little Girl for Dee Clark, and Breathless and Great Balls Of Fire for Jerry Lee Lewis.

Otis Blackwell sometimes wrote songs under the pseudonym John Davenport. He met with a great deal of success as a songwriter and has received a lot of respect within the music industry, even though his name is not well known to the general public. When Stevie Wonder received an award for Best Male Vocalist in 1976, he acknowledged Otis Blackwell as a magnificent songwriter.

In 1977 Blackwell was working on a score for a film about the life of Elvis Presley. During this time, Presley died, and Blackwell was inspired to record The No. 1 King Of Rock’n’Roll as a tribute on his own Fever label. He also recorded some albums in the late 70’s, These Are My Songs and Singin’ The Blues.

Following a lengthy illness, Otis passed away on May 6, 2002 in Nashville. Otis Blackwell had a very successful run as a prolific writer of nearly 1,000 songs. His legacy includes a number of top-selling rock-and-roll records.

Deborah Chessler: rhythm & blues pioneer


Deborah Chessler, whose song “It’s Too Soon To Know” became a touchstone and  launching pad for the rhythm and blues explosion of the late 1940s and 1950s, Chessler, the pen name for Shirley Reingold,

She retired from the music business many years ago, but she left an enduring  legacy from her writing and from managing a vocal group that become Sonny Til  and the Orioles.

The Orioles’ June 1948 recording of “It’s Too Soon To Know” became a  national phenomenon, pioneering a vocal group style that over the years evolved  into almost every harmony group from the Temptations through the Blue Notes, the  Chi-Lites, New Kids, New Edition, Boyz II Men and even One Direction.

Her story was extraordinary in part because she was a young Jewish woman  managing a black vocal group in an age when the entertainment industry,  particularly in a Southern state like Maryland, was rigidly segregated.

She and her mother toured with the group everywhere, including the South,  dealing with booking agents, theater owners and other showbiz officials who were  not used to taking women seriously or treating black performers equally.

Born and raised in Baltimore, she began writing songs as a teenager – at  first, she said, just as a way of expressing herself.

She didn’t read or write music, so she would memorize a melody and have  friends transcribe it.

She sold a song called “Tell Me So” to Savannah Churchill, a popular  vocalist of the late 1940s, and it had some modest success.

Her songs were unusual for the time because they were hybrids of traditional  pop and the new “rhythm and blues” style that was starting to emerge among  younger black artists in the exploding music market of the postwar years.

She worked in a shoe store by day and visited black and white theaters at  night, looking for artists who could record her songs.

A friend suggested she check out a young vocal group called the  Vibranaires.

“I reached them on the phone, and they sang three songs for me,” she said  years later. “They were great. They had the sound I heard in my head.”

The group – Sonny Til, George Nelson, Tommy Gaither, Alexander Sharp and  Johnny Reed — agreed to take Chessler as its manager, and she got them a booking  on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts TV show.

They finished third, but there was such an outpouring of viewer support that  Godfrey invited them back.

She also secured them a contract with a fledgling New York record label,  first called It’s a Natural and soon renamed Jubilee. Its president, Jerry  Blaine, suggested they rename themselves the Orioles.

“It’s Too Soon to Know” was the first record on that label, and in September  it reached No. 1 on the rhythm and blues chart, then called “race records.”

Both the sound of “It’s Too Soon to Know” and the Orioles’ stage presentation  broke from the style of traditional smooth pop harmony vocal groups like the  Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots.

Though the Orioles were fans of and drew heavily from both, they had a more  physical and sensual style that often caused a frenzy among their teenage  audience.

Gordon Anderson, long-time photographer at the Apollo Theater, said, “The  minute they got near the edge of the stage, the young girls would rush forward,  tearing at their clothing. They drove the kids wild.”

This did not go unnoticed by other young vocal groups, and the Orioles are  widely credited with laying the template for the whole vocal group style that  would be a major component of pop music for the next decade.

That vocal group sound, through artists like the Drifters and the Teenagers,  also played a major role in the birth of rock ’n’ roll, which was a hybrid of  pop, country and rhythm and blues.

The Orioles remained popular for years and recorded several other Chessler  songs, including “Tell Me So” and “Forgive and Forget.”

“It’s Too Soon To Know” would emerge as her most enduring song. It was  covered in 1948 by the Ravens, the Orioles’ primary peer group in the early  years of rhythm and blues, and later recorded by, among others, Pat Boone, Etta  James and Linda Ronstadt.

Jerry Leiber of Leiber and Stoller was among Chessler’s many songwriter  fans.

“I was knocked out by ‘It’s Too Soon to Know,’ ” Leiber said years later. “I  mean, a line like ‘Am I the fire / Or just another flame.’ That’s just great  writing.”

Chessler left the music business to return to Baltimore and later retired in  Florida with her husband, Paul.

She spoke fondly of her years with the Orioles, and attended events such as  the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Virtually all that we know in rhythm and blues and soul harmony,” said  Charles Horner, whose site chronicles a history of the  music, “can be ultimately linked to Deborah Chessler and the Orioles.”


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