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The Poets

The obscure doo-wop group The Poets were five teenagers from Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, arguably the birthplace of doo-wop music (its alumni included Richard Berry of The Pharaohs and The Robins, Cornell Gunter of The Platters and The Coasters, and Curtis Williams of The Penguins). They recorded one single for Flash Records in 1958, “Dead” b/w “Vowels of Love”.

Although “Vowels” ended up being better-known after the 1960s doo-wop revival (and is a perfectly fun little song), “Dead” is the real gem. A proto-rap Halloween-themed piece, where the kids make monster noises over spooky, heavily echoed minimal piano accompaniment. Some great lyrics, too.

The single went nowhere, and four of the five Poets went on to normal lives. The fifth, however, was Roy Ayers, soon to become the most famous jazz vibraphonist since Lionel Hampton.

Here are the released versions and early takes of both songs. The piano solo on the early take of “Dead” is a bit… dull. I imagine the engineer saying, “Uh, guys? Can you do something over the solo? Like laugh maniacally?”

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