R&B vocal group the Orbits launched in Jackson, MS, in 1953 -- originally dubbed the Quails, the founding lineup was comprised of lead tenor George Jackson; tenors Lee Lance Turner, Joe Graham, and Freddy Beverly; baritone Joe Gray; and bass Augusta Taylor. According to the profile on Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks website, the group cut its teeth at local dances, talent shows, and nightclubs like the Wagon Wheel and the Casino.
In 1955, the Quails were tapped to host their own weekly radio show on Jackson station WOKJ, but despite the success their lineup changed dramatically in the months to follow, with Turner and then Taylor handing in their resignations; Gray was the next to go, prompting the remaining trio to add baritone Sam Jones, Jr., their occasional pianist. After one more switch, with bass Charles Harper taking over for Beverly, the Quails installed local record promoter Joe Coronna as their manager, and in mid-1957 Coronna landed a contract with Chess Records. New Orleans legend Cosimo Matassa produced their first session, which yielded their lone single, "Mr. Hard Luck," issued on Chess' Argo imprint and credited to the Orbits, a name suggested by WWEZ radio personality Ken Elliott and instituted to avoid confusion with a rival Quails that previously recorded for Deluxe.
By the time "Mr. Hard Luck" hit retail in late 1957, Graham was no longer a member of the Orbits, with tenor Robert McElroy installed in his stead. The record was a local hit but went nowhere on the national charts, and when Jones entered the military the following summer, the group dissolved. In 1995 Jackson, Graham, and Jones reunited the Quails to appear at their old high school, coming together again in 2001 (along with new lead vocalist DeQuincy Johnson) in honor of the school's new athletic complex. A few additional performances soon followed. ~ Jason Ankeny