The Avons

A talented doo wop group from Englewood, NJ, that formed in high school in 1954. Until they caught wind of a Los Angeles-based group with the same name, they were the Robins, and they then renamed themselves the Avons after a river in England. The original lineup consisted of Bob, Bill, and Wendell Lea; Curtis Norris, and Ervin Watson. The quintet woodsheded until confident enough to perform local gigs. By 1955, they were the hottest group in the area. A local businessman became their manager and arranged an audition with Bea Caslon, the owner of Hull Records. Caslon signed them on the spot to her fledging label, where they joined the Heartbeats of "A Thousand Miles Away" and later "Daddy's Home," of Shep & the Limelites fame. Unfortunately, the Avons never achieved the success the Heartbeats did, but managed to carve a spot in doo wop heaven with the recordings "Our Love Will Never Die" (1956), "Baby" (1957), and "You're So Close to Me" (1958). Prior to their second release, ("Baby") Uncle Sam began snatching Avons for military duty, first drafting Norris (bass), who was replaced by Franklin Cole, who was himself drafted and replaced by George Coleman. Then Sunny Harley replaced drafted baritone Bill Lea. The Avons' final recording, "A Girl to Call My Own" (1962), featured Harley. From 1955 to 1962, Hull released seven singles by them and not one hit or charted. Their changing lineup -- due to Uncle Sam -- didn't help and promo pictures were always out of date. Avid radio listeners who resided outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania during 1957 to 1962 missed the Avons entirely since they didn't venture outside those four states -- where their records were played -- to gig. Decades later, via doo wop books, magazines, and CD reissues, the Avons are finally receiving the love and acclaim they sought when young and starry-eyed. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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