Even the most avid Motown fanatics are unaware of the Serenaders, yet the New York-based group cut their final single on Motown's VIP label. Forming in 1956, the central figures were George Kerr, Sidney Barnes, and Timothy "Andre" Wilson, and various other members serenaded in out and out over the years. They debuted on Chock Full of Hits records with "Never Let Me Go" b/w "I Wrote a Letter" in 1957. When it started to move, MGM records acquired it for mass distribution in 1958. It sold enough locally to get the guys another shot at MGM, but "Dance, Darling Dance" b/w "Give Me a Girl" (1958) never got to first base and the associated ended. In 1959, they dropped "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart" on the Cross Country label, but sales were disappointing.
The lion's share of the Serenaders' material was written by George Kerr with some collaborations with Sidney Barnes and others. Later in 1959, they moseyed over to Rae-Cox records for one release, "My Girl Flip Flop" b/w "Gotta Go to School," two good well-sung novelty types that failed to register. Members splintered, but the core members stayed in touch, and after many false starts and unfulfilled promises got another chance in 1963 on Riverside records with "Adios My Love" b/w "Two Lovers Make One Fool."
They never sold well outside the New York/Jersey/Philly area. What should have been a big break with Motown became a major letdown. Signed by Raynoma Gordy out of Motown's New York office, the Serenaders never got a real shot. Even though they were blessed with George Kerr, a songwriting fool, and the major reason Raynoma signed them in the first place; Sidney Barnes, also a constant writer, with a vocal range from first tenor to bass, and Timothy Wilson, who sounded like Little Anthony.
Motown finally released the Serenaders' "If Your Heart Says Yes," a Kerr/Barnes composition, on its VIP label in 1964; it possessed loads of charm, and with promotion could have went places, but neglect caused it to flop miserably. You won't find it on any of the many Motown compilations albums, cassettes, or compact disks. Temptations Eddie Kendricks and Elbridge Bryant sang with the Serenaders on the A-side and its flip "I'll Cry Tomorrow." Shortly after that, they broke up. Timothy Wilson married Raynoma's sister Alice; Wilson previously sung with Tiny Tim & the Hits on Roulette records. Sidney Barnes did some solo's and got into producing, as did George Kerr who was more successful. Kerr produced Linda Jones' "Hypnotized," and stellar sides for the Whatnauts, the O'Jays, the Moments, Lonnie Youngblood, and others, in addition to singing with Little Anthony & the Imperials on their New Time recordings. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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