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About Pearls

Led by Howard "Howie" Guyton, the Pearls bloomed on Detroit's music scene around the same time as the Royals (later the Midnighters). While not as renowned as the Royals, the Pearls were arguably as good. Visually, they were ladies' men and players: conked/processed hair, bow ties, and immaculate matching threads made them quite an eyeful to the chicks. With a lineup comprised of Guyton, Derek Martin, Coley Washington, George Torrance, and Dave Clowney (tenor/piano) they cut "Please Let Me Know" on Aladdin in 1954 as the Five Pearls two years after the Royals debuted with "Every Beat of My Heart" on Federal Records. That first single remains the Pearls' most illustrious piece and its modest success whetted their appetite for more, which they sought with Onyx Records via "Shadows of Love" (written by Clowney, Guyton, and Don Angelo); the beautiful piece came close to the misty romanticism of the Aladdin single; when sales started to pick up, it was licensed to Atco Records, as was the follow-up "Bells of Love." Five more Onyx waxings from 1956 to 1957 received critical acclaim and love from all who heard the modest R&B hits, but none became the big-blasting bust-out they sorely needed. They included "Let's You and I Go Steady," "Ice Cream Baby," and a doo wop version of "Your Cheating Heart." At least three more singles came out by them: "Band of Angels"/"Ugly Face" (On the Square Records); "It Must Be Love"/"I Cried" (Amber Records); and "More Than the Day Before," on OKeh Records (1959) as Howie & the Sapphires.
Guyton (now deceased) continued recording and formed the Top Notes with Derek Martin and two females for four singles on Atlantic Records from 1960 to 1961. Their last Atlantic single was the original version of "Twist and Shout." It did nothing for them, but the Isley Brothers' cover became a smash for Wand Records. The Top Notes tried twice more on Festival and ABC Records, respectively, but neither took off. As a solo (i.e., "I Watched You Slowly Slip Away" [Verve 1965]), Guyton received little support and eventually faded from the scene.
Clowney replaced Raymond Briggs in the Valentines (Old Town and Rama Records) late in 1956 and worked as an arranger and a studio and road musician. He exploded in 1959 with "Happy Organ," a number-one hit for Clock Records, as Dave "Baby" Cortez while playing piano for Little Anthony & the Imperials. It marked the first commercial use of an organ in pop/R&B music. It was also a mistake; the original title was "The Dog and the Cat" with vocals; but he didn't like the vocals and opted to play a big Hammond organ on the track instead. The follow-up, "Whistling Organ," floundered, but the magic came again with "Rinky Dink," a number ten pop and nine R&B chart-breaker for Chess Records. ~ Andrew Hamilton