Formed in 1956, the Genies were a quintet : Roy Hammond (lead, first tenor), Bill Gains (second tenor), Alexander Faison (baritone), Fred Jones (bass) and Claude Johnson, who joined later, came up with the group's name and took over the lead spot. Johnson was from Brooklyn, all the others were from Long Beach, Long Island. One evening while they were singing on the boardwalk, they were heard by Bob Shad, owner of Shad Records in New York.This led to an audition and, in June 1958, to the recording of "Who's That Knocking" under the direction of Leroy Kirkland. Shad did not release the record until March 1959 (Shad 5002). It became a minor pop hit (# 71), in spite of a lukewarm review in Billboard which described it as "mediocre old-style rock 'n' roll fare". Then without warning, Bill Gains ran off to Canada with a woman and has never been heard from since. This occurred while the Genies were playing their first big engagement at New York's Apollo Theatre, with such groups as the Cadillacs and the Channels. The group had to move quickly to shift parts to cover Bill's second tenor spot for the remainder of the week. They toured the East Coast and Canada, recorded one single for Hollywood ("No More Knockin'") and three for Morty Craft's Warwick label, but by 1960 the group had broken up.
Five singles and one minor hit does not seem much of a legacy. However, the group had two interesting spin-offs. Roy Hammond (full name Roy Charles Hammond) embarked upon a solo career as Roy C and was rewarded with a hit in 1965. First released on his own Hammond label, "Shotgun Wedding" was soon leased to the larger Black Hawk label and peaked at # 14 R&B in late 1965. In the UK it was an even bigger hit. In fact, it hit the Top 10 twice : first in 1966 on the Island label (# 6) and then in 1972, when it was reissued on the UK label, it peaked at # 8. In 1966, Ember Records in the UK even reissued one of the Warwick singles by the Genies, "Twistin' Pneumonia", to cash in on the success of "Shotgun Wedding". Roy C had four more R&B chart entries in the 1971-75 period, one on Alaga and three on Mercury.
After the break-up of the Genies, Claude Johnson took a day job painting houses in Long Beach, together with Roland Trone (who, contrary to popular belief, was never a member of the Genies). A tenant heard them singing while they were painting an apartment building and put them in touch with agent Peter Paul who brought them to Big Top Records in New York. There they became Don (Roland) and Juan (Claude) and hit the # 7 spot on the Billboard charts in the early spring of 1962 with "What's Your Name" (which was intended as the B-side of the up-tempo "Chicken Necks"). Don and Juan recorded prolifically throughout the 1960s (including the original version of "True Love Never Runs Smooth", which became a hit for Gene Pitney), but did not see the charts again. Trone died in 1982, Johnson in 2002.
Acknowledgements : Jay Warner, Rob Finnis, All Music Guide
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