Previous Vocal Group Record of the Week
#913 (10/6/18)

"Rockin Chair"/"Whiffenpoof Song"
The Four Notes
on Paradise 115/116
released in 1948

"Away"/"East Side, West Side"
Gotham's Four Notes
on Gotham G-164-A/B
released in 1948

"That's The Groovy Thing - Part A/B"
Earl Bostic And His Orchestra
on Gotham 111 A/B
released in 1946

(Includes Audio For Ten Songs By The Above Artists)

[Above photo provided by Jean-Christophe Piazza.]
Above: The Four Notes, who consisted of Tommy Adams, Frederick Johnson, Gene Smith, and James Sapp.

Per Marv Goldberg (March 2006): In 1946 and 1947, Frederick Johnson was in and out of the group, eventually taking the full-time place of Eugene "Bunny" Walker, who'd wandered off to join the Three Riffs. That fourth position was the volatile one. Tommy Adams, James Sapp and Gene Smith (aka Richard Eugene Smith) seemed to always be there. But Eugene "Bunny" Walker, Frederick Johnson, and later Henry Oliver "Ollie" Jones held down fourth place. The group had been around since at least 1943.

Above: The Four Notes from The Billboard June 1946.... (L-R) James Sapp, Frederick Johnson, Tommy Adams, and Gene Smith.

Above: PITTSBURGH COURIER - June 5, 1948: In Revue
The Four Notes, celebrated singers with Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana Revue, which is thrilling audiences nightly when the superb show hits various cities in its cross-country tour with the Royal American Shows.

Above: Promotional clipping for The Four Notes from The Billboard 1946-1947 Annual Edition.
(NOTE: "Premiere" is actually "Premier".)

At Left: Premier clipping from The Billboard dated 12/2/44.

ST. LOUIS, Sept. 1—Lee W. Turner, head of the Premier Radio Enterprises firm, says the Premier label will soon be offering operators of juke boxes special new numbers that should get wide play from the public. Premier is one of the new record manufacturers and has big plans for the post-war trade. Firm is considered very progressive in music circles here and special attention is given to orders from the juke box industry.

Above: (Left) The Evening Sun (Baltimore) dated 10/20/45 and (Right) Buffalo Courier Express dated 8/1/46.


Four entertainers, known professionally as "The Four Notes," today detected a definitely sour note in the "short-note-and-attachment" proceedings brought against them in the Superior Court. They were defendants in the claim for $137.50 filed by Dave White, trading as the Nation-Wide Theatrical Agency, for commissions allegedly due as a result of appearances at night and supper clubs in September, October, and November. "The Four Notes" were named individually as Eugene Walker, James Sapp, Gene Smith, and Thomas Adams....

TAMPA TRIBUNE, February 10, 1948: ....The Four Notes, sepia carbon-copies of the Ink Spots and Mills Bros., worked on a midway show five years ago for $100 a week (the whole combo) but now are holding out on their next contract for $1500 per week....

As usual, Leon Claxton's Minstrel Show is getting a big run. This show, for some reason, has always been a drawing card at the fair here (Tampa). Lineup, costumes and lighting this year are tops. The Four Notes, a versatile quartet that has been heading for fame on the networks, recordings, and television, are outstanding. Claxton, an old friend of Jimmy Sapp, one of the quartet, signed up the team for the road. With Sapp are Tommy Adams, Ollie Johnson [sic Jones], and Gene Smith. Their take-off on the Ink Spots is terrific. The Four Notes came to Royal American from the Club Ebony in New York.

ST. LOUIS—With unique and novel handling of black lighting, latest in theatrical staging, Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana revue sets the pace for another successful season with the Royal American Shows. Moving into its second hectic week here on the midway, the veteran showman is presenting this year some of the best talent in the business. Tops among his hit acts are the Four Notes, a well-balanced quartet, who can give a take-off on the Ink Spots' "If I Didn't Care" or the Ravens "Write Me A Letter" that draws applaudits nightly. Billed as stars of radio and television, the young lads are proving a favorite....

EXTRA AUDIO #1 (Windows Media Player):

(Left) Label image for International Record D-215 "St. Louis Blues" by The Four Notes released in 1946.

The Four Notes' first two records were on the Premier label, located in St. Louis, in 1945. Next, they had four records on the International Record label in 1946. At the time, this label was located in Long Island City, NY. Six of these sides were released as "The Four Notes Album" in September 1946.

1. "Jungle Twilight" - The Four Notes - Premier 29002 - 1945.
2. "St. Louis Blues" - The Four Notes - International Record D-215 - 1946.
3. "Eileen" - The Four Notes - International Record IRC-454 - 1946.
ALL THREE played in sequence

EXTRA AUDIO #2 (Windows Media Player):

(Above: From The Cash Box dated 7/15/46)

(Above Left) Label Image for Gotham 111 A "That's The Groovy Thing - Part A" recorded in March 1946 ("Part B", matrix #Si-153, was recorded in July 1946). A vocal group version of this song was released on 20th Century TC-5037 by The Gems in October 1955 (20th Century was a subsidiary label of Gotham).

The "Part B" label gives a more comprehensive listing of the orchestra members: Earl Bostic, alto sax; Tony Scott, clarinet; John Hardee, tenor sax; Leamon Boler, trumpet; Jimmy Shirley, guitar; Ed Nicholson, drums; Jimmie Jones, bass; George Parker, piano.

(Above Middle) Earl Bostic photo. Note that Bostic is credited as co-composer on The Four Notes' "Away" (See further below).

(Above Right) King Records advertisement for Earl Bostic's "That The Groovy Thing - Parts 1 and 2" from The Cash Box dated 10/6/47. The record had a prior release on Queen 4174 in August 1947.

The Cash Box Pic O' The Week (5/13/46):

EARL BOSTIC AND HIS ORCHESTRA — GOTHAM 104...."That's The Groovy Thing"
Here's a disk that's a powerhouse of rhythm. "That's The Groovy Thing," is as groovy as its title. It's a jump number the like of which comes by only once in a long while. Tho specially patterned for the jump location, the fact that it's first quality jazz, too, should give it more than passing attention in any spot where liberal music tastes are found. The melody is built around a bare handful of notes, but what happens to that handful when the Bostic crew goes at it with instrumental and vocal tears down the house with rockin'. Get out and hear this tune first chance you get. It's a natural. The flipover, "Tippin' In," is a top flight instrumental that makes for eager listening.

The Billboard Review (5/25/46):

EARL BOSTIC AND HIS ORCHESTRA — GOTHAM 104...."That's The Groovy Thing"/"Tippin' In"
Earl Bostic gives a solid vocal boogie on "That's The Groovy Thing" chorus. It's in jump tempo, with Tony Scott taking a solid chorus on the clarinet. Bostic is alto sax and Jimmy Shirley is at the guitar. "Tippin' In" is a fast terrific jazz tune, and Bostic does well by himself at the sax. Once more Tony Scott takes a bow for this side also. Here's a top twosome where they like good swing.

CINCINNATI—King Record Distributing Company here this week announced consolidation of its two labels, King and Queen, with President Sidney Nathan revealing that the King blue label will supplant the former Queen line, which consisted of spirituals, kiddie and novelty sets, and polkas. Firm's maroon label will continue to be devoted exclusively to hillbilly disks. First in under the blue label will be Earl Bostic, Negro saxist, who has been pacted to cut* Parts 1 and 2 of That's The Groovy Thing. Subsequent issues will include Cuttin' Out, backed by There Goes skedded for a September 1 release, and My Special Dream, with I'm The Guy That Loves You on the flipover for release September 11.

(*NOTE: The "Groovy Thing" sides were procured by King from Gotham Records in 1947 and are the same as those released on the Gotham label.)

1. "That's The Groovy Thing - Part A" - Earl Bostic And His Orchestra - Gotham 111 A - 1946.
2. "That's The Groovy Thing - Part B" - Earl Bostic And His Orchestra - Gotham 111 B - 1946.
BOTH played in sequence

3. "That's The Groovy Thing - Parts 1 And 2" - Earl Bostic And His Orchestra - King 4174 - 1947.

Above: Label images of Paradise 115 and 116 released in June 1948. This is the first of two records by The Four Notes on the Paradise label, the second (113/114) released in October 1948. The numbers on the record labels are actually matrix numbers. The second record has Christmas/New Year's related songs, so was issued for the upcoming holidays.

The Four Notes previously had two releases on Premier (1945) and four releases on International Record (1946).

Paradise Records, at this time, was located in Detroit. Mrs. Delmar Ray was the proprietor. Its subsidiary was Delray Records. The "RMC" on the label stands for "Ray Music Company" owned by her husband, Reuben Ray.

DETROIT, Dec. 20—A new record firm venture by William Ryan and Mrs. Delmar Ray—Delray Recording Company—is going ahead here undaunted by the coming Petrillo ban. Mrs. Ray, wife of Reuben Ray, one of Detroit's leading juke box operators, says she has a backlog of some 150 masters by Negro talent (hitherto unwaxed) accumulated over the past five years and will use these as beat-the-ban fodder under two new labels, Delray and Paradise. The firm, however, will cut six more sessions before the December 31 deadline. The first releases by Delray under its Paradise label include Tomorrow Night by Lonnie Johnson and I'm So Right Tonight by Evelyn Collins and the Choclateers.

Above: Label images of Gotham G-164-A and G-164-B released in October 1948. Gotham must have liked the "Away" side as it had also been released on Gotham 153 in November 1947 and on Gotham 157 in February 1948. Maybe because, as stated on the label, it was Earl Bostic's theme song. All three records have different flip sides. The "Gotham's Four Notes" name is probably a (very thin) disguise because they were still under contract to Paradise Records.

Gotham, at this time, was owned by Ivin Ballen and located in Philadelphia. Subsidiaries included the Apex and 20th Century labels.

The Cash Box Review (10/16/48):

THE FOUR NOTES — GOTHAM 164.... Away/East Side, West Side
Pair of sides spilling in the light vein here by The Four Notes shows as wax ops can use as top notch filler material. Titled, "Away" and "East Side, West Side," the vocal combo display some great harmony on the pair to egg on coin play. Top deck, well known as Earl Bostic's theme song gets a nice send-off as the group purrs the soft, flowery wordage. On the flip with the standard, the combo bounce back with some stuff that makes for pleasant listening. Wax is there for the asking—ops take it from there.

NOTE: Most discographical information provided at this website is from Ferdie Gonzalez' Disco-File.

Listen to this week's selections featuring The Four Notes on Paradise/Gotham from 1948 using Windows Media Player:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]

          1. Rockin Chair
          2. Whiffenpoof Song
          3. Away
          4. East Side, West Side
          ALL FOUR SONGS played in sequence

          [To download audio files, right-click on link
          and then click "Save link (target) as..."]

          At Immediate Right:
          20th Century TC-5037 Label Image
          "That's The Groovy Thing!" - The Gems
          Released in 1955
          Subsidiary label of Gotham Records.

Directly Above: Gotham 144 B Label Image

LISTEN: (Windows Media Player)
"Away (Instrumental)" - Earl Bostic And His Orchestra - 1947.