Born Ronald David Bright, 18 October 1938, New York City, New York
Question : Who has been a member of the Coasters for 40 years? Longer than anyone else, except Carl Gardner, the patriarch of the Coasters? I bet the name Ronnie Bright does not immediately spring to mind. Yet he has been a true Coaster ever since he replaced Will "Dub" Jones as the bass vocalist of the group in April 1968. Ronnie's first group was the Valentines, formed in 1952. Originally a quartet called the Dreamers, they would practice on street corners in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem (from 130th to 161st Street), mainly to impress girls and to show up other groups. Things began to get serious after a fifth member was added : Richard Barrett, former lead singer of the Angels in Philadelphia. Barrett had written a song called "Summer Love", which they demoed for Bruce Records. When Monte Bruce failed to release the song, the Valentines went to see Hy Weiss, who ran Old Town Records on 125th Street. Old Town did release "Summer Love" (1009), towards the end of 1954, but the label had poor distribution and the record went unnoticed. The group moved to George Goldner's Rama label, which issued seven 45s by the group, 1955-1957. The best of these were "Lily Maebelle" (Rama 171) and "The Woo Woo Train" (Rama 196). In 1956, original member Raymond Briggs was replaced by David Clowney, who would become Dave "Baby" Cortez. The Valentines broke up in 1958, without ever having had a national hit, though they were very popular around New York City in the mid-1950s.
Ronnie Bright joined a reformed version of the Cadillacs (led by Earl Carroll) in 1960, but this lasted only a few months. During the early 1960's, Ronnie was much in demand as a studio bass backup singer, for instance on Barry Mann's "Who Put the Bomp" and Jackie Wilson's "Baby Workout". He was "Mr. Bass Man" on Johnny Cymbal's hit of the same name (# 16, 1963). Bright also recorded as Ronnie and the Schoolmates and toured the world with the Deep River Boys. In 1968 he was invited to join the Coasters as their new bass singer, after the departure of Will "Dub" Jones. The other three Coasters at that time were Carl Gardner (lead), Billy Guy (baritone, in 1973 replaced by Jimmy Norman) and Earl "Speedo" Carroll (tenor). After leaving Atco in 1966, they had recorded for Date Records, a subsidiary of Columbia, with no success, and after one 1969 single for Loyd Price's Turntable label, the Coasters found themselves without a record label for the first time in their existence. But they made the most of the touring opportunities that six past Top 10 hits can provide.
Since the Coasters' final recording in 1976 ("If I Had A Hammer" on American International 1122), the club and concert audience has seen a plethora of Coasters groups, usually comprising one former "genuine" Coaster (Nunn, Jones, Guy, Hughes). The real Coasters are the group led by Carl Gardner, who continued to sing lead until 2006 and who now acts as their coach. The current lineup is : Carl Gardner, Jr (lead), Alvin Morse (baritone), J.W. Lance (tenor), Ronnie Bright (bass) and Thomas "Curley" Palmer, guitar.
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