This week I am featuring a Brooklyn group that had one hit in 1966. The story of the one-hit wonder is a very common one in music history. Some of the artists who had these hits are still remembered. Others, not so much. If you want a clue as to how well-remembered the Poets are, notice that there is no photo of them accompanying this story. Across the vast expanse of the Internet, where all the world’s knowledge is now stored, I could not find one photo of the Poets.
One problem the Poets had was that they were not the only Poets. Our Poets hailed from Brooklyn but there were other Poets from Harlem. The latter group eventually became famous as the Main Ingredient, while the Brooklyn Poets were largely forgotten. So there is not much information for me to share with you about the Poets, but I’ll tell you what I know.
In 1959, a guy named Juggy Murray started a label called Sue Records and created a subsidiary label called Symbol. While Sue ran a bunch of records up the charts, for the first four years of its existence Symbol couldn’t find any chart success. Singles by artists like Bobby Bolder, the Commandos, Jesse Johnson, Bobby Adams [aka Bobby Grier Adams], Lloyd Nelson, Sleepy King, the Four Hunks, King Coleman, Art Lassiter, the Shockettes, Russell Byrd, Jerry Heyward & the Everglades, the Parliaments, and the Hockadays came and went without making much noise.
Inez & Charlie Foxx changed all of that with their 1963 smash “Mockingbird” which was released on Symbol. The single reached #2 on the R&B chart and crossed over to Top 10 success on the Pop chart. Symbol had five more chart records with the brother-and-sister duo from North Carolina in 1963 and 1964. They included “He’s the One You Love,” “Hi Diddle Diddle,” and “Ask Me.”
The singles by Inez & Charle Foxx were the only Symbol singles to make the charts until March 1966. That was when the Poets came along. They were led by Ronnie Lewis, and their lineup also included Melvin Bradford, Paul Fulton, and Johnny James. They had one unsuccessful single under the belts, recorded before they were signed to Symbol. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” had been released on J-2 Records and got them some attention in New York, but that was about it.
Lewis had an unfinished song called “She Blew a Good Thing” which Murray finished for him. Symbol Records #214 made it all the way to #2 on the R&B chart and rose to #45 on the Pop chart. The Poets recorded two more singles for Symbol, “So Young and So Innocent,” and “I’ve Got Two Hearts.” Both were released in 1966 but by that time Sue Records was winding down, and taking Symbol with it. The singles failed to chart. By 1968, Murray had sold Sue to United Artists although he stayed on to run the label.
No one at UA expected much from the new acquisition so there was a good deal of surprise when Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together,” reached the Top 40 at the end of 1969. UA was so disinterested that no follow-up single was ever released. By 1970, Sue was dead and gone except as a vehicle for UA (and later EMI) compilations. Murray stayed active in the music business until his death in 2005. As for the Poets, the road seems to have ended for them after their final single for Symbol.