THE CALVANES’ BIOGRAPHY
By Bobby Adams
In 1954, Carlyle Dundee aka Robert Mosely overheard "wannabes" Stewart Crunk, Bobby Adams Jack Harris and Sterling Meade rehearsing. Carlyle stated that he had contacts in the music industry and two (2) songs that he wanted the group to record with him as the lead singer. After a few rehearsals and an introduction to Producer Lee Silver, the "Dundees" recorded two songs, "Never" and "Evil One" on the "5pace" label. Bobby Adams was the 2nd tenor, Sterling Meade, 1st tenor, Stewart Crunk, baritone, Jack Harris, bass. Carlyle Dundee soon left the group. The remaining four (4) members formed another group called "The Wonders." Two songs were soon recorded, again, on the "Space" label; "Bop Bop Baby," and "Little Girl" with Bobby Adams singing lead vocals on both. The group, "The Wonders" soon broke up.
In 1955, while still in high school, Stewart Crunk and Bobby Adams recruited Herman Pruitt-lead, Joe Hampton, 2nd Tenor, and Jack Harris, bass, to start another group. Stewart named the group, the "Calvanes." The meaningless name, according to Stewart, "just sounded good." Cornelius (Cornell) Gunter of the then popular group, "Flairs," later known as the "Coasters," was instrumental in preparing the "Calvanes" musically for the next level in their R & B career. The group soon immigrated to 95th and Central Avenue (Watts) in Los Angeles, California to "Dootone" Records, owned and operated by Walter "Dootsie" Williams who had the hottest record label around, following the recording of the hottest record at that time, "Earth Angel" by the group known as the "Penguins."
After a brief audition with "Dootsie" Williams, the "Calvanes" recorded their first songs, "Don’t Take Your Love From Me" and "Crazy Over You" with Herman Pruift singing the lead. These two recordings put the "Calvanes" on the west coast map. The group never "toured" because they were all still in high school. However, the group did appear on two television shows, and "gigged" on the weekends.
"They Call Me Fool" and "One More Kiss" was suppose to follow "Don’t Take Your Love From Me" however, "Dootsie" Williams had a disc jockey friend named "Zeke Manners" who wrote a song called "Florabelle," named after his girlfriend. Zeke basically persuaded Dootsie to allow the "Calvanes" to record this song, against the wishes of the Calvanes. "Florabelle" took the group down the tubes. Lately, after some demand, "Florabelle" has made its way back on the "Calvanes" set list for performances. The "Calvanes" broke up in 1957, after a dispute with Dootsie Williams.
In 1957 Herman Pruitt joined a young group called the "Youngsters," which included Donald Miller, Charles Everidge, James Warren, Homer Green, and Harold Murray. The "Youngsters" recorded "Dreamy Eyes." Herman Pruitt’s high falsetto lead voice on the "bridge" put the recording over the top of the local music charts. "Dreamy Eyes" and "Chapel of Love" are currently part of the Calvanes performance set list.
In 1958, The Calvanes regrouped as a quartet when Bobby Adams, Herman Pruitt, and Stewart Crunk recruited a new bass singer, Fred Willis, who had a deep voice, a creative mind, and an exceptional "ear" for harmony. Six singles were recorded on Hite Morgan’s Deck label:
3. My Love Song
4. Horror Movies
5. You’re Only Young Once (Four (4) part modern harmony)
Also in 1958, responding to the need to make extra money, Bobby Adams joined a newly formed Group, called the "Hitmakers," put together by a local D.J., Art La Bow, on his "Original Sound" label. The group also consisted of Val Poliuto, 1st tenor, of the "Jaguars," Rodney Gooden, with two other singers. "Chapel of Love" was recorded and became a hit song on the west coast, which was led by Rodney Gooden. Bobby Adams sang the non-lyrical chant at the beginning and. ending of "Chapel." Adams was also the bass singer during the middle of the song. The flip side was "Cool School" led by Bobby Adams. After a few "gigs" the racially integrated "Hitmakers" went their separate ways.
In order to showcase, the "Calvanes’" knack for providing great harmony, the Calvanes began arranging and rehearsing prerecorded popular songs using four (4) part diminished chords (pattered after the "Four Freshmen" and the "H i-Lo’s"). For the next two years the group saturated the Los Angeles County clubs, hotels, and party scenes.
In 1961, Fred Willis was drafted into the Army. Adams, Pruitt and Crunk recruited Sidney Dunbar and recorded for RCA as the "Nuggets."
By 1962, the "Nuggets" had left the music business and found regular jobs. Bobby Adams, eventually became a Los Angeles Police Officer and served for 28 years before retiring as Director of Security for Mayor Tom Bradley in 1993. Bobby Adams is currently the Security Director for Lionel Richie that periodically requires extensive worldwide travel.
Fred Willis, after being honorably discharged from the Army, made a career in the U.S. Postal Service as did Herman Pruitt. Note: Original "Calvanes’" member, Jack Harris moved to Atlanta, Joe Hampton just dropped out of sight; Stewart Crunk passed away from asthma in 1967; Sidney Dunbar passed away in 1983 from a heart attack.
In 1990, Bobby, Fred and Herman were contacted by the Southern California Doo Wop Society (DWS) to resurrect the "Calvanes." The group was one man short. Upon visiting a Doo Wop Society (DWS) show, they noticed Jimmy Corbitt, a bass singer with a great voice, singing with Johnny Staten, who was the original lead of the "Feathers." It was revealed that Jimmy also sang on occasion with Vernon Green’s "Medallions" and was noncommittal to any group. Jimmy was immediately approached and asked to join the "Calvanes," which he was historically familiar with. After the first rehearsal, the marriage was in place. The DWS was contacted and advised that the "Calvanes" were "ready to go."
Soon the Calvanes were providing background vocals at a recording session with the late Rudy West of the "5 Keys" on Bruce Patch’s "Classic" Label. The harmony was so good that Bruce encouraged the "Calvanes" to record "Take Me Back" written by DWS’s Jim Dawson and "Have You No Heart," written by the late Dave "Doc" Antrell with Herman Pruitt leading both songs.
In early 1991, the "Calvanes" became the "Tune Weavers," backing the late Margo Sylvia at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. They were so impressive that the "Calvanes" were again invited back to the Amphitheater and provided the opening act for a Doo Wop show featuring the "Spaniels," and the "Flamingos."
The Calvanes soon met and befriended Buddy Bailey of the "Clovers." After several rehearsals, the "Calvanes" became the "Clovers" at a DWS show in Bellfiower, California. Buddy was so impressed that he stated that "you all sound better than the original "Clovers." The Calvanes were overwhelmed with the compliment, because they had always idolized the "Clovers", as well as the "5 Keys", the "Dominos", Clyde McPhatter’s "Drifters", "Harptones", Moonglows", Flamingos", and the "Spaniels". The "Calvanes" remained close friends with Buddy Bailey until his recent death in Las Vegas.
During the last few years the "Calvanes", in addition to performing their own recordings, have provided background vocals while performing with Richard Berry, Gaynell Hodge of the "Turks", George Grant of the Castelles", Jewel Akins, and Leon Peels of the "Blue Jays".
In 1996, the "Calvanes" were voted the UGHA’S Group of the Year. The group was invited to the east coast, where they received the prestigious award and performed in New Jersey and Pittsburgh. The group has returned to the area on several occasions, and rendered outstanding performances to their many fans. The Calvanes also received a "Certificate of Commendation" from the City of Los Angeles, presented by Mayor Tom Bradley in 1992.
Several years ago, the "Calvanes" were invited to render three gospel songs at a very large African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. Each member of the group has always attended church on a regular basis, so the decision to venture into gospel was a new and fulfilling era, which made it an easy one. The group has always believed that their talent and their being, was a gift from God, and God was due all the praise and honor for their talent. The selections were (1) "I Shall Not Be Moved" – Jimmy Corbitt, Lead, (2) "Walk Around Heaven All Day", Bobby Adams – Lead, and (3) "Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus", Herman Pruitt – Lead. The selections were so well received by an emotional, toe tapping, hand waving, and swooning audience who then gave the group a standing ovation. Not only were the "Calvanes" invited back for a repeat performance, but has since performed by invitation at numerous other churches in the Los Angeles area. The demand for the group to perform at church services became greater than there was time for, thus, forcing the "Calvanes" to send many written "regrets". However, the group does perform in the church on some occasions.
The March 1999 issue of the DWS newsletter stated the following: "One Doo Wop Quartet that never fails to "wow" DWS audiences is the "Calvanes", who have been together now, off and since 1954. At our recent show #29 on February 20th, 1999, the "Calvanes" turned in yet another of their trademark, showstopping performances. Whether they’re reprising their own songs or singing such classics as "Sh-Boom", these guys really capture the feel and sound of a 1950’s vocal group."
By Bobby Adams