THE HAWKS (By Dave Penny)
The gospel group The Humming Four Quartet had been formed in New Orleans in 1931 by tenor Albert Veal, under the patronage of Sanders F. Newell, and the group soon earned a reputation as "church wreckers" for their emotionally charged singing on their broadcasts over Radio WWL . The personnel changed frequently through the 1930s and 1940s due to members being enticed away by more famous gospel groups - or indeed by Uncle Sam! - and, exactly twenty years after their formation, the group recorded their debut as The Famous Four for a solitary disc on Wonder Records in 1951.
At the time of their only other gospel recording session in summer 1952, Albert Veal had been joined by Dudley Royal (tenor), Buddy Morris (baritone), Frank Rushing (bass) and the versatile lead singer Joe Gaines (who had recorded jump blues for Mercury in 1949), and following this 1952 session for Imperial, they were approached by Dave Bartholomew to back Allen "Fats" Matthews on some secular recordings. Released as "Fat Man Matthews & The 4 Kittens", the group's first secular session caused dissension among the members, resulting in Royal and Rushing leaving to be replaced by bass singer Willie Thrower, reducing the group to a real quartet again for the first time in over 15 years.
Although "The Kittens" release had sold poorly, and Matthews had temporarily parted to record two solo singles for Imperial/Bayou in 1953, Bartholomew decided to persevere with the group and renamed them "The Hawks", overtly making them both sexier and enrolling them as yet another bird group. As The Hawks, they cut four complete sessions for Imperial between December 1953 and November 1954 - with lead vocal duties going to Matthews, Gaines and Thrower - and a handful of dates backing the likes of Dave Bartholomew, Joan Scott, and Dave Collins (the latter as "The Scrubs"). None of the resulting seven releases sold well outside the local area, and by 1955 The Hawks had been dropped by Imperial with Allen Matthews reverting to his original job as solo singer with Bartholomew's band.
During 1956 The Hawks made infrequent re-appearances on Checker with Paul Gayten's Orchestra, a single for Modern and, finally, providing the musical cut-ins on a low-rent cover of Buchanan & Goodman's "Flying Saucer" for Aladdin Records. By the end of the year, following an embarrassing episode of being booked on one show as both The Hawks and The Humming Four, the group gave up its controversial (and hardly lucrative) existence as a secular group and began singing for the church again until the group's demise in 1964, with only Joe Gaines ever revisiting the dark end of the street by becoming the lead singer with The Original Hi-Lites with whom he made one storming single in 1958 for the local Arcadia Records.
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