Lee Williams & the Cymbals

This Harlem vocal group was discovered Hollywood style. The guys were singing in the backyard of a brownstone on 127th Street where they lived when Joe Evans, the owner of Carnival Records, heard them practicing as he walked by. Carnival, a tiny operation in Newark, NJ, had three employees, with Evans being one of them. At the time of the discovery Evans was in Harlem on a promotional mission for his label. Excited by what he heard, he persuaded the landlady to let him in so he could see the warblers. Evans conducted an audition for the singers and the guys gave it their all. Liking their blend and the powerhouse lead of Lee Williams, Evans signed them on the spot. When he got back to Newark he made up a tape of songs for the group to learn. Ronnie McCoy, who had a group called the Topics, wrote one of the songs, "I Love You More." He had been sending Evans songs and bugging him to record his group. McCoy wanted the song for his group but Evans thought it would be better served to have his new discoveries record it. As a consolation Carnival released "She's So Fine"/"I Don't Have to Cry" on the Topics. "I Love You More" sold substantially in many cities including Baltimore, Washington, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It was so popular in Chicago the group did a stint at the city's Regal Theater. The record barely missed entering Billboard's R&B Top 40, stalling at number 41 in 1967. It would be the group's biggest record ever. Carnival followed with "Peeping Through the Window," another McCoy composition, which didn't do as well but was their second most popular waxing. Four more singles followed: "Shing a Ling USA," "Please Say It Isn't So," "I Need You Baby," and "Til You Come Back to Me." All were good records but they only attracted local and spot interest. The group left Carnival though they were the label's second most popular act (next to the Manhattans) and recorded for some even smaller labels. One was Black Circle Records in Pittsburgh, PA, where they had a few releases that stiffed due to the same problem that afflicted Carnival Records -- lack of promotion. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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