Jackie & The Starlites (4)
Jackie & the Starlites at The Apollo Theatre.
Jackie & The Starlites (4) (New York)
Jackie Rue "Jackie La Rue" (Lead)
John Felix (Baritone)
Alton Jones (Tenor)
George Lassu (Second Tenor)
William ‘Billy’ Montgomery (Bass)
The Starlites (4)
1960 - Valarie / Way Up In The Sky (Fury 1034)
1960 - Ain’t Cha Ever Coming Home / Silver Lining (Fury 1045)
1961 - I Found Out Too Late / I’m Coming Home (Fury 1057)
1964 - Valarie / Lonesome Boy (Lana 120)
1965 - Seven Day Fool / Don’t Be Afraid (Sphere Sound 705)
Jackie & The Starlites (4)
1962 - For All We Know / I Heard You (Mascot 128)
1962 - You Keep Telling Me / Sha Pobo Baby (Mascot130)
1963 - I’ll Burn Your Letters / Walking From School (Mascot 131)
1964 - I Still Remember / I Cried My Heart Out (Hull 760)
196? - Let Him Go (Fury)
196? - No More Heart (Fury)
196? - They Laughed At Me (Fury)
196? - You Put One Over On Me (Fury)
In September of 1960, one of the greatest, and certainly the most over the top of all doo wop crying records – Valerie b/w Way Up In The Sky (Fury) by the Starlites was unleashed on the world. While Valerie didn’t make the national charts, it was a good size hit in New York and other east coast cities, and it obviously made a big impression on those who heard it as it would eventually be covered by Frank Zappa & the Mothers, played on the radio by Lou Reed (when he guest DJ’s on WPIX-FM in 1979), and became the favorite record of punk haberdasher Malcom McClaren who had it on the jukebox at Let It Rock (the King’s Row shop that eventually became Sex, the store where the Sex Pistols were formed). Jackie Rue tortured vocal delivery, in which he breaks down into a hysterical, wailing, sobbing, grieving, fit, delivers the ultimate in teenage pathos.
When they appeared at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia later that year, Jackie and the Starlites went from being the opening act on the first night to headliners by the second, elevated to the top billed over such hard workin’, crowd pleasing, hit makers as Ike & Tina Turner and James Brown & his Famous Flames. It has been said that Jackie and the Starlites were the only act James Brown ever refused to follow. Jackie La Rue originally started singing with an outfit called the Five Wings in the early 1950s, and cut a pair of singles with the group for King Records in 1955 before breaking up that year. Two of their members went on to form the Dubs, but La Rue wasn't heard from again in music until 1960, when the Starlites coalesced, consisting of Jackie Rue, as he was then known, Alton Thomas, John Felix, and Billy Montgomery. Fury Records was run by Harlem record store owner/producer/hustler Bobby Robinson (who also ran Fire, Red Robin, Enjoy, Everlast and a few other labels, why isn’t he in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame? , a guy who produced more good records than any other New Yorker, including classics by Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tarheel Slim, Wild Jimmy Spruill and dozens of fine vocal groups (the Rainbows, the Teenchords, the Kodaks, the Channels, the Charts, et al).
At The Apollo Theatre
The Starlites, re-christened Jackie and the Starlites as Valerie picked up momentum, recorded three more singles for Fury– "Ain’t Cha Ever Comin’ Home" b/w "Silver Lining", "I Found Out Too Late" b/w "I’m Comin’ Home", both pretty much in the style of Valerie, and their final disc under Robinson’s tutelage, which may be the most unhinged of all– "They Laughed At Me" b/w "You Put One Over On Me". They Laughed At Me, issued as Fire & Fury 1000, was released as Robinson was experiencing financial difficulties (both labels would go into receivership soon after They Laughed At Me was released) and is extremely rare. But oh, what a majestic and unique performance. This time, Jackie Rue laughs his way through his tale of rejection, cackling like a constipated hyena on methadrine, Jackie sounds like his esophagus is turning inside out. It ranks close to the top of the pantheon of sides as Phil Schaap might say if we were talkin’ jazz. There is no other record quite like it, and I think we can safely say at this point in time, there never will be.
After Fury went bust, Jackie and the Starlites signed with Hull where they cut a few more discs in the same style, the best being "I Cried My Heart Out", then were moved to Hull subsidiary Mascot for a few attempts to merge their unique style with the Latin-esqe sound that the Drifters were milking all the way to the bank around the same time. None of these discs sold squat and by 1963 they had disbanded.Our story does not end here however. On Monday, May 29, 1961– UPI (United Press International), a now nearly defunct press wire service, sent out a story headlined Rock ‘N Roll Stars Held For Murder, dateline New York: Two singers identified as J. Carl Moody and Henry John Hicks had stabbed one Emil Markussen, age 73, in the hallway of his apartment building on the upper West Side, killing him. It was a mugging gone wrong. The story identifies both as members of the “Starlights” (sic) and names their hits "Valerie" and "Ain’t She Come Home" (sic).
Hicks is quoted as saying that the Doctor made a feeble attempt to fight back– “Then I had to kill him” he told the cops. Moody and Hicks were not on "Valerie", the line up on the Starlites recording debut was Jackie Rue –lead singer, Alton Jones– tenor, George Lassu– second tenor, John Felix– baritone and Billy Montgomery– bass. Vocal groups, however, are like baseball teams, with members coming and going with bewildering regularity, so perhaps Moody and Hicks are on some of the Jackie and the Starlites recordings, if they are, I don’t know which ones. There was no follow up story from UPI and I don’t know what happened in court, or what ever became of the two. No doubt they did some time, New York was sending perps to the electric chair until 1963– they may have even been executed. Now they really had something to cry about. Lead singer, the caterwauling Jackie Rue is said to have died of a heroin overdose sometime in the late 60’s.
(updated by Hans-Joachim)
Valarie Way Up In The Sky
Ain’t Cha Ever Coming Home Silver Lining
I Found Out Too Late I’m Coming Home
Lonesome Boy Seven Day Fool
Don’t Be Afraid For All We Know
I Heard You You Keep Telling Me
I’ll Burn Your Letters Walking From School
I Still Remember I Cried My Heart Out
Let Him Go No More Heart
They Laughed At Me You Put One Over On Me
Sha Pobo Baby
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