The Dovells were a white vocal group from Philadelphia who had great success with dance-craze records in the 1960s. The group started out as a sextet called the Brooktones in 1957. The lead singer was Len Barry, who was born as Leonard Borisoff on June 12, 1942, in Philadelphia. The other members were (by their adopted names) Jerry Summers, Mike Dennis, Arnie Silver, Danny Brooks and part-timer Mark Stevens. According to several sources, they made one record as the Brooktones, the Len Barry penned "No No No", but I can't find any label information for this track, if it was released at all. The group did release a record in June 1959, though, credited to the Boss-Tones : "Mope-Itty Mope"/ "Wings Of An Angel" (Boss 401, reissued on V-Tone 208 in 1960). This sold well in Philadelphia, but apparently not well enough for Jerry and Mike, who left in 1960 to form a new group called the Gems. However, they would return in 1961, after the group had signed with the Cameo Parkway label, where Bernie Lowe renamed them the Dovells. Their first release on that label was the above-mentioned "No No No" (Parkway 819), either the first release of this song or a remake of the Brooktones version.

All the group members were into rhythm and blues, naming Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and Jackie Wilson among their favourites. For their second single they recorded the 1957 Teenagers ballad "Out In the Cold Again". But this became the B-side after Cameo's staff writers Kal Mann and Dave Appell hastily came up with a tune called "Bristol Stomp", which was basically a rewrite of "Every Day Of the Week" by the Students. Released in June 1961, the record had a slow start, but eventually peaked at # 2 in Billboard in the week of October 23. Parkway had found the Dovells' niche and they kept filling it with dance titles like "Do the New Continental" (# 37), "Bristol Twistin' Annie" (# 27) and "Hully Gully Baby" (# 25), all in 1962. Sounding to many as a black group, the Dovells performed more at black shows and theatres than in white venues.

A vocal version of the 1961 Phil Upchurch hit "You Can't Sit Down" was their last big success (# 3 in 1963), but the group stayed with Parkway until the end of 1964. Jerry Summers later told writer Krazy Greg Milewski : "Cameo-Parkway was not what I call a professionally run company. It was quick turnover, get the product out, jam as much as they could down the public's throat and sell as much as they could ... Bernie Lowe's thing was don't go for quality, go for quantity. Throw enough up against the wall, something's going to stick".

Len Barry left the Dovells in late 1963 to embark upon a solo career. He placed six Decca singles on the pop charts in 1965-1966, among which the # 2 smash "1-2-3" (November 1965). In the UK, where the Dovells did not score any hits, Barry's "1-2-3" peaked at # 3. The Dovells were down to a trio (Summers, Dennis and Silver) by 1965, the year in which they made an appearance in the movie "Don't Knock the Twist". In 1968, they scored a # 54 hit on MGM with "Here Come the Judge" (sic), credited to the Magistrates. Their last record, in 1974, was a remake of "Dancin' In the Streets" (# 105), from the Martha and the Vandellas songbook. However, the group continued to perform and in 1991 Len Barry rejoined Summers and Stevens for an LP (rerecording many of their original hits) and some reunion performances. The two current Dovells, Summers and Stevens, still do 50 to 60 gigs a year.

Dovells website:
Further acknowledgements : Jay Warner, All Music Guide.
Jerry Summers quote from Jim Dawson's book "The Twist : The Story Of the Song That Changed the World" (page 99). Boston : Faber & Faber, 1995.

CD : The Best Of the Dovells, 1961-1965 (Abcko 92262). 21 tracks.
First legal reissue on CD (2005).


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