Getting to know the Charms
The Charms (also known as Otis Williams and the Charms) were a 1950’s R&B and doo-wop vocal group, led by Otis Williams. Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, the group first recorded under Rockin’ label in 1953. The following year the Charms moved to Deluxe, where they would record an eventual R&B chart-topper “Hearts Of Stone.” Between the years 1955-59 group also scored other hits such as “Ling, Ting, Tong,” “Two Hearts,” “Ivory Tower” and “United,” all of which figured in the R&B Top Ten. Williams moved on to solo career, even recorded a country album in 1971. Getting back to harmony singing, Williams re-formed the Charms with new members during the 1990s.
The creation of the Charms
The Charms were also known as Otis Williams and the Charms, an R&B/doo-wop vocal group. Lead singer Otis Williams (born in 1936) is not related to the Temptations’ Otis Williams (whose real name was Otis Miles, Jr. and was born in 1941). Rounding off the group were other members Richard Parker, Donald Peak, Joe Penn and Rolland Bradley.
The Charms were formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1950s. In the spring of 1953 the group became part of the Withrow Minstrels aka The Minstrels, a popular musical variety show that used to be held at Cincinnati’s Withrow High School. On the group’s performance there, they were discovered by King Records’ Syd Nathan. Initially, Nathan wanted to sign only Otis, but the latter insisted he’d take his group along. Nathan immediately signed the Charms to King’s secondary label, the Florida-based Rockin’ Records. As a result, the Charms departed from the Minstrels and didn’t make subsequent appearances there.
First big hit with “Hearts of Stone”
Their first record failed to make a dent on the charts, and so they moved to another King subsidiary label, DeLuxe Records which was owned by Henry Stone. Stone, who also owned Rockin’ Records, completely dissolved it and decided to preoccupy himself as executive of DeLuxe label. The Charms released a few more singles on DeLuxe until they hit the big time with “Hearts of Stone” in late 1954. The single (written by Rudy Jackson) topped the R&B singles chart and also went to #15 on the pop chart that year.
“Hearts of Stone” became so much popular that it inspired at least three pop cover versions: one by the Fontane Sisters on Dot label (1954), another by the Goofers on Coral (1955), and also another one by Vicki Young on Capitol Records (1955).
Other R&B hits, and second Top 20 pop hit with “Ivory Tower”
Their next single, was “Ling, Ting, Tong” (written by Mabel Godwin) made it to #5 on the R&B singles chart and #26 on the pop chart in 1955. Later that year they scored a couple of R&B top 20 hits with “Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin’)” (#15 R&B) and “Two Hearts.” (#8 R&B). “Bazoom” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, while “Two Hearts” was composed by Williams and label owner Stone.
In early 1956 The Charms had another R&B top 20 hit with “That’s Your Mistake” (#48 pop, #14 R&B), written by Rudy Toombs. Later that year, the group scored another Top 20 hit with “Ivory Tower.” It fell short of making it to the Top 10 on the pop chart, while it went to #5 on the R&B singles chart. “Ivory Tower” was written by Jack Fulton and Lois Steele. Their last top 10 hit was 1957’s “United” (#7 R&B). Most of the group’s hit singles were issued as Otis Williams and His Charms.
The Charms’ breakup, and Otis Williams’ solo career
By the late 1950s Williams departed to launch a solo career, but it was met with little success. He also went into a producing work, where he jointly helmed and arranged the original “The Twist” by Hank Ballard as well as “Fever” by Little Willie John.
in 1960, Williams was drafted into the army. By 1961 or 1962 the Charms had broken up. After Williams’ discharge from his service in 1962 he returned to making music, waxing sporadic recordings. He even released a country music album in 1971 while was living in Nashville, Tennessee. However, in the 1990s Williams came back to harmony singing, and paraded with his new Charms lineup. His last known appearance was in 2007, where he performed with The Coda Band.