Before We Was Fab: The Stereos, “I Really Love You”
Sometimes it takes hearing a really good cover version of a song to make you appreciate the original more. Such is the case with this week’s entry, which was released by a relatively little-known doo-wop group in 1961.
In 1955, Bruce Robinson and Ronnie Collins of Steubenville, Ohio (the birthplace of Dean Martin) formed a group called the Buckeyes — the name being an obvious homage to their home state. They released a pair of singles on Cincinnati-based Deluxe Records in 1957, “Since I Fell for You” and “Dottie Baby,” both of which fizzled.
By 1959 the Buckeyes had added new members Leroy Swearingen (first tenor), Sam Profit (second tenor), and George Otis (baritone), and changed their name to the Stereos. After the first official Stereos single (“A Love for Only You” b/w “Sweetpea’s in Love”) also flopped, Swearingen left the group and was replaced by Nathaniel Hicks.
Ironically, it was after Swearingen left the Stereos that they achieved their biggest chart success. With one of his compositions no less. “I Really Love You” (b/w “Please Come Back to Me”) was released on the Cub Records (K 9095) label in the summer of 1961. It boasts some typically rich doo-wop style group harmonies, plus a fun, percussive bass vocal line from Collins. What I love most about the song is the descending, minor key harmonies on the chorus.
Like most singles of this era “I Really Love You” is short and sweet, running just 2:18. But really, that’s plenty of time to get the point — that being the fantastic chorus — across and not overstay its welcome. Still, it was not what you would consider a monster success. The song entered the Hot 100 at #85 on September 25, 1961 and peaked at #29 on October 23. It fared better on the Hot R&B Sides chart, where it reached #15.
The Stereos released a few more singles on Cub Records, none of which gained any commercial traction. They released singles on various labels in the following years but were never able to match the success of “I Really Love You.” The group broke up in the late ’60s and I don’t know that a lot of people even noticed. I should point out, however, that they released a fantastic Northern Soul side on Val Records in 1965 called “Don’t Let It Happen to You,” which is definitely worth hearing.
So about that really good cover version I mentioned. Beatles fans probably know that George Harrison covered “I Really Love You” for his 1982 solo album Gone Troppo, but the one I’m actually thinking of was just released this year. It’s a note-perfect take by Kenny Vance and the Planotones, from their Acapella album.