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The Clio Express: Talking Music - Th Clovers

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The Clovers were one of the most successful music groups of the 1950's, with a chart career that spanned the decade. Between 1951 and 1959 they had three #1 hits on the R'n'B charts, four #2 hits and 11 other top ten hits. Their influential combination of vocal group stylings with jump blues, gospel and swing made them one of the earliest and most important R'n'B bands, and gives them a claim to be one of the earliest rock 'n' roll bands.

They began in the halls of Washington D.C.'s Armstrong High School, a long-gone institution in the Shaw neighborhood where Duke Ellington once studied design and art. The group was formed in 1946, with Harold "Hal" Lucas recruiting high school classmates, all from the neighborhood around 7th and T streets NW. The original members were tenor Thomas Woods, bass Billy Shelton, and Lucas. When John "Buddy" Bailey came on board as lead, Lucas moved to baritone. Lucas, hoping for good luck, called his group the Four Clovers and they began playing the local club scene, singing songs by the Ink Spots, the Ravens, the Charioteers and local heroes the Orioles.

 

One of their regular gigs was at the Old Rose Social Club, an old bootlegging joint from the '20s, where they sang for free just for the experience. They even became janitors of the place so as to have a place to rehearse. It was at one of the Old Rose performances that Max "Waxie Maxie" Silverman saw them. A record store owner and a silent partner in the newly formed Atlantic Records company, Silverman liked what he saw. A friend of his, Baltimore record distributor Lou Krefetz, became their manager. 

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