2 March, 1963
It was the month when vocal harmonies filled the U.S. airwaves. The first number one of the month was The Four Seasons’ Walk Like A Man. Next up, on March 23, was Ruby and The Romantics’ Our Day Will Come, while the month’s tally of chart-topping harmony hits concluded on March 30 when The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine began its four-week reign at the top of the Billboard charts.
All revelled in high harmonies, a certain pep and a feel for matters of the heart – and all three had a tale to tell. Walk Like A Man provided The Four Seasons with the accolade of being the first group in the history of the all-important Hot 100 to notch three consecutive number one singles. Our Day Will Come, was the result of the first time lead singer Ruby Nash had ever entered a recording studio. And He’s So Fine staked a second, belated, claim to fame when, in 1976, a judge decided that George Harrison had subconsciously cloned My Sweet Lord from The Chiffons’ 1963 hit.
Fire-Fighters Smashed The Door Down...
Walk Like A Man, penned by the song-making machine that was Bob Crewe (with Bob Gaudio), proved literally hot right from the very beginning. According to session guitarist Vinnie Bell, Crewe, who also produced the single, locked the studio door while it was being recorded unaware that that a fire had started somewhere in the building. After a couple of takes, smoke began to filter through but Crewe refused to abandon the session and continued on his search for the perfect take until fire-fighters smashed the door down and dashed into the studio on a rescue mission, flattening Crewe in the process.
Like The Four Seasons, The Romantics, from Akron, Ohio, started out as a male quartet. Originally known as The Supremes. They had got together in high school but after graduation headed for New York to try their luck with various small labels. Returning to Akron, they met up with Ruby Nash who sang in local clubs. The Supremes’ bass singer Leroy Fann suggested that Nash might provide them with a new image and, more importantly, a commercial sound. Kapp Records thought the group had something to offer but Allen Stanton, the label’s A&R man, doubtless aware that something was happening over at Detroit’s Motown hideout, insisted: “First you gotta come up with a new name.”
It was Stanton himself who dubbed them Ruby and The Romantics. They hated the idea but went along with Stanton’s suggestion. After all, Kapp was a company with an impressive roster, one that included such hitmakers as Jack Jones, Roger Williams and Julius LaRosa. There was an audition, one which Ruby Nash claims: “Everyone in the group sang everything we knew.” It proved a six-hour long stint. Allen Stanton liked what he heard and did the deal. Meanwhile songwriters Bob Hilliard and Mort Garson had penned Our Day Will Come, which sounded a cert hit. “Let us do that song,” pleaded Ruby. But there was a snag, Hillard and Garson didn’t want their latest creation to be recorded by nobodies. A deal was done. If Ruby and The Romantics’ debut single flopped, the song would be offered to Jack Jones.
But it didn’t flop, instead, hauled along on the back of some roller-rink organ, Our Day Will Come headed to the top of the charts, albeit for one week only. Years later, someone would remember it, that someone proving to be Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons, the group they had once toppled from the heights. In 1976, Valli recorded Our Day Will Come and took it back up to number 11 in the U.S. hot 100 and fifth place in the U.K.
“For Ronnie Mack, it was the last throw of the dice.”
The story of He’s So Fine got underway when writer Ronnie Mack took the song into the office of a production company run by doo-wop group-turned-production team The Tokens. They were smitten and asked Mack if he had a group to record it. Mack promptly hurtled back to the Bronx to alert The Chiffons, a former high school quartet. Eventually they were hauled into a studio to deliver He’s So Fine, in all its “doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang” intro glory. At which point The Tokens, who actually played all the instruments on the recording, became the first vocal group to produce a Number one record for another group. For Ronnie Mack though, it was the last throw of the dice. Shortly after He’s So Fine clambered to the top, Mack, who had Hodgkin's disease, collapsed in the street and was taken to a nearby hospital where he died, aged just 23. But not before The Tokens made a visit to place a gold record in his hands.