THE FIESTAS

The black vocal group The Fiestas is generally considered as an early R&B / soul group, rather than a doowop ensemble. Hailing from Newark, New Jersey, the group was formed in 1958 by Tommy Bullock (lead), Eddie Morris (first tenor), Sam Ingalls (baritone) and Preston Lane (bass). There are two versions of how the group came to be signed by Hy Weiss's Old Town label. Weiss himself loved to recount how he heard them singing (through the wall) next door to his office, how he signed them on the spot and how their first recording session cost him only $40. More likely is the story that the group went to see Jim Gribble (manager of the Classics, Passions and Mystics) who had his own studio, where they cut a demo of "So Fine", which was subsequently pitched to Hy Weiss.

Released in October 1958 on Old Town 1062, "So Fine" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 until April 1959. This was partly due to the song not being intended as the A-side. The ballad "Last Night I Dreamed", featuring amazing octave-leaping falsettos by lead singer Tommy Bullock, was sent out as the plug side, but radio stations in the New York area soon flipped to the medium tempo "So Fine". Listeners were intrigued by the four part harmony throughout the song rather than the standard lead and backup format that was the norm for the vocal group style. "So Fine" would peak at # 11 on the pop charts and at # 3 R&B. However, amidst the merriment caused by this success, Hy Weiss received an unwelcome letter from Johnny Otis's lawyer. Otis claimed that "So Fine" (credited to Gribble and Weiss on the Old Town single) plagiarised his copyright registered by Eldorado Music. The song had been recorded in 1955 by the Sheiks (Federal 12237), a group that included Jesse Belvin, who is sometimes credited as the writer of "So Fine". The lawsuit was decided in favour of Otis and Eldorado. Weiss had to pay a designated sum of money plus the legal costs.

Old Town released 15 singles by the Fiestas between 1958 and 1965, in a variety of styles. "So Fine" was their only UK release (London HL 8870). The music of the Fiestas captures the changes going on in black music at the time and there are echoes of Sam Cooke, the Coasters and Jackie Wilson, though these are more to do with choice of material than the group's sound. After "So Fine", only "Broken Heart" (# 85 pop, 1962) managed to hold down a position on either the pop or R&B charts. After the group parted company with the Old Town label in 1965, Tommy Bullock left the group to record a few solo sides (as Tommy Andre), as well as duets with Cleveland Horne as Tommy & Cleve. In 1974 he rejoined the relatively inactive Fiestas for a slower soul revision of "So Fine" on the Vigor label. Their last single was "Thanks For the Sweet Memories" on Arista in 1978.

Reportedly, all four original members of the group are now deceased, with Preston Lane (who died October 27, 2006) as the longest survivor. "So Fine" has been recorded by The Ventures (1963), Paul and Paula (1963), The Newbeats (1964), The Everly Brothers (1965), Sonny & Cher (1966), Ike & Tina Turner (1968, # 50 R&B), Amen Corner (1969), Elvin Bishop (1969), The Gladiators (1970s), Steve Goodman (1971), Mud (1979), The New Johnny Otis Show (1981), The Oak Ridge Boys (1982, # 76 pop, # 22 country), Howard Johnson (1982, # 6 R&B), Petite (1986, # 86 R&B), Terry Evans (1994) and The Blue Angels (2002).

Acknowledgements: Jay Warner (Billboard book of American singing groups, p. 379-380), Wayne Jancik (Billboard book of One-hit wonders), All Music Guide, liner notes "(by John Broven) for "Hy Weiss Presents Old Town Records" (Ace CDCH2 979).

More info: http://home.earthlink.net/~v1tiger/fiestas.html
Discography: http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/fiestas.htm
CD : The Fiestas, Oh So Fine (Ace 382, 29 tracks)
Or : The Very Best Of the Fiestas : So Fine (Collectables, 25 tracks).

Dik

 
These pages were saved from "This Is My Story" for reference usage only. Please note that these pages were not originally published or written by BlackCat Rockabilly Europe. For comments or information please contact Dik de Heer at dik.de.heer@hetnet.nl

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