Colorradio.com - The Crescendos
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In 1958 the sounds of a sweet ballad chanting "Oh Julie" pierced the airwaves of all top 40 radio stations across the country. The second vocal group release for the new Excello subsidiary Nasco, based in Nashville Tennessee, the Crescendos had the biggest Nasco label hit by far, selling about a million copies. It was also a popular song to record. Otis Williams and the Charms sold 300,000 on King, and Sammy Salvo sold 250,000 copies with RCA. The female voice that really added a hook to the record was Janice Green. The group was originally called the Spades, but wisely changed their name. They attended Cumberland High school in Nashville Tennessee, and the group was discovered at a talent show. There were three releases on Nasco, two on Scarlet, an album released after the fact on Guest Star, and a release on the Tap label. The vocal groups on Dootone and Atlantic are different aggregations. Pictured below left, from left to right are George Lanius, Kenneth Brigham, Jim Lanius, Jimmy Hall and Tommy Fortner. DJ Noel Ball is seated. The picture below, right, is from a live performance as the Crescendos. To listen to an interview with Jimmy Hall, click HERE
. Interview was recorded in early 2004.
Although not an original photograph, on the left, it seems to be a publicity shot of the group, and was likely made available at shows and events. These could then be hung on a wall, put in a file folder or secured in a three ring binder and collected with other pictures. Notice that the person collecting autographs was able to locate both Jim and George Lanius and had them sign it. It looks like Jim also signed the word "Crescendos." For additional clarity, Kenneth Brigham is far left, Tommy Fortner is to the right of George, and Jimmy Hall is far right.
The Cumberland Talent Entry picture on the right, above, was from 1957 and is the lineup is as the Spades, before they changed their name and had a hit record. Pictured from left to right are Farell Somerville, Jimmy Hall, George Lanius, seated at the key board is Jo Ann McElhiney, then, Tommy Fortner and Kenneth Brigham.
#5 on the Billboard charts, here is the 78 RPM that was issued of "Oh Julie" by the Crescendos. The Ken Moffitt/Noel Ball penned smash was aided by Janice Green's high flying vocals in the background. The flip side "My Little Girl", is an up tempo rocker that is just OK. Written by lead singer George Lanius,it was a good pairing to focus on the hit side.
This is the white label promo of "Oh Julie." The promos were sent to radio stations to entice airplay, and were often marked similarly to this one with the "x" on the label. This would signal the DJ which side to plug on-air. Both sides have an "X" so it is a bit confusing. They may have started on one side and jumped to the other. Promotional records were limited in release, and pale in quantity comparison to the stock version, on this huge hit.
The original stock issue on 45 RPM. Looks exactly like the 78 issue. According to Ken Moffitt, there was no real "Julie" that they sing about, just a title of a song. The flip side looks the same as the 78. After the Crescendos appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in Philadelphia, the record broke wide open, and eventually sold nearly one million copies, in it's original "run."
A bit different style 45 to be sure, but you can see the larger lettering that is on the song title. This indicates a later pressing of the record. Again, same thing on the flip. The large lettering is very obvious in the title. It's just a subtle difference, only the hard core collector could possibly care about!
Here is a later pressing of Oh Julie. This is the mostly black Nasco issue, and it was used on much later releases including some fine soul records in the mid 60's. Demand for Oh Julie remained many years after it's initial 1957 run to the top of the charts, as these black label releases affirm.
The U.K. usually released most songs that had substantial airplay and sales in the USA, and "Oh Julie" was no exception to the rule. The flip side stayed the same on this 78 RPM issue.
Here is the 45 RPM version. Notice the label credit to Nasco, just like the 78, and the original center piece of the record is in tact. Often, they were removed completely in order to accommodate a 45 spindle.
The official 78 RPM Australian release of "Oh Julie.""London issued different numbers for the various countries releases. The Australia releases normally were black with gold lettering.
Here is an original press from New Zealand. It is on the London label with a different issue number than the UK, and the New Zealand issue 4 tab center intact. Nasco is given label credit. this was supposedly released on 78 as well.
Here is the 78 RPM that was issued of " Oh Julie " by the Crescendos in Canada. Sparton was a shadow label that just issued records, but had no artists of their own. The flip side " My Little Girl ", is an up tempo rocker that is just OK. Written by lead singer George Lanius,it was a good pairing to focus on the hit side.
The Sparton 45 is shown above. Most markings are identical to the 78. Sparton certainly pressed a bunch of these for Canadian music lovers.
Two releases after the Crescendos "Oh Julie" was issued, Nasco waxed Lowell McGuire singing two rockin sides. "Spellbound" backed with "Leave My Girlie Alone" were nice sides, but scored only 69 and 67 respectively when they were reviewed by the trades. The Crescendos did the back-up vocals for Lowell McGuire, thus the inclusion on this page. They were not credited on the label because Ernie Young did not want them to interfere with the monster hit they had in the making with, "Oh Julie."
Just recently discovered, this was not known to be on 78...at least by me. Nasco seemed to have produced a number of 78's for their artists, and I found this in North Carolina. The Crescendos follow-up,"School Girl", took the same ballad approach, the same general type of sound, and the same female background voice that was so popular with their first record.
A 45 RPM promo is shown for School girl. This time the crescendos had a great rock and roll "B" side called "Crazy Hop." The song writing team of Moffitt and Ball put together a very respectable rocker that could have earned some fine airplay in it's own right. Released in 1958. Based on some sales figures, about 87,000 copies were pressed including this promo issue, but it did not chart at a national level.
Same record as a stock copy. Most of the 87,000 copies referred to above were stock issues. Excellorec continues to be the publishing vehicle used for the Crescendos releases. That is partly a reference to Excello Records which was the main label that Nasco was a subsidiary of.
Sparton records in Canada saw enough potential in the Crescendos follow-up, they released it on their shadow label. Nasco records is credited on the label. As you can see, Sparton did press 78's of this record.
Here is the 45 RPM press. All the information is the same as the 78 RPM label.
The final release on the promotional issue of Nasco for the Crescendos, from 1958. Another really good ballad. The female voice is in there on "Young And In Love", but used differently then the previous two recordings. This could have done much better than it did. "Rainy Sunday" broke their mold by using a ballad on the flip side Rainy Sunday was pulled from the shelves when it was likened to the song "Ramona", and royalties were being asked for by the writers and publisher. Again, the female voice is used a bit differently.
Here is the stock copy, on the now familiar pink Nasco label. A great two sider that under different circumstances, might have done well for the Crescendos. Is this available on 78? The Monorays
record "It's Love Baby" on Nasco 6020 was pressed as a 78, so that makes me think this one may also be on 78.
The Canadian release is shown, but this time on Reo. Reo was another shadow label that distributed product in Canada. No reference to the original Nasco label is mentioned. Reo was a division of Quality records.
The next release for the Crescendos was on the Scarlet label in late 1960. This group did not include Jimmy Hall. It was the first of two records the Crescendos recorded for Scarlet, and did receive airplay from stations all over the country. It did not get enough to ever enter the national charts, however. "Let's Take A Walk" showed up on many playlists, though it does not seem to be the "A" side based on the matrix numbers. "Strange Love" is an updated version of the Native Boys classic Los Angeles record. Above is the red and white label, that is machine stamped at Bell Sound and has a a delta date code in the dead wax of 37328. It is likely the first issue.
This is the more common red and black label release. WABC had it as one of "THE SOARIN' SEVEN SINGLES
" for the December 12, 1960 radio station sound survey. The label was distributed by London Records.
This is the last release by the Crescendos for Scarlet and as a group. "Angel Face" is not the same as the Neon's song, and is quite possibly the best recording the group made. The up tempo"I'm So Ashamed" is the flip side, and the disc was issued in 1961. The Scarlet label was distributed by London, as was one of two group records for the label. The other was a group called the escorts.
In 1962, this odd Tap records 45 was issued. It combined the Crescendos biggest hit "Oh Julie", backed with the Crescendos song called "Angel Face." The best thing about this package is that a picture sleeve was included as a selling feature. This particular Tap records label was associated with several reissues. The same picture was used on both sides.
Here is the orange Tap label from Newark, New Jersey. An interesting paring in my opinion. "Oh Julie" was the obvious choice, but instead of a follow-up, they put the second Scarlet label song on the flip.
Here is a promotional picture from a trade magazine that shows a few of the Nasco related artists. Most notably is a picture of Janice Green at the very top. Warren Smith is shown on the upper left, Cliff Butler on the upper right, Label operations manager Ernie Young in the middle, and the vocal group the Tabs on the bottom. This is the only picture I have of Janice Green, and do get asked quite often what became of Janice Green?. Based on information from her oldest son Guy, we have some details on Janice. She was born in Nashville in September 1941, grew up in the Inglewood area of Tennessee, and attended Issac Litton High School. She sang at many local fairs, festivals and carnivals, and was Hillbilly Queen at a festival in Madison Tennessee in either 1956 or 1957. According to Guy, "she was doing a concert at a state fair,possibly in Mississippi, and Elvis Presley and his group were there. After the show, several of the artists started a jam session and were making up words to songs. Elvis got tickled cutting up with Mom during that session and the next day brought her on stage with him and sang a song together." She got married in the late 1950's to Luke Morgan, who was a driver for a country western tour bus, that included stars of the day like Carl Smith, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Goldie Smith. They met at a local Tennessee night club located in printers alley, called the Black Poodle. She made an attempt to sing country, but her voice was deemed not suited for C+W music at that time. After having her first son in 1960, her music career stalled for a while. She then met Bob Crewe in late 1961 or early 1962, and he asked her to travel to New Jersey to be a back up vocalist with his new group called the Four Seasons. She did the show, and came back to New Jersey. She was called to come back to New Jersey again, to be one of the back up singers on the Four Seasons new LP, so her voice is on some of the great early tracks by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Due to some personal issues, that was the last of the professional singing she did. Janice owned and or worked at a few restaurants in the Maury county (Tennessee) area, with the names of The Popular House restaurant, Fran and Jan's, and Jan's cafe. At last report, she was in a care center in Tennessee, after a having massive stroke in 2007, and recuperating.
Janice Green was dubbed "The Oh Julie Girl", because of her distinctive treatment of the soaring female voice in "Oh Julie." Because of her unique sound,Nasco issued this single "Jackie" and "With All My Heart." It was released in-between the 2nd and 3rd Crescendos records. Shown above is a somewhat uncommon 78 RPM version of Janice Green's recording.
This is the promotional copy of Janice Green, and her record from 1958 called "Jackie" backed with "With All My Heart."
Here is the more common 45 RPM version. It did not sell as much as Nasco would have liked and I don't show listings for any other Janice Green records. Jackie was not a part of the Crescendos group, she was just used by Nasco/Nashboro to sing on their records.
The Fleer corporation (Frank Fleer) issued a set of 80 trading cards in 1960. These were under the name "Spins And Needles", referring to records and record players. They all had a color picture of the group or artist on the front, and a brief description of the artist on the back. Interesting to note that the card predicted that the group had a hit record around the corner. The Crescendos were about to record on the Scarlet label, but the two releases did not become huge sellers. The complete set of "Spins And Needles" cards totaled 80. There were many artists that did not appear on other similar card sets.
Released after the fact by Guest Star records in 1962. Included in the track listings are mostly songs by another Crescendos group. In fact, "Oh Julie", Angel Face, and I'm So Ashamed are the only one from the Nasco label Crescendos! The Stereo copy is shown above.
Here are the record labels for the Guest Star Stereo LP.
The Mono version of the Guest Star LP. This was a budget label that issued many LP's of various artists. Apparently not only was it budget priced, but produced on a rather small budget also.
These are both the mono labels for the Guest Star LP.
Two different sleeves from the fine folks at Nasco records. On the right, is a stock company sleeve. On the left is a picture sleeve that was issued with some of the Crescendos 45's. Click on the Picture Sleeve for an enlarged photo.
This is a tour program that was called "The Biggest Show Of Stars For 58" and included the Crescendos. They were part of a packaged tour that included the biggest recording stars of the day. The Crescendos had their own page which included a great black and white picture and brief group information.
The Crescendos recorded 3 records for Nasco under their name. They also backed Janice Green(The Oh Julie Girl)on her Nasco record "Jackie." The two Scarlet releases were the same Crescendos, minus Jimmy Hall. Groups on the Dootone and Atlantic label , are not these "Crescendos." Their recording output was small, but the quality was high. A one hit wonder for sure, but forever in time "Oh Julie" will be considered a classic!
Where are they now? The short answer is mostly Tennessee. George Lanius as passed on; Ken Brigham is a physician, Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. He has been out of the music business since the Crescendos broke up. The other members still live in the state of Tennessee. I had the privilege of interviewing Jimmy Hall; and you can listen to the 22 minute clip right HERE Jimmy is a real nice; relaxed; and humble person that is very grateful for the success he and the group had.
: Is there a 78 of the Crescendos last recording for Nasco, "Young And In Love"?
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