The Aquatones were formed in 1956 in Valley Stream, Long Island as the Rhythm Kings. Originally they were a male threesome : Dave Goddard, Larry Vannata and Gene McCarthy. All of them could play an instrument as well as sing and all of their songs were original. They added a drummer, their friend Bob Boden, to perform their music live. When they played some of their home recordings for a classmate's father, a record distributor, he suggested that they needed a high voice in the group. Shortly thereafter, Larry met Lynne Nixon at a dance, found out that she sang, and asked Gene and Dave to give her an audition. She was added to the group in 1957, originally to just sing the background vocals. But soon her vocal prowess would dominate the group's pop harmony sound.
Lynne had originally aspired to an opera career and had even taken lessons to that end, but the chance for pop success was apparently a greater lure. She was possibly the first soprano in rock n roll. Having changed their name to the Aquatones, the group (now minus Bob Boden) appeared in a talent contest in the neighbouring town of Malverne, NY in November 1957. There they were spotted by Lou Fargo, a local estate agent who wanted to get into the music business. He signed the group on the spot and the first three releases on the newly formed Fargo label would all be by the Aquatones.
Their first single was recorded in a demo studio in the Brill Building in January 1958. The A-side was a solid rocker, "She's the One For Me", with Vannata and Goddard alternating on lead. The other side, also written by Dave Goddard and Larry Vannata, could hardly be more different. "You" was a slow ballad featuring Lynne's beautiful soprano. As happened so often in the 1950s, disc jockeys started flipping the record over and "You" became a strong seller in the North Eastern markets, causing Lou Fargo to strike a deal for national distribution with ABC-Paramount. Eventually, "You" peaked at # 21 on Billboard's pop chart. Surprisingly, the very pop-sounding record did even better on the R&B charts, where # 11 was the peak position. In the UK, the record was released on London HLO 8631. The group got the chance to perform on the usual circuit of deejay record hops and also did a variety of TV shows, including those hosted by Dick Clark and Alan Freed. There were also concert appearances with the likes of Danny and the Juniors, Bobby Darin and the Shirelles.
In spite of all this, the Aquatones lasted only until 1960. Their seventh and last Fargo single was released in 1961 and Lou Fargo issued an LP in 1964, "The Aquatones Sing For YOU". "You" would remain their only chart entry and served as the blueprint for "To Know Him Is To Love Him" by the Teddy Bears later in 1958.
The Aquatones went their separate ways after 1960. Lynne stopped singing altogether. Though the group members remained friends and stayed in touch, it was difficult to get together to perform, and without Lynne, they were missing the sound for which they were known. Lynne Dixon passed away in January 2001.
In 1998, Dave Goddard happened to hear a young lady sing who sounded amazingly similar to Lynne. Colette Delaney had had a career in musical theatre and to Dave's pleasant surprise, she expressed interest in singing with a new Aquatones group. Inspired by Colette's voice, Dave started writings songs again. The current Aquatones are Dave Goddard, Colette Delaney, Rich Hornung and Paul King. They have released four CD's, "40 Years Later" (2001), "The Very Best Songs Of the Aquatones" (remakes of their Fargo recordings, 2003), "The Best Of the New Aquatones" (2003) and "The Aquatones Sing It's Christmas", all on Debra Records.
CD : The Fargo recordings are available on "The Aquatones : The Complete Recordings" (18 tracks), released by Hot Productions in 2000. Apart from "She's the One For Me", there are a few other up-tempo rockers: "Every Time", "The Drive-In" and "Wanted (A Solid Gold Cadillac)".
More info / acknowledgements:
- Jay Warner, The Billboard book of American singing groups (1992), page 72.
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