During the 1950s, the Spiders were the premier R&B vocal group in New Orleans. The group centered around two brothers, Hayward 'Chuck' Carbo (1926-2008) and Leonard 'Chick' Carbo (1927-1998). Both were born in Houma, a town west of New Orleans.Their father was a minister, Reverend Henry Carbo, who in 1932 moved his family to New Orleans.
The origins of the Spiders lay in a gospel group called the Zion Harmonizers. Chick Carbo was one of the founding members in 1947, Chuck joined a year later. In 1950 they changed their name to the Delta Southernaires. The other members were Joe Maxon, Matthew West and Oliver Howard.
In 1953 they were "discovered" by Phyllis Boone, who worked for Cosimo Matassa at J&M Studios and asked them to audition there for Imperial Records. They tried several gospel songs, but that's not what Imperial wanted. Matassa, who saw their potential, told them to come back when they had some R&B numbers. Chuck Carbo knew Adolph Smith of the Monitors, who was not only a vocalist and guitarist, but also a songwriter. Smith wrote two songs for them, "I Didn't Want To Do It" and "You're the One", which were subsequently recorded on December 11, 1953. The group was backed by Cosimo Matassa's studio band : Lee Allen on tenor sax, Red Tyler on baritone sax, Ernest McLean on guitar, Frank Fields on bass, Edward Frank on piano and Earl Palmer on drums.
The group had to think of a new name to disguise their identity for their gospel audience. Chuck's wife Gloria came up with the name The Spiders and under that name they had their debut single released in the first week of 1954 (Imperial 5265). "I Didn't Want To Do It" was banned from the airwaves in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, because the lyrics were deemed too erotic. Nevertheless, the record climbed to # 3 on the R&B charts, and the ballad side,"You're the One", also went Top 10 (# 8). A great start. Soon the Spiders were touring all over the country. Cosimo Matassa and Phyllis Boone acted as their managers. But problems would soon arise. WWEZ disc jockey Jack the Cat revealed that the Delta Southernaires and the Spiders were the same group. This meant the end of their gospel career. For the sin of singing suggestive R&B, the group was kicked out of the Historic Second Baptist Church, which had been their home base until then. However, they never stopped singing gospel on their own. Imperial's owner, Lew Chudd, created dissension in the group by inviting lead singer Chuck Carbo to come to Los Angeles and offering him a solo contract. Though Chuck declined, the other group members were mad, simply because he had gone to L.A. without them. In the autumn of 1954, after the death of his son, Chuck Carbo temporarily left the group for a solo career.
But prior to that, the Spiders scored another hit. Their third single, the Dave Bartholomew composition "I'm Slippin' In", peaked at # 6 (R&B) in the summer of 1954. It was the only Spiders single to get a UK release (London HL 8086). Two singles later, "Twenty-One" (based on Jewel King's 1950 hit "3 x 7 = 21"), went to # 9, now with Chick Carbo as the lead vocalist. Their final chart entry came in late 1955, preceded by more internal conflict in the group. With Chuck back on lead, "Witchcraft" became a # 5 hit. Elvis Presley would record the song in 1963 (with a terrific sax solo by Boots Randolph), on the flip of "Bossa Nova Baby".
Four more singles were released in 1956, credited to "The Spiders featuring Chuck Carbo", but the hits stopped coming and the group soon broke up. Chuck recorded two solo singles for Imperial in 1957, before moving on to the Rex and Ace labels, where Mac Rebennack produced him. My favourite from this period is "Yes I Got You" (available on Spotify - in 2 good versions, one with and one without a girl chorus - and YouTube), though the track was not originally released by Ace. Later releases appeared on Teem, Etah, Canyon, Fireball and SuperDome. Chuck eventually became a dump truck driver, but returned to music with solo albums for the 504 (1989) and Rounder labels (1993, 1996). Chick Carbo formed a new group of Spiders, with whom he recorded one last Spiders single for Imperial in October 1960 (a remake of "You're the One"). He recorded solo singles for Atlantic (already in 1956), Vee-Jay, Instant and Revue, without any success.
The other Spiders quickly scatttered. At this time of writing (August 2010), only Joe Maxon is still alive from the original group. The Spiders' legacy is quite impressive. The two great assets of their Imperial recordings are Chuck Carbo's superb voice ("the best voice to come out of New Orleans in the last 30 years", said Dave Bartholomew in a 1982 interview) and the ultra-professional backing from Cosimo Matassa's studio band, with many great sax breaks by Lee Allen on the up-tempo numbers.
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