GEORGE JONES, JR
Born George Wydell Jones, Jr., 5 October 1936, Richmond, Virginia
So who put the Ram in the Rama Lama Ding Dong, making Barry Mann's baby fall in love with him? It was George Jones, Jr., the lead singer of the Edsels, who wrote the song while in the air force. The Edsels were a quintet from Campbell, Ohio, near Youngstown, formed in 1957. George Jones, Jr (lead), Larry Green (first tenor), James Reynolds (second tenor), Harry Green (baritone and Larry's brother) and Marshall Sewell (bass) were originally the Essos. They changed their name from gas to a car when Ford's Edsel came out. The group auditioned for Jim Manderitz, a local music publisher, who was so impressed he whipped out a contract and signed them on the spot. They recorded "Rama Lama Ding Dong" at Snyder Studios in Cleveland and Manderitz began searching out every label he could find, but alas, there were no takers. Finally, he came upon Foster Johnson and his new Dub label in Little Rock, Arkansas. The record came out in July 1958, only Foster Johnson had changed the title on the label to "Lama Rama Ding Dong". Regardless, the record never got a notice except for some initial action in Baltimore. Their next two releases were R&B ballads, "Do You Love Me" on Roulette (1959) and "What Brought Us Together" on Tammy (1960), which took off locally and spread enough for the group to get its first taste of the road and a spot on "American Bandstand". Before the Edsels could record a follow-up, their follow-up was chosen for them. When the Marcels hit it big with "Blue Moon", one disc jockey in New York remembered a record from a few years before that was in the same style, had a similarly wacky intro and would segue beautifully out of "Blue Moon". The record? "Lama Rama Ding Dong". He started playing it and the phones lit up like a Christmas tree. When Jim Manderitz heard all the commotion about his record, he licensed it to Hy Weiss of the Old Town conglomerate, who reissued it on the Twin label. By May 1, 1961, it charted and began selling all over the USA, reaching # 21. However, Foster Johnson in Little Rock had sold all his stock and master tapes to a cut price wholesaler in Hollywood, who repressed the record on a phony Dub label, inadvertently using a different, slightly faster take, thus creating a bootleg with a difference. Manderitz had two sides left in the can that he now sold to Dot Records, while Tammy licensed two more sides to Ember and suddenly Edsel masters were selling in larger quantities than Edsel cars. Neither of these singles, nor three more 45s for Capitol, did much and after two further unsuccessful issues on Tammy in 1963, the group decided to call it quits. George Jones continued to sing, joining the Winston Wall Trio and then New Affair.
(As there is no entry for the Edsels in Wayne Jancik's book and Matt Morgan failed to deliver, this bio is largely based on "The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups" by the dreaded Jay Warner.)
CD: The Edsels, Rama Lama Ding Dong (Relic, 1992). The title track is available on many compilations, for instance "The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 4" (Ace 500).
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