VERNON GREEN AND THE MEDALLIONS (By Shaun Mather)
Born Vernon Billy Green, 1 May 1937, Dallas, Texas
Vernon Green and the Medallions were one of many young vocal groups on the now legendary Los Angeles scene during the 50's. And whilst Green may not have had the stunning voice of some of his contemporees like Arthur Lee Maye, the groups efforts for the local Dootone label have a great charm and have withstood the test of time.
Green who was partly crippled from polio, formed the group with Randolph Bryant, Andrew Blue and Ira Foley. They were spotted by Dootone owner Dootsie Williams who was drawn to the 16 year old Green's "bluesy quality".
Their first studio session took place in the summer of 1954, with Williams refraining from adding too much instrumentation, choosing to retain the raw, a cappella qualities that were natural to the band. The result was Buick 59 (Dootone 347). Car songs were a big part of rock 'n' roll from the beginning, but the choice of year was the intriguing thing. According to Green, he called it Buick 59 because it could stay relevant for at least 5-6 years without sounding dated. Backed with the vocally weird ballad, The Letter, the single soon started selling across the country.
With a format sat for the foreseeable future (a quickie backed with a ballad), the follow up coupled Coupe De Ville Baby and The Telegram in January 1955. The summer saw Speedin'/Edna followed in the late autumn by Dear Darling/Don't Shoot Baby. Whilst it was undoubtedly a bumper year for the youngsters, they hadn't achieved the chart success of their label mates The Penguins and Don Julian and the Meadowlarks.
Whilst the band's next release came in April 1956, the single is covered in mystery as the vocals aren't Vernon Green and the group is believed to be the Dootones. Green cut a one-off single for Specialty but was back before year end with the archetypal single Push-Button Automobile/Shedding Tears For You.
The group were now going through many changes and Green gave up the ghost in late 1957, moving back to his original hometown, Denver.
You can guess what brought them back together. Yes, the years move on one at a time, as they do, and before you know it, it's 1959. Buick 59 was re-released and became a hit on both Coasts. They followed it up with the beautiful Magic Mountain (Greens finest moment to these ears) and Volvo 59. The group split for good in 1960, although Green recorded unsuccessfully for Williams in 1973.
He was scheduled to appear at the Rhythm Riot in England a couple of years ago, but had to pull out due to ill health. He died on Christmas Eve, 2000. And who knows, in another 55 years we may see his debut released again!!
Recommended listening: The Medallions featuring Vernon Green - Speedin' - Ace CDCHD 536.
More info: http://home.att.net/~marvy42/Medallions/medallions.html and http://www.electricearl.com/dws/medallions.html
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