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Soul Serenade - Isley Brothers

 

I spent last weekend in New Jersey. It’s always good to be back in my home state, but I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a place for me there, if I still fit in. It’s been over four years since I moved to Rhode Island, and each time I go back to NJ I feel a little more removed from the place that I lived for nearly my entire life.┬áThis week I’m going to take a look at the Isley Brothers, a group that was not from NJ, but eventually made the Garden State their home. It was while they were headquartered in NJ that they had some of their greatest success. There must be something in the air.

Don Covay left us recently. He left behind a splendid resume that reflected his work as a singer and songwriter. Covay never allowed himself to be pigeonholed into one genre or another. His music reached out to fans of soul, R&B, and rock and roll alike. In fact, one of the musicians that Covay worked with early on eventually became the most iconic guitarist in the history of rock and roll.

There’s a lot of talk about girl groups, and rightfully so. Girl groups made some great music in the ’60s. But if you ever try to journey back to where it all started it’s inevitable that you will run into the Shirelles as you’re passing through Passaic, New Jersey. They were still at Passaic High School when they got together in 1957 in order to perform at the school talent show. The original lineup was Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Micki Harris, and Beverly Lee. They called themselves the Poquellos and performed a song that they had written called “I Met Him on a Sunday.” One school friend was so impressed that she introduced the group to her mother Florence Greenberg who had a small record label called Tiara.

Soul Serenade

Candy & the Kisses - The 81Dance crazes. There were a lot of them in the ’60s. Chubby Checker sparked a national frenzy with his version of “The Twist,” which was originally recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Joey Dee & the Starliters had a variation called “The Peppermint Twist” that got a lot of attention. The Miracles sang about “Mickey’s Monkey,” and the Orlons scored with “The Watusi,” which was second only to “The Twist” when it came to ’60s dance crazes. The Olympics, the Marathons, the Jive Five, and Ike and Tina Turner all celebrated the “Hully Gully” in one way or another.

For awhile there, it seemed as if inventing a new dance craze, or even just singing about it, was a direct ticket to the top of the charts. But the nation lost its innocence when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and shortly after that the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion troops appeared on our shore. Whether it was because of bad timing, or simply bad luck, some dance records just didn’t take off as they might have a year or two early. That was the sad fate experienced by a vocal group called Candy & the Kisses, who hailed from Port Richmond, NY. The group was led by Candy Nelson, and included her sister Suzanne, and friend Jeanette Johnson.