The Coasters Web
Story and Discography compiled by Claus Röhnisch
(with thanks to Michel Ruppli, Fernando L. Gonzales, Kurt Mohr, Galen Gart, Robert Ferlingere, Jim Pewter,
Bob Porter, Ray Topping, Anthony Rotante, Jim Dawson, Leslie Fancourt, Per Anderö, Bill Millar,
Eric LeBlanc, Steve Propes, Charles Sheen, Marv Goldberg, Todd Baptista,
Tony Rounce of Ace Records, Billy Vera, Dave Penny, and "Blues Records").
The Robins: Story & Discography
first "bird" group was formed when Ty Terrell Leonard and the
Billy and Roy met at Alameda High School
in San Francisco in 1945, and formed the "A-Sharp Trio" (no recordings). The
trio came to Hollywood a year later, and in 1949 they were joined by Bobby Nunn, who
worked at Johnny Otis´ and Alu Bardi´s club "The Barrelhouse" in Watts. The
group became the third of the trend setting bird groups after the Ravens and the Orioles.
Grady Chapman joined the group as lead singer and fifth member in 1953. From March, 1954
Carl Gardner substituted for Grady (who was sent to jail for a while) and Carl was later
featured as sixth singer in the group (and foremost lead on Spark Records). Chapman made
some solo records in 1954 or 1955, and in 1957 and 1958 and also for Imperial after 1960
and was used as a studio back-up. He often joined Nunn´s Coasters Mark II during several
years from the mid ´60s, and worked with Billy Richards Jr´s Nunn-offspring
"Coasters" group and also toured with his own line-up of "Coasters".
Grady also substituted for Carl Gardner in the true Coasters a couple of times in the late
´90s after Richards and Gardner had settled their differences. Ty Terrell, as he prefers
to call himself, did some solo recordings after 1960. Several of the Robins´ members also
recorded with Marvin Phillips in different versions of "Marvin & Johnny".
Grady Chapman, whose
expressive high tenor lead graced a host of rhythm and blues vocal group
harmony records by the Robins during the mid-1950s died January 4, 2011 at a
Los Angeles, California hospital, according to the singer's daughter,
Tania. The 81-year old's death was attributed to congestive heart failure.
Born in Greenville, South Carolina on October 1, 1929, Chapman came to the
West Coast as a youngster and joined the already established Robins in
1952. Discovered by Johnny Otis, the Robins had begun recording in 1949 and
appeared on a handful of labels including Excelsior, Aladdin, Score, Savoy,
Regent, Modern, RPM, and Recorded in Hollywood, under their own name,
pseudonyms including the Four Bluebirds and the Nic-Nacs, and backing other
artists including Little Esther and Mickey Champion.
Chapman first recorded with the Robins- Ulysses "Bobby" Nunn, Terrell "Ty"
Leonard, and Billy and Roy Richard- in Hollywood for RCA-Victor on January
21, 1953. Over the course of three sessions held between January and
September, Chapman fronted the Robins on the haunting ("My Heart's The
Biggest Fool" and "How Would You Know"), the humorous, ("Ten Days in Jail"),
and the soulful ("Oh Why"). The group even masqueraded under the Drifters
name, waxing an obscure single for Crown entitled "The World Is Changing".
Chapman also shined on "Double Crossin' Baby", issued on Crown in 1954 as by
the Robbins (sic).
Grady was in and out of the Robins for much of 1954, going afoul of the law- by his own admission- and also recording with another group, Grady Chapman and the Suedes ("Don't Blooper") for Money Records. Consequently, the Robins added Texas-born tenor Carl Gardner who initially shared lead vocal chores with Chapman when the act signed with Leiber and Stoller's Spark enterprise early that year. In what was likely their only session together, Gardner led "If Teardrops Were Kisses" and Chapman fronted “I Love Paris” and "Whadaya Want?" In Chapman's absence, the Robins recorded "Riot In Cell Block #9", "Framed", and "Smokey Joe's Café", and by the end of 1955, Leiber and Stoller had sold Spark, joined Atco, and recruited Gardner and Nunn away from the Robins to form the Coasters. Chapman rejoined Leonard, the Richard brothers, and a new member, 19 year-old H. B. Barnum, in the Robins. Signing on with disc jockey Gene Norman's Whippet label, the group recorded a number of impressive R&B and pop-flavored sides in 1956-57 including "Cherry Lips", "Since I First Met You", and "That Old Black Magic", all featuring Grady's emotive lead tenor. Editor's note: Chapman returned to the Robins on December 27, 1954 and worked in and out with the group up to Nunn's and Gardner's departures and was with the group when H.B. Barnum joined.
Around March of 1957, Chapman's initial solo effort ("My Love Will Never Die"/"The Smiling Gondolier", backed by an uncredited female group) was issued on Zephyr and distributed by Norman. With Grady still in the fold, the Robins moved to Imperial's Knight subsidiary label in 1958, waxing "A Quarter To Twelve", but by year's end, Chapman had gone solo full-time, leaving 17 year-old Bobby Sheen to take over the lead vocal chores. A 1958 solo disc on Knight, "Say You Will Be Mine"/"Starlight, Starbright", was followed by two 1959 Imperial 45s, including the splendid "Tell Me That You Care", again with a female group backing. Three additional singles were recorded and issued on Mercury in 1960-61 but, despite some stellar material, Chapman was never able to build a strong solo career. From 1963 to 1966, he toured in the Coasters Mark II with Bobby Nunn, Bobby Sheen, and Billy Richards, Jr. (sic). After the members went their separate ways, Chapman and Nunn joined forces to form their own touring unit. At various times he performed as the leader or a member of Grady Chapman's Coasters, The Bobby Nunn Tribute Coasters Group, the Word Famous Coasters and the Fabulous Coasters. Often, Chapman was joined by ex-Coasters alumni including Leon Hughes, Billy Guy, and Will "Dub" Jones. In 1977, Guy, Chapman, and Evans recorded background vocals for Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Old friends Billy Richards, Jr., Jerome Evans, formerly of the Cyclones and the Furys, Randy Jones of the Penguins, and Bobby Sheen, (who was working with Chapman just before his death in 2000), all shared the stage with Grady at various times from the '70s into the 2000s. In 2000, Chapman, Evans, Jones, and Robert Baker toured Germany as the Fabulous Coasters. When demand arose, he was also willing to resurrect the Robins, and did so on numerous occasions - sometimes with 1950s members Leonard, the Richard brothers, and H. B. Barnum, frequently with Randy Jones, Bobby Johnson and Billy Foster, and, most recently, with Bobby Baker and J. D. Hall.
In the fall of 1993, while he was recovering from throat cancer treatment, Coasters founder and lead singer Carl Gardner asked his old friend to take his place in the group until he was well enough to return to the stage, which Chapman did with pleasure. "We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Grady Chapman," 82 year-old Carl Gardner and his wife, Veta, said in a joint statement from their Florida residence. "We worked together in both the Robins and the Coasters and remained friends over these many years. We send our deepest sympathies to his family. Grady, we will miss you."
- Todd Baptista
A great article on the early Robins career!
at Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks (by Marv Goldberg & Todd Baptista).
The Robins 1955 at the Hollywood Trocadero
The Rhino Handmade issue of 2007 has the photo wrongly presented (with the Richard brothers, not Grady).
Photos above ctsy Billy Vera
By the end of 1952 the Robins returned to civilian life and resumed their career. They now recruited Grady Chapman as lead tenor and got a new manager, Chuck Landers (business partner of promotor Gene Norman).
E3VB-0018 All Night Baby RCA 5271, LP 6279, CLP 1000
E3VB-0019 My Heart´s The Biggest Fool RCA 5175, Crown LP 1000
E3VB-0020 (Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I RCA 5175, CLP 1000
E3VB-0021 Oh Why RCA 5271, CLP 1000
July 30, 1953
E3VB-0161 My Baby Done Told Me RCA 5486 (withdrawn)
E3VB-0162 I´ll Do It RCA 5486 (withdrawn)
E3VB-0163 Let´s Go To The Dance RCA 5434, CLP 1000
E3VB-0164 How Would You Know RCA 5434, CLP 1000
September 15, 1953
E3VB-0198 Don´t Stop Now RCA 5564, CLP 1000
E3VB-0199 Get It Off Your Mind RCA 5564, CLP 1000
E3VB-0200 Empty Bottles RCA 5489, CLP 1000
E3VB-0201 Ten Days In Jail -1 RCA 5489, CLP 1000
Note: "Ten Days In Jail" written by Leiber-Stoller.
Crown LP (CLP) is a bootleg titled "The Best of .. Vol 2".
Vol. 3 covers the Spark tracks and the first volume features Savoy tracks.
All tracks on El Toro (Spain) CD R&B 111 "I Must Be Dreamin'" (2007), also including the four Crown tracks below plus the 12 Spark recordings. The CD is compiled and has great liner notes by Dave Penny, who insists the Spark recordings were done in order of the LS master numbers.
(prob. as above) with unkn acc.
Los Angeles, late 1953
JB 327 Sacroiliac Swing Crown 108
JB 328 The World Is Changing Crown 108
Note: According to Steve Propes this Crown issue of 1954 ( listen to The World... here ) was actually a recording by the Robins (see matrix numbers on the following session - where Grady Chapman has a true McPhatter styled singing). There were more "Drifters" issues on other labels by different groups, which were recorded by vocal groups before the Clyde McPhatter 1953 Drifters group.
The Robins or The Robbins (120)
(as above) with reeds and rhythm.
Los Angeles, c. December, 1953
329 Double Crossin´ Baby Crown 106
alt.take Double Crossing Baby Ace CD CHD 698
330 I Made A Vow Crown 106, Ace CD CHD 698
331 All I Do Is Rock Crown 120
332 Key To My Heart Crown 120
Note: Singles issued in 1954. All RPM/Modern/Crown recordings prob. produced by Joe Bihari. Joe, Jules and Saul Bihari involved with their usual pseudonyms as composers on labels. Singles tracks reissued on LPs Ace 88 and CLP 1000.
(Carl Gardner, Bobby Nunn, Grady Chapman, Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard, vcls)
Los Angeles, 1954 and 1955
12 Spark recordings
The Robins with Tony Bennet in 1954 with Tony Bennet. Bobby Nunn, Roy Richard, Terrell Leonard, Tony, Billy Richard, and Carl Gardner.
The Robins with Helen Trebel in Las Vegas in 1955. Grady Chapman, Bobby Nunn, Carl Gardner, Billy Richard, Roy Richard,
and Terrell Leonard (table far right).
Note: Mike Stoller states in the liner notes of Rhino R2 71090 that "The Hatchet Man" was the first Robins date on Spark. During his absense in 1954 - Chapman was out of the Robins from March, 1954 until the end of that year - Chapman recorded with the Suedes for Dolphin´s label Money (a.o. "Don´t Blopper"). In early 1954 Carl Gardner joined the group. Gardner made his first appearance with the Robins on March 13, 1954 for Gene Norman´s Embassy Ballroom. Six of the Robins´ 12 Spark-titles are on Ace CDCHD 801 "Leiber & Stoller present the Spark Records story": Riot In Cell Block #9 - Loop De Loop Mambo - Smokey Joe´s Cafe - Whadaya Want - I Must Be Dreamin´ - The Hatchet Man. During the summer of 1954 the Robins were fully engaged in Las Vegas for nightly stage shows. Around June, 1955 Jake Porter of Combo records issued a single, Combo 91 as "Jake Porter and The Buzzards", titled "Wine Women and Gold". Porter says this was the 1955 Robins (the flip "The Bop" is an instrumental)
The Robins: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE
Collectables CD 9974
1. Smokey Joe's Cafe
2. Riot In Cell Block #9
3. Whadaya Want
5. The Hatchet Man
6. One Kiss (wrongly titled .. Led To Another)
7. I Must Be Dreaming
8. Just Like A Fool
9. If Teardrops Were Kisses
10. Loop De Loop Mambo
Collectables CD 9974 features ten of the
Robins' 12 Spark recordings.
Not on this CD:
I Love Paris
Wrap It Up
Studio, Fairfax Avenue and Gene Norman Studio, Hollywood Boulevard
(Bobby Sheen, Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard, and prob Grady Chapman, vcls) with unknown accomp. Produced by Imperial Records and H.B. Barnum.
Recorders, Los Angeles, August 7, 1958
(Bobby Sheen, Billy and Roy Richard, plus "Little" Billy Richards Jr, vcls) with girl vcls, tbn, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms, cga. Produced by H.B. Barnum, Jack Nitzsche, and Sonny Bono. Leads: Sheen -1, Richards Jr -2) with tbn, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms, cga. Produced by H.B. Barnum. Leads: Sheen -1, Richards Jr -2.) with tbn, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms, cga. Produced by H.B. Barnum. Leads: Sheen -1, Richards Jr -2.
Los Angeles, 1960
Just Like That -1 Arvee 5001
Whole Lotta Imagination -2 -
Live Wire Suzie -1 Arvee 5013
Oh No -2 -
Note: In the spring of 1960 Terrell and H.B. Barnum recorded with Jimmy Scott Norman (yes the later Coasters member) as the Dyna-Sores, who made of cover of "Alley Oop" for Rendezvous.
The Ding Dongs
(Bobby Sheen, lead vcl-1; Billy and Roy Richard, Billy Richards Jr, lead-2) with girl vcls and orchestra. Produced by Johnny Otis.
Los Angeles, ca 1960
Ding Dong (aka Saw Wood Mountain) -1 Eldo 109, Ace CD CHD 759
Sweet Thing -2 Eldo 109
Lassie Come Home Todd 1043
Late Last Night Todd 1043
Note: Thanks, Charles Sheen, for the information on above.
(Bobby Sheen, lead vcl; Billy Richards Jr, lead vcl-1; Billy and Roy Richard,vocals) with orchestra directed by Jim Lee.
Prob Los Angeles, ca March, 1961
6001 How Many More Times Lavender 001
6002 White Cliffs Of Dover -
6003 Mary Lou Does The Hoochie Koo - 1 (aka Mary Lou Loves To Hootchy Kootchy Coo) Lavender 002
6004 Magic Of A Dream -
Note: Six of the Robins tracks plus one of the Ding Dongs from 1958-1861 are featured on the Ace CDCHD 1257 "The Bobby Sheen Anthology". In 1962 Roy, Billy Jr. and Bobby Sheen joined Marvin Phillips.
All titles from 1956 - 1961 (except those as The Ding Dongs) on "Cherry Lips" Famous Grooves CD 31672 971026 of 1997. Hugh Gregory wrote the following on the Robins in his 1998 book "The Real Rhythm and blues": "Although the Robins were not the most influential of all the vocal groups they facilitated the possibility that R&B could comment on and reflect, in a humorous way, the concerns of the working man (also referring to the Coasters, ed.mark). It does have to be said the Robins being at the cutting edge of social change was of less consideration than turning a fast buck. And it was the lure of the fast buck that scuppered their chances of long-term success." The tracks featuring Bobby Sheen as lead with the Robins and The Ding Dongs are issued on Ace CDCHD 1257 "Bobby Sheen Anthology 1958-1975" (2010).
During the 1970s Chapman, Billy Richards, Leonard and Barnum act for a couple of times in a revival Robins group and in January, 2002 Grady Chapman (who had substituted for Carl Gardner in the Coasters a couple of times in the late ' 90s and in 2001) re-activated a new group - Grady Chapman & The Robins (with Bobby Baker, Billy Foster, and Bobby Johnson) - still active GREAT! The Robins on Cruise in 2008 (Memory Lane West Coast doo Wop)
The Robins -Representative CDs
Grady Chapman and the Robins of November 29, 2003 in New Jersey.
(ctsy Nikki Gustafson and Todd Baptista).
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A bootleg LP with Robins tracks inside.
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