By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon
Whether you call it Rock’N’Roll, Rhythm & Blues or Doo Wop, the Black vocal group sound is one of signature musics of 1950s pop culture, and Buffalo’s most famous exponent was the Vibraharps. They performed regularly, had a long run of five years, and contained one future legend. Popular locally then, revered today by farflung collectors of the genre, parts of their story are still inexplicably mysterious.
I touched on their story in the past when I posted the two Vibraharps-related records by The Derbys. I’m still waiting for more info on them, still don’t know to what extent they’re related so I can’t expand on that. But I posted those about 9 months ago and I just realized that I never posted anything by the Vibraharps themselves so here ’tis.
This week’s post will be just some background, with more to come next week accompanying something from one of their 1959 efforts (on Atco or DAB). Today’s record is from 1956, Cosy With Rosy backed with Walk Beside Me on New York City’s Beech label.
The Vibraharps were co-founded by Donnie Elbert with Danny Cannon in 1955. Elbert served as songwriter and arranger (and apparently a very directive boss!). But his role on the records was limited to background vocals and possibly guitar. He was the group’s main instrumentalist.
Otherwise the group was Danny Cannon, Donald Simmons, Douglas Gibson, and Charles Hargro. Walk Beside Me is a ballad featuring Charles Hargro unusual bass vocal lead. Cosy With Rosy is an uptempo dancer with roots in lots of similar hits of the day. The lead here is probably Danny Cannon. Both sides were written by Buffalo songwriters Bobby Fonville & Ralph Hernandez.
This was the start of their career. They would follow with a 1959 “Vibraharps” single on Atco and a 1959 “Charles Hargro” single on DAB (which is apparently actually involved the whole group). Around this time, Donnie Elbert continued stepping back from his prominence in the group as his solo career took off – first on Deluxe Records, later on innumerable labels big and small. His exact role if any on the two 1959 records is unknown.
1959 also saw a Donnie Elbert-written release on Mercury by The Derbys, who may or may not be The Vibraharps. 1961’s Derbys single on Savoy was again written by Fonville & Hernandez.
Soon after Danny Cannon began HIS solo career with the new stage name of Lenny O’Henry. He released five singles in the early 1960s, all very good, on the Atco, ABC-Paramount and Smash labels
Charles Hargro even had one further solo release on Buffalo’s Launch Records – a subsidiary of MoDo – circa 1969.
There is yet one more mystery attached to the Vibraharps, a 1961 release by The Hi-Tones on Seg-Way Records (out of Philadelphia, I think). This is rumored to be the Vibraharps. It’s definitely Hargro, whose bass voice is instantly recognizable.
Check back next week for more more Vibraharps and as always, MORE INFO IS ALWAYS WELCOME. Talk to me!