Introduction to the G-Clefs
The G-Clefs are a doo-wop vocal group consisting initially of three brothers – Teddy Scott, Chris Scott, and Tim Scott – Ray Gibson and Joe Jordan. Jordan would be replaced by another Scott brother, Arnold aka Ilanga Scott. During their career the G-Clefs scored three hits and that included two Top 40’s: “Ka-Ding Dong” in 1956 and their highest-charting hit “I Understand (Just How You Feel) in 1961. Their flamboyance and perfect choreography had made them distinct during their heyday. The group are still very much active into the 21st century.
The G-Clefs’ early days
The G-Clefs are an American doo-wop and R&B group hailing from Boston’s Roxbury area, Massachusetts, which is quite similar to New York’s Harlem.
The group was initially made up of three brothers – Teddy Scott (baritone), Chris Scott (second tenor), Tim “Payme” Scott (baritone/bass and guitar) – and a neighbor and childhood friend Ray Gibson (or Gipson; first tenor) as well as Joe Jordan (bass). They were formed in 1952 when they were stilll in their teens and initially called themselves as the “Bob-O-Links.” The boys’ biggest training ground in singing stemmed from their stint as choir boys at a local Roman Catholic church.
The band held their first official public peformance at Revere, Massachusetts’ roller skating rink-turned-dance hall the Rollerway in 1952 or 1953. The G-Clefs would perform hundreds of shows there.
The boys were also notorious in their area because they were also a street gang called “The Victors” who would always attract street brawls. Fortunately for them, though, they never let this interrupt their singing career. Another thing: although they were the bad boys, they also had their benevolent side of giving money to charity.
One of the G-Clefs’ first recordings was their cover of the Rainbows’ 1955 tune “Mary Lee.” Independent producer Jack Gold, who took the G-Clef’s, issued “Mary Lee” that received some airplay in Boston. Gold attempted to bring the single to New York, but encountered some problems that prevented it from being released.
The following record was titled “Ka-Ding-Dong,” written by Ronnie Jordan and John McDermott. The G-Clefs recorded this song in just about fifteen minutes. The song featured Freddy Cannon on guitar.
Released on Pilgrim label in 1956, “Ka-Ding-Dong” first entered the charts in July that year. Eventually it paced the charts and finally reached its peak position at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached the R&B top ten at #9. Not bad for a first-timer. “Ka-Ding-Dong”‘s flip side was “Darla My Darling,” about Joe Jordan’s girlfriend.
The success of “Ka-Ding-Dong” earned the G-Clefs a distinction for being the first Boston group to score a national hit. Another, their flamboyance and a flair for choreography also made them popular.
Joe Jordan was drafted into the army in the mid-1950s. He was replaced by another Scott brother, Arnold “Ilanga” Scott (tenor).
“I Understand (Just How You Feel)”
It would take about five years for the G-Clefs before they would score another hit again with “I Understand (Just How You Feel)” in 1961. It was a previous hit by the Four Tunes, and Teddy loved the song (for sentimental reasons) while the rest of his bandmates weren’t keen on it. So they would joke around by singing the equally sentimental “Auld Lang Syne” behind Teddy’s back. Gold found the whole thing snappy and just couldn’t get it out of his head, so he flew the G-Clefs to New York. They recorded “I Understand (Just How You Feel)” with the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” thrown in to the mix.
“I Understand (Just How You Feel)” was released on Gold’s own label, Terrace. The single became the G-Clefs’ most successful song, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #17 on the UK singles chart in 1961. Despite this, the song almost rmarred their career. They almost sounded white, and they initially had difficulty finding any work because of it.
The G-Clefs’ later career
However, the G-Clefs quickly bounced back by having a show at the famed Apollo Theater, and the following year they released another single “A Girl Has to Know” which would be their final charting single. It peaked at #81 on the Hot 100 in 1962. Their following recordings at Terrace did nothing to them, however. They recorded for other labels such as Regina (owned by Jack LaForge) and Veep (a subsidiary of the United Artists label). In 1967 they issued their live album The G-Clefs on Stage, released on Spotlite label.
Despite not having charted for a long time, the G-Clefs had been making a lot of live appearances. They even established their own club in Revere called the Pied Piper. The group are still intact and performing even up to the 21st century, mostly locally around Boston.