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The Carnations

Long Tall Girl

Things were happening so fast at Les Cahan's Beltone Records that he established a subsidiary label named after himself, Lescay, to help handle the overflow. The Carnations' only single got shuttled over to Lescay; the raucous Long Tall Girl didn't chart but did reasonably well on the East Coast.

The quintet formed in 1954 at Watersville Junior High in Bridgeport, Connecticut (they were all 13 years old). Leads Carl Hatton and Matthew Morales, Harvey Arrington, Alan Mason, and Arthur Blackwell called themselves The Startones at first. Service stints broke them up for awhile, but they reformed as The Teardrops with Matthew, Carl, Harvey, Edward Kennedy, and Arthur's younger brother, Tommy Blackwell, taking over as bass. Bo Diddley dug their harmonies, inviting them to doo-wop on his 1959 Checker hits I'm Sorry and Crackin' Up.

While searching for a recording contract at 1650 Broadway (along with the Brill Building, ground zero for New York's indie labels), the quintet took a break to harmonize in the men's room. Beltone A&R man Joe Rene overheard their blend and invited them back to his office. The group had a couple of originals penned by Junius McKeithen: Long Tall Girl (bandleader Rene shared writer's credit) and the ballad Is There Such A World. The riffing trumpet and Blackwell's bopping bass make for an unusual intro on Long Tall Girl (Hatton sang lead), cut March 2, 1961 but not out on Lescay until October under a new name: The Carnations.

Like his brother before him, Tommy Blackwell joined the military, and the short-lived Carnations splintered. Beltone never bothered with an encore.


Various Street Corner Symphonies 1961 Vol.13

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