• The Rivileers (Queens, New-York)


    Personnel :

    Gene Pearson (Tenor Lead)

    Herb Crosby (First Tenor)

    Errol Lennard (Second Tenor)

    Alfonso Delaney (Baritone)

    Milton Edwards (Bass)


    Discography :

    The Rivileers
    1954 - Darling Farewell / Forever (Baton 201) 

    1954 - Eternal Love / Carolyn (Baton 205)
    1954 - For Sentimental Reasons / I Want To See My Baby (Baton 207) 

    1955 - Don't Ever Leave Me / Little Girl (Baton 209) 
    N/A - I (Baton) (Unreleased)
    N/A - Sing Little Bird (Baton) (Unreleased)
    N/A - How Am I To Know (Baton) (Unreleased)
    N/A - Deep Down Inside (Baton) (Unreleased)

    Gene Pearson & The Rivileers
    1953 - A Thousand Stars / Hey Chiquita (Baton 200)
    1957 - A Thousand Stars / Who Is The Girl (Baton 241)

    Biography :

    The Rivileers evolved from a vocal group formed at Jamaica High School (yes, the home of The Cleftones and Heartbeats, among others) in 1953. The members of the newly formed group were Eugene Pearson - lead, Alfonso Delaney - baritone, Herb Crosby and Erroll Leonard - tenors, and Milton Edwards - bass. The original name of the group was The Five Bells which was later changed to The Harmoneers. They began to perform around the local area and soon began developing original material much of it written by Gene Pearson. As the quintet began to build a reputation in the area, they thought about a name change to set themselves apart from the many vocal groups trying to make it in the music scene of the early fifties. While visiting in manhattan, a couple of the guys passed by the marquee of the famous Rivoli Theater near Times Square. That name seemed to beckon with the "right" sound, and so The Rivileers were born.

    The next step was to secure a shot at recording some of their work. Through a mutual friend of one of the members of the group, they were put in contact with Sol Rabinowitz who had an idea of starting his own record company to record some of the local talent in the city. And so hearing the Rivileers and liking what he heard, Baton Records was born. The new group gathered at Bell Sound Studios in New York in late 1953 and "A Thousand Stars" and "Hey Chiquita" was the first recording on the Baton label on #200.

    In the Northeast the record began to get recognition and soon the fledgling label was advertising in the trade papers that "Stars" was heading for a million in sales. Heady thoughts perhaps, but maybe it was just a bit of wishful thinking on their very first release. By march of 1954 reports out of Chicago attest to the popularity of the Rivileers recording. By late in the month "A Thousand Stars" is a big seller in New York and vicinity and Los Angeles, and starting to pick up in the Midwest. Lack of proper distribution, long the bane of R & B independent labels, is the one factor that is holding back national hit status.

    In late May, Baton #201 is released featuring The Rivileers. The songs are "Forever" and "Darling Farewell". Coming on the heels of their impressive debut, a lot was predicted for the second release by the group. However, things just didn't work out to the Rivileers advantage. The one place that the record does fairly well is surprisingly Los Angeles, which gives a good reception for the New York group. Over all, the second release by the group by all counts is an excellent effort but does not do well in producing sales or garnering air play on radio stations in the major markets. The Rivileers make appearances during the year mostly staying in the Northeastern part of the country and readying their next record for Baton. During the last week in October The Rivileers try again. The songs "Eternal Love" written by Gene Pearson and waxed by the group at their initial recording session, and "Carolyn" which was written by Alfonso Delaney are released on Baton #205.

    In December of the year, The Rivileers and Guitar Slim make an appearance in Harlem for record fans at The After Hours Record Bar for Lexy "Flap" Hanford. At year's end The Rivileers make their fourth record for Baton with "For Sentimental Reasons" and "I Want To See My Baby" on #207. "For Sentimental Reasons" begins selling immediately on both coasts and is also reported to be a good seller in Atlanta and Nashville. The group now consists of Alfonso Delaney, Herb Crosby, and two new members Mel Dancey and Pete LeMonier, with Gene Pearson rejoining while on leave from the military. During the first week of February in 1955, The Rivileers appear at the Apollo Theater with headliner LaVern Baker. On the top rated morning AM radio show in New York on WNEW, Klavan and Finch rant about the state of music and break a copy of "Sentimental Reasons" by The Rivileers on the air. As "Sentimental Reasons" continues to be the biggest seller of the group's career, Baton readies the newest release by the group in early April. Baton #209 pairs "Don't Ever Leave Me" and "Little Girl" by the group. This side however, does not get very far.

    At the time they were not aware of the fortunes of The Rivileers, but #209 was the last original Baton release by the group. They went their separate ways, with Gene Pearson joining the ranks of The Cleftones in their late 50s - early 60s lineup. Baton Records re-released "A Thousand Stars" on #241 with a different flip side - "Who Is The Girl", and got some additional sales, but nothing of substance. One of the reasons for the breakup is the old story of economic exploitation.

    "For Sentimental Reasons" was reported to sell close to 750,000 copies, and "A Thousand Stars" about half that. For more than a million records sold the royalties were certainly negligible. What else is new ? Gene Pearson passed away in 2000, and I always remember his hasty entrance (still in uniform from his NYC Transit Authority gig) on the stage of the NY Academy of Music on 14th Street to join Herbie Cox and the rest of The Cleftones for a rock revival show in 1970. The rest of the guys have led successful lives with Mel Dancey the most involved in show business in music and acting.

    The Rivileers recorded only five records during their three year existence, but two of the five will forever be linked with the time that the music and the culture changed for all time. They will always be remembered when the story of the founding of this revolution will be told.


    Songs :

    A Thousand Stars                         Carolyn

    For Sentimental Reasons            Don't Ever Leave Me



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