The Los Angeles R& B group the Titans was formed in 1956 by Larry Green, a former cab driver and alumnus of several East Coast groups, including the Four Dots and the Heartbreakers. Around 1955 Green relocated from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, hoping to build a solo career. He was so impressed by the calibre of talent working the club circuit that he opted to form a new combo instead. First tenor Charles Wright, second tenor Sam Barnett, tenor/baritone Alvin Branom and baritone Curtis McNair joined Green (bass) in a group who originally called themselves the Egyptians. Soon this name was changed to the Titans, in honour of the U.S. Air Force's new Titan missile. At age 30, Green was the veteran of the group ; the other members were all in their early twenties. All of them could sing lead and they showed their versatility by switching around on their recordings.
Their manager, Cecil Carter, signed the Titans to the Vita label in Pasadena and they issued their debut single, "So Hard To Laugh, So Easy To Cry" in early 1957. It went nowhere, but Vita gave them a second chance in March 1957. That session resulted in the single "G'Wan Home Calypso"/"Look What You're Doing Baby" (Vita 158), which earned the group a spot in the rock 'n' roll B-movie "Bop Girl Goes Calypso". The film starred Judy Tyler, who would go on to play opposite Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock" and died tragically in an automobile accident, only days after finishing her part. Carter then moved the group to Art Rupe's Specialty label, for which they had their first session on July 7, 1957, produced by Sonny Bono. Three tracks were recorded and "Sweet Peach"/"Free And Easy" was chosen for single release (Specialty 614) in October. Reviews were good (the same could not be said of their Vita releases), but sales were disappointing. The Titans also did some backup work behind Larry Green's friends Don and Dewey, the result being the single "Just A Little Loving"/"When the Sun Has Begun To Shine", issued in November on Specialty 617.
At their next session, the Titans laid down a cover of Huey "Piano" Smith's "Don't You Just Know It" (Specialty 625), released in early 1958, which also got a UK release on London HLU 8609. The B-side, "Can It Be", written by Sonny Bono and Rene Hall, was the better side and might have been a better choice to have promoted. Though the record sold well on the West Coast, Alvin Branom decided to leave the group in March 1958, after which the Titans continued as a quartet. Their final Specialty session, on March 27, 1958, resulted in the single "Arlene"/"Love Is A Wonderful Thing" (Specialty 632), both led by Sam Barnett. Soon after, their new manager Bob Gordon, packaged the group together with fellow clients the Nighthawks, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson and Mikki Lynn to create The Harlem Nocturne Revue, a variety showcase that ran for two years at Lakewood CA's Squire's Inn.
In January 1959 the Titans also issued a one-off single on Leon Rene's Class label, called "No Time" (Class 244), a song clearly inspired by Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business". It did well in the Los Angeles area and is probably their biggest seller. The final record by the group was "Everybody Happy"/"What Have I Done", issued on Art Rupe's reactivated Fidelity label in February 1960. A few months later, Curtis McNair left the group to care for his ailing father. After a brief stint as a trio, the Titans split. Larry Green later returned to the Squire's Inn as the "Singing Chief", cooking in a tuxedo and apron while singing to the restaurant's patrons. McNair later changed his name to Curtis Knight and assembled a backing band that included guitarist Jimmy James, who cut several records with the group (the Squires) before mounting a solo career under his given name of Jimi Hendrix. The Titans never scored a real hit. They were talented, but they were also one of hundreds of groups in the Los Angeles area, all competing for fame and fortune.
Acknowledgements: Marv Goldberg (link below), All Music Guide.
Ace Records in the UK have reissued several Titans singles, all on different CD's. "Don't You Just Know It" is included on "Specialty Rock 'n' Roll" (Ace 291) and "Rock 'n' Roll Fever" (Ace 574). "Can It Be" is on "Fabulous Flips, Vol. 1" (Ace 444). "Free And Easy" is on "Jiving Jamboree" (Ace 561). "Arlene" is on "Rock 'n' Roll Fever" (Ace 574). "No Time" is on "The Class & Rendezvous Story" (Ace 461).
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