Little Caesar & The Romans (3)
Carl Burnett (Lead)
David "Caesar" Johnson (Lead / Baritone)
Johnny O'Simmons (Tenor)
Early Harris (Tenor)
Leroy Sanders (Bass)
The Cubans (2)
1959 - Tell Me / You've Been Gone So Long (Flash 133)
1959 - Oh Miss Dolly (Flash)
1959 - Don't Go Baby (Flash)
1959 - Can't You See (Flash)
The Upfronts (1)
1960 - It took Time / Benny Lou And The Lions (Lumtn 103)
1960 - Too late to turn Around / Married Jive (Lumtn 104)
Caesar & The Romans (3)
N/A - Your True Love / Let The Four Winds Blow (Hi-Note 602
Little Caesar & The Romans (3)
1961 - Those Oldie But Goodies / She Don't Wanna (Dance No More) (Del-Fi 4158)
1961 - Hully Gully Again / Frankie And Johnny (Del-Fi 4164)
1961 - Memories Of Those Oldies But Goodies / Fever (Del-Fi 4166)
1961 - The Ten Commandments Of Love / C.C. Ryder (Del-Fi 4170)
1961 - Popeye Once More / Yoyo Yo Yoyo (Del-Fi 4177)
1977 - We Belong Together / Disco Hully Gully (Essar 7803)
1961 - Betty Jean (Del-Fi)
1961 - Three Weeks Ago Today (Del-Fi)
1961 - Twelve Months Of The Year (Del-Fi)
1961 - Memories (Del-Fi)
1961 - Memories of Those Oldies but Goodies, Volume 1 (Del-Fi LP 1218)
Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You)/I Need You So/Ten Commandments Of Love/Little Star/Adorable/Memories Of Those Oldies But Goodies//Hully Gully Again/Work With Me Annie-Annie Had A Baby/Searchin'/Fever/C C Rider
Little Caesar was actually David "Caesar" Johnson of Chicago. He cut his musical teeth on gospel music and later did doo wop street-corner duty with some high school friends. When he joined the air force the young Windy City resident formed a gospel act called the Northern Crusaders, and upon his discharge he created a secular group in San Diego named the Ivory Tones after member Ivory Wemberly.
David headed for Los Angeles and joined up with Johnny Simmons (first tenor), Early Harris (second tenor), Leroy Sanders (bass), and someone named Curtis ( second tenor) to form the Cubans in 1955 (though none of the members were Cuban) .
They signed with Charlie Reynolds' Watts- based record label/record store, Flash Records.
The Cubans' only single out of Flash's 623 East Vernon Avenue address was an enjoyable ballad called "Tell Me," with Early on lead, backed by a blues-styled jump tune similar to THE PARAGONS' later "Stick with Me Baby" titled "You've Been Gone so Long," Featuring David. In 1959 the Cubans disbanded (they would not have been too popular under that name anyway during Castro's Cuban revolution), and David hooked up with Lummtone Records, owned by Lummie Fowler. He formed the Upfronts (a name Lummie came up with), who included Harris and Sanders of the Cubans, Bobby Relf of the Laurels (lead and second tenor), and a mystery man remembered only as Theotis (first tenor).
Their first 45, "It Took Time," got a good LA response, but their second, "Too Late to Turn Around," did nothing. When not singing or recording David and company would hang around and drink with the likes of Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Jess Belvin. When they ran out of wine money, Jesse would go to the piano like it was an instant teller machine, knock out a song in 15 or 20 minutes and drive off to Hollywood where he'd unload his rights for a quick 50 to 100 dollars.
One evening in 1961 at Lummie's house David met songwriter Paul Politti, who played him his composition "Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You)." When David agreed to record it, the 17-year-old writer went to Art Laboe at Original Sound Records, who had started his own series of "oldies but goodies" LPs in 1959. Laboe passed on the song. Politti then sold the idea to Del Fi's Bob keene, so David had to secure a release for his Upfronts from Lummie. When he did, a new act was formed with Johnson, Early Harris, Leroy Sanders, former Cuban Johnny Simmons, and David's first baritone, Carl Burnett. A new Upfronts was formed by Lummie Fowler that included a young bass singer from the area named Barry White.
Now dubbed Little Caesar and the Romans by Paul Politti, David and company ( complete with togas, which the group despised) recorded and released the ode to oldies in the spring of 1961. By July 3rd it was number nine in the nation, heavily outscoring NINO AND THE EBB TIDES' East Coast version. The Romans began touring the country with artists like Etta James, THE VIBRATIONS, and the amazing Jackie Wilson. They appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," togas and all. On one show in Philadelphia the group lost their togas to overexuberant fans and finished the show in their shorts.
Their follow-up 45, a takeoff on THE OLYMPICS' "Hully Gully Baby" titled "Hully Gully Again," made it to number 54 in August. Their third single on Del Fi was their most nostalgic, combining the most memorable phrases from a whole host of oldies including "A Thousand Miles Away," "In the Still of the Night," "Oh What a Night," "Earth Angel," and the only slow version of "Stranded in the Jungle" ever recorded. The record only " bubbled under" at number 101 in September 1961. Del Fi was losing interest in the group. The Romans recorded an LP that included their fourth single, a nice reworking of the Moonglows classic, "Ten Commandments of Love," along with versions of THE COASTERS' " Searchin ," THE COLTS' "Adorable," and THE ELEGANTS' "Little Star." The group broke up in 1962 and Caesar became a solo act in the '60s and '70s.
Jay Warner (American singing groups: a history from 1940s to today)
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