Hello, The Harptones are a doo-wop group from Harlem, New York. They never charted a Top 40 national hit in the US on any major chart such as Billboard or Cash Box, in fact they never charted an R&B hit records…yet they are one of the most influential doo-wop groups of all-time. With lead vocalist, Willie Winfield, members William James, Jimmie Beckum, Bill Brown and Nicky Clark sang some of the sweetest doo-wop sounds ever put on wax. The Harptones recorded for various labels over the years including, Bruce, Rama, Gee, Paradise and others. Raoul Cita became their pianist/arranger and he knew how to bring the best out of Willie Winfield’s outstanding vocals.
The Harptones line-up that recorded the classics…A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE-1953…SINCE I FELL FOR YOU-1954 and MY MEMORIES OF YOU-1954 included…Willie Winfield…Billy Brown…Claudie “Nicky” Clark…William Dempsey…William “Dicey” Galloway and Raoul Cita.
In 1955 they would record another of their classic recordings…LIFE IS BUT A DREAM and in 1957 the classic…THE SHRINE OF ST. CECILIA. William “Dicey” Galloway was drafted in 1954 and Freddy Taylor took his spot in early 1955, he was replaced by Bernard “Jimmy” Beckum in late 1955. In early 1956 Bobby Spencer joined the group. Their recording of LIFE IS BUT A DREAM was featured in the movie “Goodfellas” and was included on the move soundtrack album.
The Harptones lone Billboard Hot 100 hit made its debut on May 8, 1961. Their recording of WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART on Companion Records peaked at #96. The flip side of the single record was FOOLISH ME, it did not chart. This fabulous group should have had many charted hits, but it didn’t happen, yet they are one of the most popular of all the doo-wop groups as evident by the number of songs they have recorded that are listed on the Doo-Wop Top 1000 song of all-time by doo-wop authors…Gribin/Schiff in their book…”The Complete Book of Doo-Wop”. Those classic recordings include: A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE-1953…SINCE I FELL FOR YOU-1954…LIFE IS BUT A DREAM-1954…LOVING A GIRL LIKE YOU-1954…MY MEMORIES OF YOU-1954…THREE WISHES-1956…ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON-1956…THAT’S THE WAY IT GOES-1956…THE SHRINE OF ST. CECILIA-1957…AND…CRY LIKE I CRIED-1957. That is 10 Top 1000 doo-wop classics, a great body of recording and there is so much more.
Like most groups of the era The Harptones went through many line-up changes, but the distinctive voice of Willie Winfield was a constant. Billy Brown died in 1957 and Marlowe Murray who became a member in 1972 and was a member when he died from cancer in 2009. The Harptones were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. Their wonderful recordings featuring one of the legends of doo-wop, Willie Winfield are testament to the great music that came from a time and a place known as the “GOLDEN ERA OF ROCK AND ROLL”. Please check out The Harptones great hits on the DOO-WOP JUKEBOX. Enjoy the outstanding music of Willie Winfield and the fabulous Harptones.