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The Beltones

The Beltones were a product of the thriving Jamaica, Queens, doo wop community that also launched the Rivileers, the Deltairs, and the Five Sharps. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the December 2000 issue of Discoveries, the quartet was founded in 1954 by lead Andrew Pope, first tenor Clayton "Dickie" Williams, baritone Herb Rooney, and bass Robert Brown -- the latter also moonlighted in rival vocal group the Love Larks, and when their career began taking off, Brown exited to join their ranks full-time. With new bass Alva Martin, the Beltones eventually signed to Hull Records, recording their debut single, "I Talk to My Echo," in the summer of 1956. For reasons unknown Hull did not issue the disc until the following spring, and when it predictably failed to generate much excitement, the label parted ways with the group. By that time, the Love Larks were no more, so Brown returned to the Beltones, prompting Martin's exit. Brown brought with him fellow Love Larks alum/second tenor Wilbur "Buzzy" Brown (no relation). Soon after, Rooney resigned, and with new baritone George "Buster" Cottman, the Beltones signed to the legendary Old Town label to cut a four-song session in the spring of 1958. While the group mulled a name change to the Symbols, Hull got wind of the session and threatened a breach of contract suit, effectively rendering any moves moot. Old Town shelved the tapes, and although the Beltones continued touring the Queens live circuit for more than a year, in 1960 Pope was called to military duty, and "Buzzy" Brown quit soon after. The remaining trio convinced Rooney to return, adding lead David Banks and changing their name to the Masters. This lineup recorded the 1961 End Records effort "A Man Is Not Supposed to Cry," followed a year later by "Crying My Heart Out," originally written by Pope for the Old Town session. In 1962 the Masters dissolved and Rooney joined their sister group, the Masterettes, which as the Exciters later recorded the classic smash "Tell Him." ~ Jason Ankeny
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