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Could Not Break Away From The Small Label Curse
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here was a group practically made for the R&B charts but, in ultimately becoming a member of the dreaded one-hit wonder club, that one hit not only did not make the R&B Top 100, it took two cracks to even make a dent in the Billboard Pop Hot 100. Furthermore, it needed an extra push to do that.
Like many such artists in those days, they were talented but, unfortunately, had to rely on a small, independent label to promote their music. So, unless the song was exceptional [such as Book Of Love by The Monotones on Argo or Get A Job by The Silhouettes on Ember - two very prominent one-hit wonders], or certain palms were greased [the infamous payola scandal], the artist didn't stand much of a chance at seeing his/her/their song featured on radio and, consequently, in record sales.
Led by Nate "Little Nat" Bouknight [who sounded very similar to Frankie Lymon], The Shells consisted of baritone Gus Geter, tenors Bobby Nurse and Randy "Shade" Alston, and bass Danny Small. They recorded Baby Oh Baby for the small Johnson label in 1957 b/w Angel Eyes and, not being exceptional in the same vein as those mentioned above, it quickly faded from sight.
Nothing else they did worked either, although Sippin' Soda in 1958 [track 13] and She Wasn't Meant For Me in 1959 [not here] were decent enough cuts which could have fared better with better backing, and so by late 1960 they were virtually forgotten. Until, that is, two re-issue artists named Don Fileti and Wayne Stierle began pushing new prints of Baby Oh Baby, this time with the B-side amended to read What's In An Angel's Eyes? And, thanks to their influence in getting it played, it made it to # 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 early in 1961.
As they had long since gone their separate ways, a hasty re-assembly was arranged and the group cut several more sides - both soul-oriented and pure pop - but once again they just could not receive sufficient promotion to get them back onto the charts. Some of their better work in this period includes Explain It to Me [track 10], Happy Holiday [track 7], on which newcomer Ray Lamont Jones sings lead, as well as Be Sure My Love and So Fine, neither of which are included here.
In 1963 Josie Records took a chance on two struggling groups - The Shells and The Dubs - when they issued the LP The Dubs Meet the Shells, and while it did all right in terms of sales it did nothing to resurrect either group's singles careers.
This Collectables compilation gives you both sides of their lone hit plus a few of their failed singles in a neat package with quality sound and decent liner notes."