The Turbans were an African-American doo-wop group, formed in 1953 in downtown Philadelphia. The original members, all in their teens, were Al Banks (lead tenor), Matthew Platt (second tenor), Charlie Williams (baritone) and Andrew "Chet" Jones (bass). Their first manager was Herman Gillespie, who wanted to give them a name similar to another Philadelphia group, Steve Gibson and the Red Caps. Charlie didn't agree and said "I'd rather wear a turban than a cap." You can guess the rest.
Gillespie arranged an audition with Herald Records in New York City. Herald owner Al Silver wasn't particularly impressed, until they came up with "When You Dance", written by Chet Jones. However, the song was still a work in progress and needed a finishing touch, which was supplied by arranger Leroy Kirkland. Four tunes were cut at the first Herald session in July 1955 and "When You Dance" was issued the next month. It had a slick mambo rhythm and featured the soaring falsetto of Al Banks. After a slow start, the song charted in November, first on the pop charts (where it would peak at # 33) and then R&B, where it rose as high as # 3. "When You Dance" stayed on Billboard's pop charts for no less than 21 weeks and the group took off on a national tour. Herald issued a follow-up single in December 1955, "Sister Sookey"/ "I'll Always Watch Over You", but this failed to chart, just like every record after that. Their two-year contract with Herald expired in July 1957. The lack of success led to personnel changes, some temporary, some permanent. After one single for Red Top Records, the group was signed to Morris Levy's Roulette label in 1960. Their first Roulette single was a cover of "Diamonds And Pearls", a Top 20 hit for the Paradons. In January 1961, their second and finale Roulette release was the Bacharach-David composition "Three Friends".
Meanwhile, "When You Dance" had been included on the LP "Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 2", compiled and released by Art Laboe and this created new interest in the song, sufficient for Herald to reissue the record. The Turbans also rerecorded the number for Parkway Records. One of these two versions of "When You Dance" bubbled under the Billboard Top 100 at # 114. According to Marv Goldberg it was the Herald version, but Joel Whitburn mentions the Parkway record in his "Top Pop Singles 1955-1999" book.
After this one-off single for Parkway, their next stop was Imperial Records, which released three singles between December 1961 and June 1962. The second of these was titled "This Is My Story" (not the Gene and Eunice song). Sufficient reason for inclusion in this feature! After Imperial, the Turbans broke up for good. An LP containing the six A and B sides from their Herald days was issued by Relic in 1973 ("The Turbans' Greatest Hits"). Al Banks, who sings lead on all their recordings except "Golden Rings" on Parkway, sang with Charlie Thomas' s Drifters in the early 1970s. He died in June 1977, a few weeks short of his 40th birthday. Later members Earl Worsham and John Christian have also passed away.
There exists a single "Emily"/"When I Return" by the Turbans on Money 211. That is a completely different group from the West Coast, a.k.a. the Turks, with Cornel Gunter, Gaynel Hodge, Curtis Williams and Richard Berry.
Acknowledgements / more info:
CD : The Turbans Complete Herald Recordings (Collectables, 2002). 18 tracks. Or : When You Dance : The Herald Recordings. Just out on Acrobat, but this has only 12 tracks, a rerelease of the Relic LP.
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