Introduction to the Edsels
Known today primarily for their hit single “Rama Lama Ding Dong,” the Edsels were formed in Ohio in the mid-1950s. The group comprised of George Jones, Jr. James Reynolds, Marshall Sewell, Harry and Larry Greene. Once first named as the Essos (after the oil company), they subsequently took the name from a then-new Ford automobile. The Edsels’ earlier recordings were “Bone Shaker Joe,” “What Brought Us Together,” “Do You Love Me” and “Rama Lama Ding Dong,” the last of which was released in 1958. It wasn’t a hit until 1961, thanks to disc jockeys who began to play it more frequently on the airwaves. The Edsels had dissolved by the time “Rama Lama Ding Dong” became a hit; the song has grown to become a classic and has been covered by several artists.
The formation of the Edsels
The Edsels were an American R&B/doo-wop vocal ensemble hailing from the small mill town of Campbell in Ohio. At first they performed under the name The Essos (after the oil company) but later changed their moniker into The Edsels after Ford released its new automobile the Edsel (which became a failure in the market).
The group was made up of George Jones Jr. (lead vocalist), Larry Greene (first tenor). , James Reynolds (second tenor), Harry Greene (baritone; Larry’s brother) and Marshall Sewell (bass). In 1959 the group made their audition at a local music publisher in Ohio. That publisher in turn helped the Edsels land a recording deal with Dub Records.
The success story of “Rama Lama Ding Dong”
The Edsels’ first single under Dub, “Rama Lama Ding Dong,” was written by Jones Jr. It was originally released in 1957 under the incorrect title of “Lama Rama Ding Dong.” In any case, it was a regional hit but it didn’t get anywhere else.
A few years later, a local disc jockey in New York thought up of playing “Rama Lama Ding Dong” when an identical-sounding song by the Marcels (their version of “Blue Moon”) was riding high on the charts at that time. Thanks to that disc jockey, the demand for the song grew that led to the re-release of the song as a single. And this time, “Rama Lama Ding Dong” was released in its correct title.
The Edsles’ “Rama Lama Ding Dong” was pulled out of its obscurity to become a national hit, peaking at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Unfortunately, the Edsels had moved on (they disbanded in 1961) and couldn’t take advantage of the single’s success.
The musical impact of “Rama Lama Ding Dong”
“Rama Lama Ding Dong” was to be the band’s only hit that pegged them as a “one-hit wonder.” The song itself though became quite influential and has undergone several cover versions by artists such as Showaddywaddy, Rocky Sharpe and the Replays and Serbian doo-wop group Vampiri. It was also heard on the Muppet Show, where “Rama Lama Ding Dong” was sung by a large cast that included Star Wars’ Mark Hamill, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. “Rama Lama Ding Dong” has also been heard on several movies and television shows.
The Edsels also became the first doo-wop group to have signed with a major label (Capitol) while the rest of their peers found success at small labels. The Edsels released a lot of fine material such as “What Brought Us Together,” “Bone Shaker Joe” and “Do You Love Me” but it was “Rama Lama Ding Dong” that really put the Edsels on the map. And that song withstood the test of time and eclipsed the band’s momentary fame.