The Mello-Moods

The New York-based Mello-Moods are significant in the history of teen vocal groups, coming together almost four years before Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, who were acclaimed as the one of the first black "kiddie" groups to capture the public's attention in the early '50s. 13 and 14-year-old eighth graders Ray "Buddy" Wooten (lead), Bobby "Schubie" Williams (second lead, tenor, and piano), Bobby Baylor (second tenor and baritone), Monteith "Monte" Owens (tenor and guitar), and Jimmy "Bip" Bethea (bass) were so young that they were all still attending Resurrection Grammar School on West 151st Street in Manhattan when they began to attract attention. By late 1950/early 1951, the unnamed group of teenie vocalists could be found practicing at Macombs Dam Park across the bridge in the Bronx, right behind Yankee Stadium. Bobby Robinson, who owned the Red Robins record store and was looking to start the Red Robins record label, caught the group and decided that he'd invest his time and money to record them. By December 1951, the group -- now calling themselves the Mello-Moods -- had recorded their first single, a soft ballad called "Where Are You," which soon found its way on to Billboard's national R&B charts on February 23, 1952, where it reached number seven in the nation. Jimmy Keyes, a friend of the group (later a member of the Chords -- "Sh-Boom" -- on Cat) became their manager and managed to get them on the bill at the Apollo Theater, as well as nightclubs usually reserved for adults. The Mello-Moods also made an appearance on the Spotlight on Harlem TV show. The group's next single, a ballad called "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" earned them some airplay, but failed to chart and the group was soon signing up with new manager Joel Turnero. Turnero took them to Prestige Records, who released a set of singles, "I'm Lost" and its follow-up, "Call on Me," but both failed to chart. By 1952, the group became restless and started drifting off to form other groups. Soon enough, the Mello-Moods had merely vanished. Schubie Williams, Bobby Baylor, and Monte Owens later formed the legendary Solitaires, whose biggest hit was "Embraceable You" on Old Town. In 1963, this same group began backing Ray Brewster as the Cadillacs ("Fool," Artic) and even toured for a while as both the Cadillacs and one of the bazillion acts calling themselves the Drifters, with Bobby Baylor doing his best Clyde McPhatter impression. Monty Owens later left the music biz and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service and Baylor became a transit conductor in the New York City subway system. Ray Wooten was the unfortunate victim of a theft in the '70s that soured him on the music business for more than 30 years. The story is that two men convinced him that they were members of popular R&B radio show who wanted to do a magazine article and radio show about his career. Wooten turned over invaluable personal items, including photos and documents, which were to be used and returned to him, but as it turned out, the two were thieves and the personal items were never returned. Wooten was so hurt by this that he vowed never to have anything to do with the music business again and it wasn't until October of 1998, on the stage of the UGHA, that Wooten -- a guest of UGHA member/former Mello-Mood bassman Jimmy Bethea -- was welcomed with tremendous applause which made him feel like he had turned his back on a musical community that had not forgotten him. ~ Bryan Thomas

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