The El Capris

Pittsburgh R&B septet the El Capris formed in the city's Hill District in 1954 -- according to Marv Goldberg's profile on his website, founders Eddie Jackson (lead tenor), James Scott (first tenor), Theodore McCrary (second tenor), Leon Gray (baritone), William Germany (baritone and conga drums), Larry Hill (bass), and James Ward (bass and bongos) were all between the ages of 13 and 14 years old at the time of the group's creation. Dubbing themselves the El Capris -- reportedly a badly misguided attempt to add Spanish flair to their original choice, the Bluebirds -- the group won a local talent contest on Independence Day 1955, earning an audition with Bullseye Records owner Woody Henderling. Sufficiently impressed to offer the El Capris a contract on the spot, Henderling returned to Pittsburgh at year's end to cut their debut single, "(Shimmy Shimmy) Ko Ko Wop." Issued in the spring of 1956, the record quickly went nowhere, and the group signed to the local Fee Bee imprint to cut the follow-up, 1957's "Your Star." Though promoted via live appearances at venues including Harlem's landmark Apollo Theatre, the record met the same fate as its predecessor and after a third single, "Safari" (issued on Fee Bee's sister label Ring-O), the El Capris began to splinter. By 1958 only McCrary, Gray, and Germany remained from the original lineup, but they forged on, recruiting first tenor Percy Wharton and bass Sam Askue to cut "Ivy League Clean" for the Paris label. Although the El Capris did not reenter the studio, the group continued touring the East Coast nightclub circuit until 1970 -- a quarter century later, co-founders Germany and Jackson played a series of revival showcases in a reconstituted lineup featuring second tenor Shane Plummer and bass Doc Battle. ~ Jason Ankeny

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