By JIM DAWSON
The Colts is one of two black vocal groups that came out of Bakersfield, California (the other group was The Paradons of "Diamonds and Pearls" fame). Lead singer Ruben Grundy, his brother Joe Grundy, and Carl Moland lived on the same street in Bakersfield. When the three moved to Los Angeles to attend L.A. City College, they put together a vocal group with fellow student Leroy Smith, who came from New Jersey.
The quartet soon caught the attention of promoter/songwriter /manager Samuel "Buck" Ram," who signed them to his Personality Productions and got them a deal with a small Pasadena record company, Mambo, owned by Larry Mead. To give them an identity, Ram played up their clean-cut collegiate image by outfitting them with freshmen beanies, which may have ultimately undermined their popularity. Ram used the group to record one of his new songs, "Adorable."
According to Cashbox (August 13, 1955), this "quartet of young college fellows from Bakersfield" recorded the song, along with a couple of others, iin Pasadena under the supervision of Vita's black A&R man, Mike Gradny. Within a week or two, local distributor Abe Diamond played a dub of the song for dealers. Though released initially on Mambo, "Adorable" was switched over to Mead's new Vita label because the mambo craze had become passe. By September 24, the Vita single was #1 on Zeke Manners' KFWB radio show, and the group was appearing on Al Jarvis's and Larry Finley's TV shows. By October 22 the song reached the top of Cashbox's Los Angeles R&B chart, where it stayed for an incredible three months. The record might have gone national except that The Drifters covered it for Atlantic Records.
Cashbox made both versions its Buy O' the Week at the end of October: "Beginning with the appearance of the original Vita disk, excitement on this tune has mounted. The Colts started off wth a bang in Los Angeles and later began making noise in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Buffalo. The Drifters' record started later, but in areas where the Vita disk had not been distributed--and in many where it had--it showed very good sales too. While the Colts are already on the national retail chart, the Drifters are not far behind." Eventually Atlantic's better distribution and stronger version won out; the Drifters took "Adoreable" to #1 R&B nationally, while the Colts' original only went as high as #11 R&B.
To get the group's next single, "Sweet Sixteen," moving nationally, Ram gave Alan Freed half the writer's credit (the other half was Lyn Paul, one of Ram's psuedonyms), but Freed's airplay failed to get the record moving even while The Colts were performing in the New York City area with The Platters and The Penguins and then touring the country with Bill Haley's Comets, Frankie Lymon, Clyde McPhatter and other top acts on "The Biggest Rock 'n' Roll Show of 1956." Meanwhile, "Sweet Sixteen" was covered by The Sounds (featuring an uncredited Bobby Day) on Modern Records. The flipside, "Honey Bun," incidentally, was written by Curtis Williams of The Penguins.
The third single, Joe Grundy's "Never, No More," failed to make any noise at all. Cashbox announced in August 1956 that Ram had managed to get The Colts signed to Dot Records, but nothing came of it.
A September 1956 item in the trades announced that The Colts had added singer Mel Williams' wife, Mickey Lynn, to their lineup, changed their name to Four Colts & a Filly, and broken in their act at a Los Angeles nitery, Larry Potter's Supper Club. But perhaps the venture didn't last long, because by the following year The Colts were regulars at the upscale Saints & Sinners Club, rubbing elbows with the likes of Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr.
However, there's some question as to whether the original group was still together at this point. Buck Ram owned the name, and according to a July 1957 Cashbox entry, the group's featured vocalists were Don Wyatt and Eddie Williams (formerly of The Aladdins), who had replaced "members who were drafted into the armed forces." That same month a Colts group was headling at the El Cortez Hotel in Las Vegas, and then heading for Honolulu in August. That was the last thing the trades reported on the group.
Ruben Grundy, clearly no longer with The Colts, recorded with a girl group for Mike Gradny's Spry label in 1957.
The whereabouts of the four Colts in the year 2000 is unknown.
|Mambo 112||"Adorable"/"Lips Red as Wine"||Released September 1955, #11 R&B|
|Vita 112||"Adorable"/"Lips Red as Wine"|
|Vita 121||"Sweet Sixteen"/"Honey Bun"||Released January 1956|
|Vita 130||"Never, No More"/"Hey You, Shoo Bee Ooh Bee"||Released May 1956|
|Antler 4003||"Sheik of Araby"/"Never No More"||Released March 1957|
|Antler 4007||"Guiding Angel"/"Sheik of Araby"||Released October 1957|
|Antler 4002||"I Never Knew"/"Oh When You Touch Me"||Released 1958-59|
|Del-Co 4002||"Oh When You Touch Me"/(not on B-side)||Released 1959|
|Plaza 505||"Sweet Sixteen"/"Hey Pretty Baby"||Released 1962|
|JACKIE KELSO WITH THE COLTS|
|Vita 111||"Kwella Kwella"||Released September 1955|
|RUBEN GRUNDY & THE DEVILLE SISTERS|
|Spry 110||"Every Word"/"Sail Away"||Released November 1957|
|Relic 5007||The Best of Vita Records||Released 1980s|
|(Contains Vita cuts except for "Hey You, Shoo-Bee-Ooh-Bee")|
|Relic 7049||The Groups of Vita Records||Released 1993|
|(Contains all 6 Colts songs plus "Kwella Kwella")|
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