- Claude Trenier, born born Claude Oliver Trenier,14 July 1919, Mobile, Alabama. Died 17 November 2003, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Cliff Trenier, born Clifton L. Trenier, 14 July 1919, Mobile, Alabama
The Treniers were an American R&B group who formed a bridge between swing and rock n roll. The twin brothers Claude and Cliff Trenier were the nucleus of the group. Not only were they good vocalists, but talented dancers and comedians as well. This made the Treniers basically a live act. Entering a studio, much of the fire and madness died, which probably explains why the group failed to make an impact on the charts. Claude and Cliff formed their first band, the Alabama State Collegians, in college in 1939. Claude left in 1943 to replace Dan Grissom as lead singer with Jimmie Lunceford's swing orchestra and Cliff joined him the following year. The brothers went solo in 1947, calling themselves the Trenier Twins. They were backed by the Gene Gilbeaux Quartet, which included two members that would serve the Treniers for decades : Gene Gilbeaux on piano and Don Hill on alto sax. The Trenier Twins signed with Chicago's fledgling Mercury label and cut their first session for the firm in L.A. in February of 1947 ("Buzz Buzz Buzz"/"Sure Had A Wonderful Time"). Soon they built up a fast-growing reputation as a stunning live act. It was the owner of a Chicago jazz club, the Blue Note, who first thought to bill them as "The Rockin' Rollin' Treniers" in the summer of 1949, not long after their older brother Buddy (born 1913) had joined them.
In 1951, the Treniers (as they now called themselves) were signed to a 5-year contract with the Columbia subsidiary OKeh by Danny Kessler, who had been put in charge of that reactivated label's R&B product. By then their younger brother Milt had also joined the group. Their sound shifted from swing to a more R&B influenced style. They anticipated some crucial elements of rock n roll with their solid, thumping beats, their squealing sax solos, and their song titles, such as "Rocking on Sunday Night" (1952), "It Rocks! It Rolls! It Swings!" (also 1952) and "Rockin' Is Our Bizness" (1953). Also, their on stage acrobatics were seen as precursors to the wild antics of many later rock n roll groups. The Treniers' brand of swing-cum-R&B was undoubtedly an influence on Bill Haley, who saw them when both acts were playing summer shows in Wildwood, NJ. Haley wrote "Rock-A Beatin' Boogie" for the Treniers in 1953. But their version sank without a trace, while Haley's own 1955 version went to # 23.
The first OKeh single, "Go! Go! Go!", gave the Treniers their only national hit in 1951 (# 10 R&B). Like many early R&B pioneers, they were unable to find success in the rock n roll era, though they appeared in four rock & roll films : "Don't Knock the Rock", "The Girl Can't Help It" (both 1956), "Calypso Heat Wave" (1957) and "Juke Box Rhythm" (1959). But the group retained a strong following and became a mainstay of the Vegas circuit. In fact, the Treniers were one of the first black acts to perform in Las Vegas (as early as 1948), overcoming the segregation policies of the 1940s and 1950s. They performed at nearly every lounge in town.
When Jerry Lee Lewis embarked on his disastrous British tour in May 1958, guess who was his supporting act? The Treniers, who didn't offend anyone the way the Killer did. "After they threw him out, we had to continue with the tour", says Milt. "We did 31 one-nighters. First time we ever done one-nighters. Never did before, because we always did Miami Beach in the winter, Wildwood in the summer, go back to Vegas".
After OKeh / Epic they recorded for RCA / Vik (1956), Coral / Brunswick (1957-58), Hermitage (1958) and Dot (1959). Milt Trenier left the group in 1959 to do his own thing with a solo 45 for Dot, "I'm Gonna Catch Me A Rat" (later recorded by Gene Vincent). He went on to forge a successful career as a lounge singer. Nephew Skip Trenier was drafted into the Treniers as a replacement and they kept on rocking without so much as a pause. With more family members ready to join the ranks whenever needed as the decades progressed, the only thing that ultimately broke up the Treniers was time's relentless passage. Cliff died on March 2, 1983, but even that devastating loss didn't stop Claude from bravely carrying on the all-night escapades with his familial crew right up to his November 17, 2003 death of cancer. It was the end of an era. Saxophonist Don Hill (born November 1, 1921) is now the last surviving original member of the Treniers.
More info : http://www.roctober.com/roctober/greatness/treniers.html
Discography : http://www.rockabilly.net/milttrenier/discog.shtml
Recommended CD : The Treniers Rock (Bear Family BCD 16164). 32 tracks from 1950-1957. Released 2010. Liner notes (62-page booklet) by Bill Dahl.
Acknowledgements : Bill Dahl, Nick Tosches (book "Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll", 1991, p. 92-98).
Dik, June 2012
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