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Guide Profile: The Coasters

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The Coasters in the late Fifties

The Coasters in the late Fifties

Unknown

Formed:

1955 (Los Angeles, CA)

Genres:

Doo-wop, R&B, Rock and Roll, Pop

Original Members:

Carl Gardner (b. April 29, 1928, Tyler, TX): Tenor vocal (lead)
Bobby Nunn (b. September 20, 1925, Birmingham, AL; d. November 5, 1986, Los Angeles, CA): Bass vocal
Billy Guy (b. July 20, 1936, Itasca, TX; d. November 5, 2002, Las Vegas, NV), Baritone vocal
Leon Hughes (b. August 26, 1932, Los Angeles, CA), Tenor vocal

Contributions to music:

  • Helped bring doo-wop into the mainstream of pop once and for all
  • Introduced some necessary humor into the rock and roll scene
  • Helped establish the writing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller
  • Gave teenagers a lighthearted yet perceptive view of their own world

Early years:

The Coasters were actually formed from the remains of the Robins, a well-known L.A. vocal group that had already scored several R&B hits. Gardner and Nunn were both members, and were convinced by the legendary writing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (along with manager Lester Sill) to leave them and form a new group at the Atlantic label, one that would take doo-wop music and integrate it seamlessly into the new rock and roll fad. The new name came from the group's West Coast origins.

Success:

The new group scored with their first single, "Down In Mexico," and then had a legit pop hit with the next, "Young Blood." When sales fell, however, the entire unit was ordered to relocate to New York. Nunn and Hughes weren't interested in moving, leading to their replacement by Jones and Gunter. At that point, the hits really began to pile up, beginning with 1958's "Yakety Yak." The group's comedic songs and equally entertaining stage act made them the toast of the scene for a few years.

Later years:

Around 1961, when doo-wop was fading, the Coasters' hits began to fall further and further down the charts, and although they kept recording throughout the mid-Seventies, the magic was gone. The oldies revival came along about that time, however, and the group eventually reconstituted itself as a oldies touring act -- several, in fact, since many original members have formed their own "Coasters" groups to tour with. Carl Gardner's group is considered today's most authentic.

Other Facts:

  • Other members have included: Will "Dub" Jones (b. May 14, 1928, Shreveport, LA; d. January 16, 2000, Long Beach, CA): Bass vocal
    Cornell Gunter (b. November 14, 1938, Coffeyville, KS; d. January 26, 1990, Las Vegas, NV): Tenor vocal
    Adolph Jacobs (b. April 27, 1931, Oakland, CA), Guitar
    Earl "Speedo" Carroll, (b. November 2, 1937, New York, NY), Tenor vocal

Awards/Honors:

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (1987), Grammy Hall of Fame (1999)

Important Songs:


#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Yakety Yak" (1958)
R&B:
  • "Searchin'" (1957), "Yakety Yak" (1958), "Poison Ivy" (1959)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Searchin'" (1957), "Young Blood" (1957), "Along Came Jones" (1959), "Charlie Brown" (1959), "Poison Ivy" (1959)
R&B:
  • "Turtle Dovin'" (1956), "Charlie Brown" (1959)
Other important recordings: "Down In Mexico," "Riot In Cell Block #9," "Idol With The Golden Head," "I'm A Hog For You, Baby," "Run Red Run," "Little Egypt," "Shoppin' For Clothes," "That Is Rock and Roll"
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