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date: 24 January 2020

Orioles, thelocked

  • David Sanjek

Extract

The beginnings of the Orioles’ career entwine a memorable personal narrative with the origins of doo-wop. An 18-year-old, Baltimore-based, white Jewish woman, Deborah Chessler, was passionate about songwriting, but devoid of any strategy as to how to achieve success. She had sold a song, “Tell Me So,” to the African American vocalist Savannah Churchill, but the record came and went without a trace. In 1948 a friend interceded and alerted Chessler to a local vocal ensemble, the Vibranaires, which lead vocalist Sonny Til had formed around 1947. She contacted them and the group auditioned over the phone, convincing Chessler to become their agent. She subsequently contacted Jerry Blaine, the owner of Jubilee Records, who signed the group and changed their name to the Orioles, the state bird of Maryland. Chessler wrote songs for the group, including “It’s too soon to know,” composed expediently on a scroll of toilet paper. The record was released in ...

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