R&B vocal group the Carnations were formed in 1954 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA, by leads Matthew Morales and Carl Hatton, with Harvey Arrington, Alan Mason and Arthur Blackwell. Based in the Yellow Mill River ghetto school Watersville Junior High, they started singing together aged 13 and initially took the name Startones. Under this name they recorded two singles, ‘Betty’, from 1954, and ‘I Love You So Dearly’, in 1956. The following year their career was interrupted when two members, Hatton and Arrington, joined and Blackwell’s younger brother, Tommy, took his place. In 1959 Edward Kennedy stepped in for Mason, who had joined another group. At this stage a further name change was required, and the Startones became the Teardrops. As such they made the acquaintance of Bo Diddley, who took them on tour and in 1959 asked them to back him on the recording of his R&B hit I’m Sorry’. Also recorded at the same sessions was ‘Crackin’ Up’, which became Diddley’s first record to reach the Billboard Top 100, though on neither of the releases were the Teardrops properly credited. By 1960 the group had moved on to a near-residency at the Apollo Theatre in New York, winning its famed talent contests for six weeks in a row. They still remained without a contract, however, despite their treks through New York’s music industry corridors. After one particularly frustrating day, the group retired to a toilet in one record company building to revive their spirits by practising harmony. Joe René, A&R director of Beltone Records, was in the vicinity, and a contract was arranged with subsidiary label Lescay Records. However, Beltone insisted on a change of name from the generic Teardrops, and the quartet became the Carnations. Their October 1961 debut single, ‘Long Tall Girl’, sold well locally (and has become a major doo-wop favourite for later generations), but not enough to establish them as serious chart contenders. Lescay pulled the plug quickly, leaving two proposed singles, ‘Arlene’ and ‘Crying Shame’, unreleased.Portions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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