The Jaguars (1) aka The T-Birds (1) aka The Miracles (2)

    (Fremont High, Los Angeles)


    Personnel :

    Herman “Sonny” Chaney (Lead)

    Valerio “Val” Poliuto (Tenor)

    Manuel Chavez (Baritone)

    Charles Middleton (Bass)



    Discography :

    The Miracles (2)
    1955 - A Gal Named Jo / You're An Angel (Cash 1008)
    1955 - 9 Boogie (Cash) (Unreleased)

    1955 - Let Us Be As One [aka Sweet Thing] (Cash) (Unreleased)

    The Jaguars (1)
    1955 - Rock It, Davy, Rock It / The Big Bear (Aardell 0002)
    1955 - Rock It, Davy, Rock it / I Wanted You (Aardell 0003)
    1955 - Be My Sweetie /You Don't Believe Me (SC) (Aardell 0006)
    1956 - The Way You Look Tonight / Moonlight And You (R-dell 11)
    1956 - The Way You Look Tonight / Baby Baby Baby (R-dell 11)
    1957 - The City Zoo (retitled Baby Baby Baby) / I Love You Baby (R-dell 16)
    1957 - Mine All Mine (Unreleased)
1957 - Come A-Runnin' (Unreleased)
    1957 - Thinking Of You (R-dell) (Unreleased)
    1957 - Look Into My Eyes (R-dell) (Unreleased)
    1957 - You Have Come Back (R-dell) (Unreleased)

    1958 - Hold Me Tonight / Piccadilly (Ebb 129) 

    1958 - Never Let You Go  / I'll Make A Bet (Ebb 142)
    1958 - Mine All Mine (Ebb) (Unreleased)

    1958 - Come A-Runnin' (Ebb) (Unreleased)
    1959 - Thinking Of You / Look Into My Eyes (Original sound 06) 

    1960 - Don't Go Home/Girl Of My Dreams (R-dell 117)
    1961 - Fine Fine Fine/It Finally Happened (Rendezvous 159/216)

    1989 - Mellow Sunday / Our Summer Song (Classic artists 106) 

    1990 - Play A Love Song / All On Me (Classic artists 113) 

    1990 - Happy Holiday / [More Than Enough For Me - Feathers] (Classic artists 117)

    The T-Birds (1)
    1961 - Come On Dance With Me / Green Stamps (Chess 1778)
    1961 - Taco Harry (Chess) (Unreleased)

    1961 - Hog Wild (Chess) (Unreleased)


    Biography :

    From low-rider rock and roll to classical- meets- doo wop, the Jaguars, one of America's first interracial rock vocal groups, were a versatile los Angeles Quartet.
    The Freemont High School foursome included Herman "Sonny" Chaney, lead, of Dallas, Texas; Valeric "Val" Poliuto, tenor, from Detroit; Manuel "Manny" Chavez , baritone, of Los Angeles; and Charles Middleton, bass, of Lafayette, Louisiana. Freemont was a harmony haven for mid-'50s groups.

    Sonny, Charles & Val

    Few schools in America have generated as many recorded groups; the Jaguars' schoolmates included Don Julian and the Meadowlarks (Dooto, probably the first integrated group), The Medaillons (Dootone), The Dreamers (Flip), The Flames (Later The Hollywood Flames, Ebb), and the Calvanes (Dootone).

    The Jaguars first called themselves the Miracles. In 1955, big-band trumpeter turned would-be record exec Bob Ross formed Aardell Records at the office of his sheet music service. He signed up the Miracles and had them back his daughter Patti on a song written by his partner Buddy Ebsen (the actor on the "Davy Crockett" series and later star of TV's "Barnaby Jones").


    "Rocket, Davey, Rocket" was then rerecorded by the group and issued as the flip side of the Manny Chavez-penned ballad "I Wanted You" issued in June 1955. Prior to the record's release Ross and the group decided to change their name but were stumped for an idea. Then comedian Stan Freberg came in the office, heard of their dilemma, and after a bit of contemplation over a candy bar volunteered "the Jaguars" (no bird names for this group!)

    Charles Middleton, Manuel Chavez , Val Poliuto, Sonny Chaney and Hunter Hancock (1955)

    "I Wanted You," a ballad too close in melody to the Richard Barret and the Chantels '1959 "Summer's Love" classic not to have influenced that recording, took off in Los Angeles and the group appeared on the first West Coast R&B TV show, Hunter Hancock's " Rhythm and Bluesville Show.

     (Hollywood Bowl, 1961, Val, Sonny & Manny)

    But Aardell's distribution was limited and the record became strictly a local item. "You Don't Believe Me" was issued in November and earned a review in Billboard on January 21, 1956 that read, "The group tries hard here with slow paced rhythm and blues material, but the Overall effect is doubtful." The boys went back to the drawing board for a new song to record. Val and Sonny found it in a Los Angeles nightclub, where they heard a female vocalist performing the 1936 Fred Astaire hit "The Way You Look Tonight" (#1) over rock and roll triplets at the piano.


    Val, a classically trained pianist who had once led an orchestra back in Detroit before he was 17, recognized the potential of the Jerome Kern- penned standard. He created a "Moonlight Sonata" (Beethoven) intro for the evergreen with a few classic harmony changes while turning it into a rock and roll ballad. Released in mid-1956, the record got plenty of radio play and was their biggest seller.

    Val, Charles & Sonny (Circa 1960-61)

    In October R-Dell (Ross had now revised the label's spelling, but unfortunately not its distribution) issued it again with more echo;  it came out at least twice more (Baronett 1962 and Original Sound 1965), each time with variables changes.
    By 1957 the group had moved over to Ebb Records where they cut one single, "Hold Me Tight," and sang backup for Johnny Mathis's younger brother Ralph on a solid rocker called "Never Let You Go."When the single was issued later in 1958 ir read " By Ralph Mathis and the Ambers," but the group never adopted that name.

    Charles, Val, Manny, Sonny & friend (Circa 1957-58)

    In late 1959 the Jaguars moved to Art Laboe's Original Sound label and recorded "Thinking of You." They also became a temporary quintet: Manny missed the session but Tony Allen ("Night- owl," Specialty, 1955) and his fabulous falsetto along with Richard " Louie Louie" Berry on bass came in to beef up the harmony.
    Original Sound's distribution was better than R-Dell's, and "Thinking of You" was extensively played around the country. Consequently the group performed with acts like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jackie Wilson in venues from Long Beach Municipal Auditorium to the Hollywood Bowl.

    At The Hollywood Bowl Rehearsal (1961)

    Through all this, the group had never experienced a personnel change, a near miracle given the constant-state-of-flux that surrounded many los Angeles Groups.
    By 1961 the Jaguars had become the T-Birds on Chess — just as the Jaguars name was getting national recognition due to Art Laboe's inclusion of "The Way You Look Tonight" on his first Oldies But Goodies LP.

    It stayed on the charts for 184 weeks while Top 40 radio disc jockeys started playing the Jaguars and others from the LP —  the first of the '50s rockers to be exposed to the white masses via the oldies LP route.
    From 1960 to 1966 Uncle Sam always had at least one Jaguar out of act ion; by 1966 the two black (Sonny and Charlie), one Chicano (Manny), and one Polish- Italian (Val) group decided to retire.

    At The El Monte Legion Stadium in the Late '50s.

    Val stayed in the business recording with the Nuggets (RCA) and playing piano on countless other records. In February 1962 when THE BEACH BOYS recorded a session that included "Surfin', Surfin' Safari" and "Little Surfin Girl," the performers were actually Brian and Dennis Wilson and Val Poliuto.

    Val then became a solo performer. Charles Middleton went on to work on TV and film as a character actor, and Manny went to work for the LA Times. Sonny retired in the '80s after going blind, but it didn't stop him and the group from reuniting to perform in 1987.
    Jay Warner (American singing groups: a history from 1940s to today)


    Songs :

    The Way You Look Tonight         Thinking Of You

    Look Into My Eyes                Moonlight And You

    I wanted You                        Rock It, Davy, Rock It

    Cds :

    Books :



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