A short introduction to the Fiestas
The Fiestas hailed from Newark, New Jersey and formed in 1958. New York-based Old Town Records signed The Fiestas, then afterwards the band recorded and released “So Fine.” It became a Top 20 pop hit as well as a Top 10 R&B hit in 1959. The Fiestas’ following single “Broken Heart” landed on the bottom of the Hot 100 but peaked at the Top 20 R&B. Other than that, their other singles failed to chart. After Old Town, The Fiestas went on to record for Strand and Vigor throughout the 1960s and the 1970s.
From the bathroom to the recording studio
Who would have thought that singing in a bathroom could land a someone a recording contract? But a Newark, New Jersey R&B/doo-wop group called the Fiestas had made that possible. An entrepreneur named Hy Weiss overheard Tommy Bullock, Eddie Morris, Sam Ingalls, Preston Lane, George Bullock and Randy Stewart singing “So Fine” inside a bathroom next to his office in Harlem, New York. Impressed, Weiss ushered them to his recording studio and also got them signed to his Old Town Records imprint.
The Fiesta’s only major hit with “So Fine”
The vocal group recorded a song written by Jim Gribble and Jesse Belvin called “So Fine.” Actually, Old Town Records released “So Fine” as a B-side to the ballad “Last Night I Dreamed (Of You).” But when it was released in 1959, New York disc jockeys instead preferred the mid-tempo rock of “So Fine” so they always flipped the single over.
“So Fine” just missed the Top 10 (at #11, obviously) of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Meanwhile, it climbed to #3 on the R&B singles chart. This was to become the first as well as the highest-charting single The Fiestas had ever released.
But there was some dark side to the song’s success. Famed music veteran Johnny Otis sued the composers, Old Town label and the Fiestas themselves of stealing the song, claiming that he was the one who wrote it. In the end, the side of Otis won, making Old Town to pay a certain amount of cash and other legal costs. So “So Fine” is now largely credited to Johnny Otis, although in some sources they still refer to Gribble and Belvin as the song’s composers.
The Fiestas went on to release follow-ups, but they were unsuccessful. One of them was “Our Anniversary” (b/w “I’m Your Slave”), and “That Was Me” (b/w “Good News”). Another single “Broken Heart” (written by Gail Redd and Ronald Moseley) managed to scrape a #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #18 on the R&B singles chart) in 1962. Later that year another single “I Feel Good All Over” went to #123 on the Billboard’s “Bubbling Under 100” chart. It was to be their last charting single.
After recording for Old Town for quite some time, the Fiestas left the label and later released records on Stand and Vigor imprints into the 1970s.