Soul Serenade

Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters - A Quiet PlaceI was in Atlantic City this morning. Despite the advent of the casino era, it remains a magical place for me, overflowing with childhood memories, including this one.

The first time I heard “A Quiet Place” it was being sung by a four-part acapella choir on the boardwalk at Chelsea Avenue in Atlantic City. It must have been 1967 or 1968. I had never heard the song before, and I had no idea who the original artist was. For some reason the song stuck with me through the years.

Felix Hernandez hosts an amazing classic soul radio show called the Rhythm Revue. The program originates out of listener sponsored WBGO in Newark, NJ, and it airs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. If you’re out of the area, the Rhythm Revue streams live on WBGO’s website. Hernandez in a veritable living encyclopedia of soul, and much of what I know about the genre I learned from listening to him. That’s how I found out that “A Quiet Place” was originally recorded by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters.

Garnet Mimms was born in Ashland, WV, and grew up in Philadelphia, PA. It was there that he formed Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters in 1961. Mimms moved the band to New York City, where they began to work with the noted songwriter/producer Bert Berns. Berns signed them to United Artists Records, and in 1963 the band had an enormous hit with “Cry Baby,” which was authored by Berns and his songwriting partner Jerry Ragavoy. The song made it to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and later became a staple in Janis Joplin’s repertoire.

“A Quiet Place” wasn’t nearly as big a hit. It’s the b-side of a single (the a-side is “One Girl”) that was released by United Artists in 1964. It didn’t come close to the chart success of “Cry Baby,” though it is always included on Garnet Mimms compilation albums, and it’s been a long time staple of the Carolina Beach Music scene. All of which goes to show that even back then some kids were hipper than others. How that boardwalk quartet came to choose “A Quiet Place” to sing on that summer night I’ll never know, but from that night to this, down through all of the years, the song has remained one of my soul music treasures.