THE COASTERS - LINE-UPS
- compiled by Claus Röhnisch
original line-up (October 1955 - 1957):
| The Coasters´ singles with leads |
THE COASTERS - ALL
- presentations by Claus Röhnisch
Note: Most birth dates and birth names ctsy (and confirmed by) Eric LeBlanc - thanks, Eric!
Thanks also to Todd Baptista and Matthew Broyles
.. and to Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth for the info on Gunter's birth place.
- the true Coaster
April 29, 1928 - June 12, 2011
lead tenor vocal (Original lead singer since October 1955, coach from November 2005)
Carl Gardner is the undisputed leader of the Coasters - by now for more than 50 years. Born Carl Edward Gardner April 29, 1928 in Tyler, Texas (not 1927 as stated in some biographical notes). His father was black, his mother a Comanche Indian. Carl trained singing from his early teacher (a German classical pianist, who also trained his sister Carol) and later studied at Emmett Scott High School, where he linked up with Lasalle Gunter´s "territorial" band, singing and playing drums. Carl signed to the Army at 16, but moved to Los Angeles (Watts), California in late 1952 or early 1953, and was influenced by Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Nat "King" Cole and especially T-Bone Walker. Sister Carol became an opera singer (and his elder brother Richard a chicken farmer - Carl also had a younger brother, Howard, and yet another sister, Iris). Carl hung around the 5-4 Ballroom and at other small clubs on Western Avenue, and soon joined up with jazz pianist Carl Perkins (who later recorded for a.o. Dootone). His career changed direction from his love for jazz and soft standards when he was introduced to R&B by Johnny Otis at Johnny´s new club, "the Oasis". Around late 1953 Carl met the legendary Lester Sill, who introduced him to the R&B pioneer vocal group The Robins. At first he substituted for their lead singer Grady Chapman, who always did seem to get into trouble, and later the quintet became a sextet. Carl recorded with The Robins during 1954-1955 for Spark Records. Spark was owned by Alvin Stoller (father of Mike), Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Lester Sill, and Carl sang lead on among others "If Teardrops Were Kisses" (his very first recording), "I Must Be Dreamin´", "Loop De Loop Mambo" and the R&B charting "Smokey Joe´s Cafe" (of which he did a funky great swinger in later years).
Gardner became the
first original Coaster in late September or early October 1955 and has stayed with the
group and been the Coasters´ spokesman ever since. He was a favorite of Leiber-Stoller´s
and has led such Coasters classics as "Down In Mexico", "One Kiss Led To
Another", "Young Blood", "Idol With The Golden Head",
"Dance!", "Three Cool Cats", "Sexy", "That Is Rock & Roll",
"Bad Blood", "Love Potion Number Nine" and "Cool Jerk" among
Carl´s happy clear tenor also played the most important role in the Coasters´ famous unison sung hits "Yakety Yak", "Charlie Brown", "Along Came Jones", "Poison Ivy", "I´m A Hog For You", and "What About Us". Carl moved with the Coasters to New York in 1958. Finally settled in Port St. Lucie, Florida in 1990. His wife, Veta Gardner, now his manager.
The Coasters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987 as the first vocal group receiving that honor (Gardner, Guy, Jones, and Gunter received individual awards and reunited for some special performances). Carl Gardner's Coasters (as Carl´s group of today often bill themselves) are still highly active, with around a hundred shows per year in New York, Florida and Texas a.o., and performing in Canada in August of 1993 (that same autumn Carl was treated for cancer, but returned to business in 1994). The group today consists of Gardner (coach), two veteran Coasters - bass Ronnie Bright and guitarist Thomas Palmer (who both are residents in New York and have acted with Gardner for more than the last 40 odd years) - plus newcomers Alvin Morse, baritone; J.W. Lance, tenor; and Carl´s son Carl Gardner, Jr. In April, 1996 Gardner full-filled a life-long dream, recording new interpretations of material originally done by his old idols (a.o. Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Roy Brown and the Ink Spots). A CD was issued later that same year titled "One Cool Cat".
Carl participates with three numbers, "Young Blood", "Stormy Monday" and "Merry Christmas Baby", on the 5-set video "Rock & Roll Graffiti" distributed by Prairie Dog Productions, Texas.
Carl has six Golden Records
(for million sellers) on the wall in his home (for "Searchin´", "Yakety
Yak", "Charlie Brown", "Poison Ivy", "Along Came
Jones", and "Young Blood"). Despite competition from several fake, false
and phony bogus Coasters (some comprising singers from remnants of former members of original
Coasters, a.o. the late Bobby Nunn´s Coasters Mark II, and the late Cornell Gunter´s Las
Vegas Coasters) - at times even his old friends Jones, Guy, and Hughes have acted with
their own groups - Carl Gardner's Coasters are the only ones who truly and legally
can call themselves THE COASTERS, and they are also the best - Better Than Ever!
Vocal groups often emerge when youngsters meet in school or at street corners. As amateurs they are trying to copy one or several of their fore-runners, and sometimes they manage to find their own new sound, adding new gimmicks to the rich tradition of harmonizing. In the case of the Coasters a complete different background is on hand. Each of the members were hand-picked professionals when the group originated and that formula has stuck throughout the whole of their career.
During more than 50 years of existence, ten other singers and three guitarists have made records with Carl Gardner as The Coasters. Throughout the career of the group each member has been carefully hand-chosen, and for rather long periods the line-ups were more or less unaltered.
Born August 26, 1932
tenor vocal (member October 1955 - c:a November 1957)
Born Thomas Leon Hughes, August 26, 1932 (not a day later) in Los Angeles County, CA. Started acting with his parents as a child and toured with early lineups of the Hollywood Flames (with which he also recently acted in a 1998 revival show). He was an original member of the Lamplighters during 1952-53 (together with Mathew Nelson and Willie Ray Rockwell). Hughes left the Lamplighters before they recorded with new lead Al Frazier. Leon was recommended by Bobby Nunn (who knew him from Watts, L.A.) for the Coasters´ original line-up. Around this time (or possibly in early 1957) Leon recorded with The Celibritys (which included his brother Elder O’Neal) on Caroline and also recorded on his own label Leoneal Records with The Signeals (a group inlcuding both his brother and his sister Shirley Hughes). Leon stayed in California when the Coasters moved to New York (recorded the two Flip singles as The Dukes with Bobby Nunn in 1959) and later launched a non-original, occasionally acting, Coasters group, originally featuring Young Jessie (one record on Chelan was issued as The Coasters Two Plus Two featuring him and Nunn in 1975 – and two other singles were issued as The World Famous Coasters). Hughes’ group didn´t reach the same status as Nunn´s and other Coasters´ off-shoot groups and was later called "Leon Hughes Sr and the Fabulous Coasters" (often also named "Leon Hughes and his Original Coasters" or "Leon Hughes - the Original & His Coasters" and nowadays "Leon Hughes - one of the first original Coasters"). Hughes´ Coasters also recorded a video.
Lester Sill tried to persuade Young Jessie to replace Hughes in 1957 and give up his solo career. Jessie did not make anya stage appearances with the Coasters though, but did record with the group in 1957.
Young Jessie was never a member of The Coasters - but here is his story
Born December 28, 1936 in Lincoln Manor, Texas as Obediah (Obie) Donmell Jessie, later nicknamed "Young" Jessie. Teamed up with Jefferson Hig School friends Young "Guitar" Watson, Richard Berry and Cornell Gunter in Los Angeles. In 1953 that group, the Debonaires, signed to the Flair label and changed their name to the Flairs. Jessie started his solo career in 1954-55 on Modern Records, hitting with "Mary Lou" and later made his classic "Hit, Git & Split". After his records with the Coasters he signed with Atco and Atlantic (1957), Capitol (1959), Mercury (1961), Vanessa (1962), and Bit (1964). Sang with the Seeds of Freedom in the ´70s and toured Europe in the ´80s singing both blues and jazz. Lives with his wife, singer Barbara Prince, near Venice Beach, California and has acted with a fake Coasters group lately.
June 20, 1936 - November 5, 2002
baritone vocal (member October 1955 - 1972, occ. absent from 1963)
Born Delmar Phillips on June 20, 1936 in Itasca, (Hill County), Texas. Mother: Sewillie Thompson, father: Frank Phillips. Moved to Hollywood at ten years of age; started acting as a child and worked in Johnny Otis´ new club "The Oasis" in the mid ´50s. Became very popular in the south of California, probable member of the Emerlads, and also recorded with Mexican Emmanuel Perez as Bip & Bop (Guy was Bip) on Aladdin single 3287 in 1955 ("Ding Ding Dong" b/w "Du-Wada-Du"). Became an original Coaster by suggestion from Carl Gardner, who lived across the street in Watts. Guy became the great comedian of the Coasters (and posed with a guitar on an early Coasters publicity shot). He was a genius of musical adventures and of exploring new vocal hights (as Leiber & Stoller put it: "He could do anything we wanted him to do").
Guy stayed with the Coasters up to 1973 on recordings and acted lead on most of the Coasters´ later recordings - starting with "Searchin´" and later a.o "The Shadow Knows", "Wake Me, Shake Me", "Wild One" (the last two he also wrote), "Wait A Minute", "Little Egypt", and the notorious "Let´s Go Get Stoned" - although he started his first attempt as a solo artist back in 1962 - recording singles for Lloyd Price on ABC-Paramount and on Price's Double-L Records, a.o. "Women" (later issued as "The Prophet" on several fake Coasters albums); also a.o. "Whip It On Me, Baby" and "The Big Break". He was often substituted from the mid ´60s on stage, first by soul singer Vernon Harrell, and later by Jimmy Norman (Lou Rawls, by the way, once substituted for Carl Gardner on a tour). Guy continued his solo career for Chalco, Sew City, Verve ("Shake A Leg" in 1967) and other companies and did single as "Billy Guy & The Coasters" in 1975 (with H.B Barnum co-producer). Billy is listed with 41 songs in the BMI songwriters´ database. Guy acted as vocal coach during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and worked as producer for J.R. Bailey (the former Cadillac, who was a writing partner to Vernon Harrell). Guy and J.R. had a record company, GuyJim. Billy also worked as a night-club story teller and producer for All Platinum – one single was “The Ugly” b/w “Hug One Another” in 1971. His most notorious album (of several) was "The Tramp Is Funky" on All Platinum / Snake Eyes in 1972. In 1977 he recorded with Will "Dub" Jones in Nashville and soon moved back to Los Angeles, where he worked as back-up studio singer with Grady Chapman and Jerome Evans (for Michelle Phillips in 1977) and with Billy Richards during the ´80s. He teamed up again with Will Jones in the West-Coast stationed group of "World Famous Coasters" - on and off - from the late ´70s up into the early ´90s. Billy, who lived near Las Vegas during his later years, turned bald. His wife June had died several years earlier and Billy lived with girlfriend Vanessa Van Klyde for 30 years until his death. He became victim of bad business advises during later years - mostly semi-retired - although he during the late ´90s acted as coach and cameo act with a young fake Coasters´ Las Vegas group - often billed as "The Billy Guy Coasters" (this was a Larry Marshak-promoted group, nowadays touring as “The Cornell Gunter Coasters”). During mid 1999 Guy sued Carl for a million dollar trying to get Carl to give up the "trade-mark" of THE COASTERS (without success).
Billy Guy died in his home at sleep (probable heart attack) in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 5, 2002 (not November 12, as one could assume by reading The New York Times obituary). Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were among those who payed for Billy’s funural.
Born April 27, 1931
guitarist (member c:a January 1956 - c:a December 1958)
Born Adolf Jacobs, April 15, 1939 in Pineland, Sabine County, East Texas (data confirmed). Moved to Oakland, California and played with the Medallions on Essex and wrote "I Know" for them in 1955. Was spotted by Gardner in late 1955 and regarded a regular Coasters member until his departure. Recorded his own "Walkin´ & Whistlin´" for Class Records in L.A. in 1959. Jacobs never settled in New York, but worked with Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Larry Williams, and Little Richard in Hollywood during the ´60s and made jazz records for Kent Harris in the ´70s (Harris was the originator of "Clothes Line", the song that stood model for the Coasters´ "Shoppin´ For Clothes"). Led his own band in California in later years (and is the only original Coaster who hasn´t tried his luck with new Coasters - although his orchestra backed the Jones-Guy Coasters a couple of times during the late '80s-early '90s and recently has joined the Leon Hughes group).
WILL "DUB" JONES
May 14, 1928 - January 16, 2000
bass vocal (member c:a December 1957 - c:a January 1968)
Born Will J. Jones in Shreveport, Louisiana May 14, 1928 (not 1930 or 1936). Received his military discharge in Los Angeles, California. Was one of the early "pupils" of the West Coast "doo-wop father" Jesse Belvin and became a spiritual singer in partner-ship with the young Ted Taylor and Lloyd McCraw in 1954 (in the Santa Monica Soul Seekers), the precursors of the Cadets/Jacks. This group (a quintet with Aaron Collins and Willie Davies - Taylor left a bit later) recorded several famous cover hits for Modern Records during 1955-1957 as the Cadets (they also recorded as the Jacks for the Bihari brothers). Notable titles: "Heartbreak Hotel", the hit version of "Stranded In The Jungle", and as Will Jones & The Cadets the ballad "Hands Across The Table". Will also worked behind Jesse Belvin, Young Jessie and Richard Berry's girl group the Dreamers in studios and sang lead on the the Crescendos' "Sweet Dreams" (featuring Bobby Relf and Bobby Day) for Atlantic in L.A. 1956. Became the obvious replacement for Bobby Nunn, when Leiber-Stoller decided to bring the Coasters to New York. Jones was a member of the Coasters during the classic years. He recorded with Cora Washington as "Cora & Dub" during the 1960s (for MJC) abd after his leave (for Cotillion) and is rumored to have guested the Trammps (on a revival of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart"). He also did some recordings aropund 1976, issued on a "The World Famous Coasters" LP (including a.o. "If I A Hammer" for AIA) and teamed up with Billy Guy in Nashville in 1977 for some "Coasters" King/Starday recordings, but soon moved back to Los Angeles, where he teamed up with his old mentor, the creator of the Cadets, Lloyd McCraw, recording spirituals/gospels (a.o. "Joshua Fit The Battle" as the Melodians). He again launched "The World Famous Coasters" in Los Angeles around 1979, often featuring Billy Guy. This group (which acted sporadically and later mostly as just "The Coasters") also featured Jessie Floyd, Kendal Floyd and guitarist Lawrence McCue during the 1980s and was scheduled for England in 1992, but didn´t materialize. Jones sang on The Charades' "We Got It All" in 1987 - and with the legendary Amazing Zion Travelers during the early and mid 1990s (by then also featuring guitarist McCue and Willie Chambers Jr.). Will "Dub" Jones died in Long Beach, California on January 16, 2000 at the age of 71 after some years of semi-retirement and diabetes.
November 14, 1936 - February 26, 1990
tenor vocal (member c:a December 1957 - May 1961)
Born Cornelius E. Gunter November 14, 1936 (his tombstone says 1936, some files say 1938) in Coffeyville, Kansas. Later nicknamed Cornel and Cornell. Came to Los Angeles around 1942 and studied at Jefferson High. Formed the original Platters (as the Flamingoes, not to be confused with the Chicago group the Flamingos) in 1952 with Alex and Gaynel Hodge and Joe "Jody" Jefferson. He probably sang with this group as back-up on Big Jay McNeely’s “Nervous Man Nervous” for King in 1953. Other teenage friends from those early years were Curtis Williams (of the early Penguins) and Jesse Belvin. Cornell was an original member of the Platters when Herb Reed joined that group and shared leads with him up into mid/late 1953. When Tony Williams entered the Platters Cornell and his new friend Richard Berry joined a group led by Young Jessie called the Debonaires (no records). This new line-up made its recording debut for John Dolphin with a Gunter-led song, titled "I Had A Love" as the Hollywood Bluejays. This song was soon re-recorded for Flair Records (one of the Bihari brothers´ many labels) as by the Flairs, where the group stayed up into 1955. Later Cornell formed the Ermines and a new line-up of Flairs for ABC-Paramount ("Aladdin´s Lamp" a.o.). Around 1956 the Flairs consisted of Cornell, Young Jessie, Randy Jones, and Pete Fox with Cornell’s sister Shirley Gunter as guest. Cornell also toured with Charlie Fuqua´s new Ink Spots; with Tony Williams´ Platters in 1956, and recorded as a solo act during 1957 for Dot, Eagle and Liberty (a.o. a cover of Sam Cooke´s "You Send Me" - Jesse Belvin also covered that song). He sang the title song on the 1957 Susan Oliver movie “The Green Eyed Blonde”. Before his engagement with the Coasters, Gunter also launched a group called the Cornells (which never did record at the time, but included Jesse Belvin and Joe Jefferson) and claimed he was the piano player on "Earth Angel". Gloria Gunter (another sister) recorded an “answer” single of “Yakety Yak” for Arch, titled “Move On Out” (which included back-up singing from Cornell).
After leaving the Coasters, Cornell embarked "D´s Gents" (with Chuck Barksdale and Johnny Carter from Chicago´s the Dells plus the nucleus from Pittsburg´s the Altairs), touring as back-up group to Dinah Washington. In 1962 he recorded for Warner Bros. In late 1963 he formed his own Coasters group in L.A., comprising singers of the declining Penguins, including Randy Jones, Teddy Harper and Dexter Tisby - for a short period around 1971 managed by H.B. Barnum. Cornell´s Coasters even recorded (but under the name of "Cornell Gunter & The Cornells" with sister Shirley as guest, a.o. "Wishful Thinking" on Challenge in 1964/65). They were heavily engaged in Las Vegas (with a fresh line-up comprising Nat Wilson, Bobby Stregar and McKinley Travis) and even toured Britain in the mid ´60s as "The Fabulous Coasters". Cornell´s group became stage favorites and performed with various line-ups into the ´80s. Cornell´s bass singer Nat "Buster" Wilson was killed in 1980 (by their at that time manager, Patrick Cavanaugh - parts of Wilson's body were found near Hoover Dam shortly after the murder - then two years later, other parts of the body were found in a canyon near Modesto, CA). During the 1980s and 1990s Cornell's group was a trio with Charlie Duncan and Edwin Cook (who replaced Harper in 1983).
Gunter died on February 26, 1990 (some files say February 27). Cornell (who was gay and often saw his name spelt Gunther) was in the process of making a new comeback at the Lady Luck Hotel, when an unknown shot him in his car in Las Vegas. He was shot twice in his head, sitting behind the wheel of his car. Trying to escape he attempted to speed away, but due to his severe injuries he drove into a brick wall - the murderer ran away (a 19-year-old man was later acquitted for the slaying). Sammy Davis Jr and Bill Cosby paid for his funeral expenses (Cornell is buried in Inglewood, Calif.). Several survivors of his group continued to tour - Randy Jones had a group and soon also a "Cornell Gunter´s Coasters Inc." was formed - members were the trio Charlie Duncan (who played drums for Cornell already in the ´60s.), Edwin Cook (who came from the Buck Ram Platters) and Lionel "Z" Pope. That trio has split up into two further bogus "Coasters" groups, but that is not enough: when Billy Guy surrendered to Carl in early 2000, Cornell´s sister Shirley handed over the right to use the name "Cornel Gunter´s Coasters" (later mostly "The Cornell Gunter Coasters") to Larry Marshak, who promotes several bogus Coasters, Platters and Drifters groups (sometimes three different Marshak Coasters groups can appear in America). So now Carl had to start all over again trying to maintain his group as the real Coasters, having his disputes with the Larry Marshak groups and with the Dick Clark-promoted fake Gunter Coasters.
May 21, 1934 - January 10, 1999
guitarist (hired early 1959 - c:a late 1961)
Born Elbert McKinley Forriest May 21, 1934 in Pendleton, North Carolina, also known as Albert Forrest and as Sonny Clarke (not to be confused with the pianist). A much talented artist, who worked with Sil Austin, Dee Clark and Big Jay McNeely, and Jackie Wilson before his studio and stage work with the Coasters. Later made own recordings for Atco, Verve and other labels and became touring stage guitarist with Ray Charles & his Orchestra from 1962. Forriest recorded with Hank Crawford for Atlantic and played vibes on a 1966 album. Turned to jazz and cut an album, "Tuff Pickin´", for Decca. Forriest - unlike Jacobs and Palmer, was never a member of the Coasters (worked as a contracted guitarist). Sonny died on January 10, 1999 in Capital Heights, Maryland.
EARL "SPEEDO" CARROLL
November 2, 1937 - November 26, 2012
tenor vocal (member June 1961 - late 1979)
Born November 2, 1937 in New York City (his first name is Earl - not Gregory, as mentioned in several files - although thre is one Gregory Carroll, who sang in several groups and became producer). Earl was well established in the Harlem "street corner" inner circuit and created the Carnations in Sugar Hill. This group became famous as the Cadillacs (on Josie), for which Earl sang lead on a.o. their debut "Gloria" in 1954. He also led the hit "Speedoo" (1955-56). Earl continued to lead the Cadillacs, who became very popular in teenage America, on and off through 1958, with come-backs in 1959 and 1960 (when he did some Drifters-inspired string-arranged titles with his group, still on Josie). Earl gladly took the offer from Lester Sill´s successor Pat "Lover" Patterson, who was closely associated with several early New York groups, to replace Gunter (since the Cadillacs had declined), but came too late to enjoy any real huge success, although he was a true and very useful Coaster for many years. He left the Coasters in late 1979 and joined Earl Wade (of the early Cadillacs) and later teamed up with half-brother Bobby Phillips (who had been original bass singer with the Cadillacs). Earl was also the model for the ´80s TV-character "Speedo". In 1982 he and his brother started a revival Cadillacs group, which received new popularity in New York and toured Britain and Europe. In 1997 the Cadillacs recorded a new CD titled "Have You Heard The News!", featuring Carroll, Phillips, John Brown, and Gary Lewis. Today they are a trio with Carroll, Phillips and Lewis.
Born August 15, 1929
guitarist (member from c:a February 1962 to AUgust 2011) He joined Carl Jrs new group after Sr's death in June 2011.
Born Thomas J. Palmer in El Paso, Texas on August 15, 1929. "Curley" (or "Curly" as Thomas himself prefers it) has been a New Yorker for most of his life - although he has worked in Detroit and Chicago too. Veteran guitarist and music stage arranger. Worked with jazz- and R&B-composer/pianist Sonny Thompson and with Lloyd Price during the ´50s and has been the Coasters´ regular guitarist ever since he joined them (the second only to Gardner, in being a consistent Coaster for more than 45 years). Responsible for the Coasters´ stage orchestral back-up as musical director and arranger.
Below edited from from Carl Junior's web site: Curly yook up trumpet in the El Paso, Texas high school. Realizing that there was more work for a guitarist than a trumpet player Curly switched instruments. He caught his lucky break as he stood by the side of the stage watching well-known Jazz/R&B pianist Sonny Thompson and his band perform in Texas. Thompson's band was missing their guitarist that fateful night and Curly just happened to have his guitar in his car…volunteering to play, Curly got on stage, and his career was on its way. He joined the band and moved to Chicago where Sonny Thompson was based, continued performing in the late '50s and early '60s with Thompson's band, and with Sonny's guidance also learned how to write and arrange music. Curly reminisces, "Sonny Thompson was my mentor, he got me on the road and helped set me on my musical path." Thompson had several R&B hits at the time and shared a booking agency with another hit-making group, The Coasters; the two groups toured on the same bill, with Sonny's band playing back-up for The Coasters. With a few years experience under his belt, Curly moved on and went to New York where had the opportunity to freelance and perform with many musical greats. He became a prominent member of the Apollo Stage Band, and when the Band took their summer breaks, he performed with the extremely popular Paul Williams' Cavalcade of Stars Orchestra. In the early '60s, Curly's good friend Billy Guy invited him to play with the group; it wasn't long before Curly Palmer was an integral part of The Coasters and became their Music Director, a position he held until his departure. Prior to Curly joining The Coasters, there was no music written down to give to the bands they worked with on the road. Curly Palmer wrote all the music charts for the group's live performances, television appearances and movies. Although talented, he felt he needed to know more about writing music and wanted the formal training he lacked. In the '80s, Curly took a special test for musicians that allowed him to enter City University of New York (CUNY) as a Music Major – he achieved his B.S. and M.A.T from this prestigious institution. Curly Palmer and the founder of The Coasters, Carl Gardner, Sr. were close friends for almost 50 years.
Born October 18, 1938
bass vocal (member April 1968 - November, 2009)
Born Ronald David Bright October 18, 1938 in New York and like Earl, an early member of the "street corner" circuit in Sugar Hill. He became the Valentines´ first bass singer as a youngster in 1954 (on Old Town) and sang and recorded with that group for Rama through 1957. Was a member of Earl Carroll´s new Cadillacs´ group in 1960. During the early ´60s Ronnie was heavily engaged as a studio bass vocalist, a.o. on Jackie Wilson´s "Baby Workout" and Barry Mann´s "Who Put The Bomp", and was "Mr. Bassman" on Johnny Cymbal´s pop hit. Ronald also recorded as "Ronnie & The Schoolmates" and toured the world with the Deep River Boys in the late ´60s, before replacing "Dub" Jones in the Coasters. Bright has been a true Coaster ever since. Ronnie was featured on Peter Gabriel´s "Sledgehammer" album "So" in 1986. Still a New Yorker, and leading the live-versions of "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" (in later years with Carl Gardner, Sr. or J. W. Lance doing the former Gunter/Carroll second lead). In November, 2009 Ronnie was replaced by "Fast" Eddie Whitfield.
August 12, 1937 - November 8, 2011
baritone vocal (hired occ. from 1969; member 1973 - c:a February 1998; absent 1979-ca 1980)
Born James Scott Norman on August 12, 1937 in Nashville, Tennessee. As a young teenager, he moved to Detroit and later to St. Louis. In 1957 he ended up in Los Angeles. Los Angeles in the '50s was a true vocal harmony home. Bobby Day's house was a meeting place, as was Cornell Gunter's. But most well-known was Jesse Belvin's, where a couple of friends got together to harmonize in early 1958. Belvin persuaded some guys to form a group, which was named the Chargers, where Jimmy sang tenor. Jimmy, who soon dropped his second surename (Scott), later probably recorded as Jimmy Norman & The Hollywood Teenagers and another early life experience was that he sang with the Dyna-Sores (who with H.B. Barnum and Ty Leonard of the Robins made a cover of "Alley Oop" for Leon René in 1960). Jimmy then turned solo and had a regional success with "Here Comes The Night" in 1961; and a hit, "I Don´t Love You No More", on H.B. "PeeWee" Barnum´s Little Star label in 1962 and he also wrote several songs for other R&B artists - one even with Young Jessie (for the Chargers). Jimmy later moved to New York and recorded "Love Is Wonderful" in 1963 and "Can You Blame Me" for Samar in 1966. Cut around 20 singles for different labels during the ´60s and early ´70s. Jimmy is listed with 149 songs in the BMI songwriters´ database. Worked for Lloyd Price in Norman´s own "reggae" studio in New York during the ´60s, met Bob Marley in 1968, and replaced Vernon Harrell, who worked on stage with the Coasters, substituting for Billy Guy during the ´60s. Harrell, by the way, made many solo recordings for a.o. Lescay, Decca, and Score in the ´60s, and United Artists and Brunswick during the ´70s. He also was lead singer in Eddie Palmier´s group The Harlem River Drive He was never a member of Gunter´s Coasters but from 1973 Norman became a true touring and recording Coaster. He left to work as a producer for Columbia in 1979, but returned to the group around 1980 and toured with Carl Gardner, Bright and Norman in the longest lasting lineup. Norman recorded an album of his own in 1987 titled "Home" on Badcat. In early 1998 (after a disagreement with Coasters’ then road manager John Valano, he left the Coasters (who had recruited Alvin Morse as fourth singer in late 1997) to start as a solo act and producer again, recording a new album in 1998 - "Tobacco Road". He was replaced by Carl´s son Carl Gardner, Jr in time for Gardner´s 70th birthday. In 2004 Norman released his first national distributed CD, "Little Pieces" on WildFlower. He died in New York City November 8 2011.
ALVIN "AL" MORSE
Born February, 1951
baritone vocal (member November, 1997 - September, 2008)
Alvin Morse is born in February, 1951. Al (as he prefers to call himself) was recruited as fourth singer to the group in November, 1997 and turned from tenor to baritone when Norman left in February, 1998. He has a wonderful and talented voice, adding an extra "dimension" to the group. He often sings the former Billy Guy-led songs on stage and has a great baritone (and also tenor) voice when he leads "Searchin´" and "Poison Ivy". Morse is a Florida resident. in October 2008 Alvin was replaced by Primotivo Candelara.
CARL "MICKEY" GARDNER, JR.
Born April 29, 1955
tenor vocal & new lead from November 5, 2005 (member early 1998 - July 2001; returning in November 2004) Started his own Coasters after his father's death in June 2011.
Carl Gardner´s and Ladessa Richards´ (Gardner´s first wife) son - Carl Junior - (nicknamed "Mickey") was born in Bullard, Texas on April 26, 1956. He entered the Coasters replacing Jimmy Norman just in time for Gardner Sr´s 70th birthday, approximately half a year after the Coasters again had become four singing members in late 1997, when Alvin Morse had joined the group as second tenor. "Mickey" toured with the group until July, 2001, when J.W. Lance replaced him. In 2002 Carl Jr formed a Coasters´ Review in Daly City, California (with Greg Griffin, Anthony Lee, and Michael Vincent). In late 2004 the Review members were Carl Gardner Jr., Donald Seastrunk, Kearney Seastrunk, Orlando Seastrunk, and Michael Vincent. In November 2004 Jr. returned to his father's group - sharing leads with his father and doing a great version of "Young Blood". On November 5, 2005 he officially took over from his father, who semi-retired (and acts special coach). Carl Jr. sometimes still did shows with a Coasters Review in California (featuring Artrix Thomas, Dartagnan Baxter, and John "Poncho" Jones) during 2006 and 2007, but nowadays he is a True Coaster!
Born June 16, 1949
tenor vocal (member since July, 2001)
Born Joe Lance Williams in New Orleans on June 16, 1949 - nowadays living in Bronx, N.Y. Talented, versatile vocalist, musician and songwriter. A new face to both country and contemporary music. Lance has performed with such names as Ben E. King, Fantastic Violnaires of Detroit Michigan, the Original Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio. He has toured throughout the United States, Australia and Virgin Islands. J.W. Lances album entitled Sounds of J.W. Lance, has something for everyone. J.W. quit the Larry Marshak Drifters and Coasters to join the true Coasters, where he nowadays leads "Love Potion Number Nine" and also sometimes "Smokey Joe's Cafe".
Compiled by Claus Röhnisch, June 22, 2012
The Coasters´ singles with leads
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