•  The Whirlers aka The Empires (1) aka The Prestos
    Johnny Barnes, Bobby Dunn, William Goodman & Les Cooper

    The Empires (1) (Harlem, New-York)
    aka The Prestos aka The Whirlers

    Personnel :

    Johnny "Buddy" Barnes (Lead)

    Les Cooper (Tenor)

    William Goodman (Bass)

    Bobby Dunn (Baritone)

    Discography :

The Empires (1)

    Singles :
    1954 - My Baby, My Baby / Corn Whiskey (Harlem 2325)
    1955 - Magic Mirror / Make Me Or Break Me (Harlem 2333)
    1955 - I Want To Know  / Shirley (Wing 90023)
    1955 - Tell Me Pretty Baby / By The Riverside (Wing 90050)
    1956 - My First Discovery  / Don't Touch My Gal (Wing 90080)
    1956 - Whispering Heart / Linda (Whirlin' Disc 104)

    Unreleased :
    1955 - Happy Am I  (Wing)
    1955 - Your Christmas And Mine  (/Wing)
    1955 - You Are My Baby (Wing)
    1955 - The Clock (Wing)


Lightnin' Junior & The Empires (1)
    1955 - Somebody Changed The Lock / Ragged And Hungry (Harlem 2334)   

The Prestos
    1955 - Looking For Love  /' Til We Meet Again (Mercury 70747)

    The Whirlers
    1957 - Magic Mirror / Tonight And Forever (Whirlin' Disc 108/Port 108)

    Biography :

    The Empires hailed from Harlem, so it's only right that they began their recording career on the Harlem Records label. Consisting of Buddy Barnes, William Goodman, Bobby Dunn, and Les Cooper, the group came together in earnest in 1953, practicing R&B, pop, and gospel tunes, and occasionally performing in the area at small venues.  After a long search for a label to record them, they happened upon Morty Shad's Harlem label and released “Corn Whiskey” backed with “My Baby My Baby” ( Harlem #2325).

    The Whirlers aka The Empires (1) aka The Prestos

    Because they were from the Empire State, they first used the name the Empires. That single was a bust, but they got more chances at Harlem Records and in 1955 released the first version of one of their most beloved ballads, “Magic Mirror ,” backed with “Make Me or Break Me” (Harlem #2333).  They were then relegated to providing background vocals for an artist listed as Lightning Junior on Harlem (#2334). Lightning Junior was an alias for blues artist Champion Jack Dupree, but when nothing happened with this single, the Empires were released from Harlem Records. From there, the group landed at Mercury Records and recorded for both Mercury and their Wing imprint label under different names.

    The Whirlers aka The Empires (1) aka The Prestos
    Clockwise from top left : James Pender, William Goodman, Bobby Dunn, Johnny Barnes & Les Cooper

    On Mercury, they were the Prestos for one great release titled “Till We Meet Again ” backed with “Looking for Love” (Mercury #70747), and on the Wing wing, they kept their Empires name and released three singles, with “By the Riverside” being the most successful of the three (Wing #90050) in 1956. Mercury was really pushing and promoting their Wing subsidiary very heavily in all major markets of the country. Sadly, the records received much more trade promotion than actual airplay, and Wing eventually folded (not for a lack of trying) . Like their label mates the Platters and the Penguins, the Empires/Prestos were also managed by Buck Ram, but they did not attain the same level of success.

    The Whirlers aka The Empires (1) aka The Prestos   The Whirlers aka The Empires (1) aka The Prestos

    Citing the success of the Channels on the Whirlin' Disc label, the group pitched a recording contract with the company and got it. The result was two singles for the label—the first was a two-sided ballad release, “Linda” backed with “Whispering Heart” as by the Empires (Whirlin' Disc #104) in 1956, followed by a remake of “Magic Mirror” backed with a great up-tempo number called “Tonight and Forever". the latter as by the Whirlers (Whirlin' Disc #108) in 1957, a name inspired by the name of their label. This was one of the last releases for Whirlin' Disc, and it never got the push it deserved and flopped. At this point, the Empires/Prestos/Whirlers broke up, but there is a happy ending. Lead singer Les Cooper had a big instrumental hit in 1962 for the Everlast Records label (#5019) called “Wiggle Wobble.” It peaked at number 12 on the R&B charts and number 22 Pop. Despite many follow-ups for a myriad of record labels, Cooper was never able to cash in again.

    Songs :

    The Empires (1)

           Corn Whiskey                        Magic Mirror                      Make Me Or Break Me

    I Want To Know                          Shirley                                Tell Me Pretty Baby

    By The Riverside               My First Discovery                      Don't Touch My Gal

    Whispering Heart                             Linda       

Lightnin' Junior & The Empires (1)

    Somebody Changed The Lock                    Ragged And Hungry   

The Prestos

    Til We Meet Again  / Looking For Love

    The Whirlers

           Magic Mirror                              Tonight And Forever

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