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The Orioles

Original Line-up:  Sonny Til, Alexander Sharp, George Nelson, Johnny Reed and Tommy Gaither

Current line-up of the Orioles

Current line-up:  David Warren, Ray Apollo, Diz Russell, Clark Walker & Dwight Datcher


Sonny Til and the OriolesSonny Til and the Orioles
R & B Group InterviewsR&B Vocal Group Interviews
Singers.Com -- The OriolesSingers.Com -- The Orioles
Rock and Roll Hall of FameRock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
Crying in the ChapelCrying in the Chapel
It's Too Soon To KnowIt's Too Soon To Know

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Led by Sonny Til, the Orioles were the first black vocal group to sing music directly for a black audience. Through their early recordings -- which were made in the late '40s and early '50s -- the band laid the groundwork for R & B vocal groups and doo wop. the Orioles fused traditional pop songs with gospel sensibilities and arranged blues and gospel material with smooth harmonies, designed to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

Based in Baltimore, MD, the Orioles consisted of lead vocalist Sonny Til (born Earlington Carl Tilghman, August 18, 1928; died December 9, 1981), Alexander Sharp (tenor vocals), George Nelson (baritone vocals), Johnny Reed (bass vocals), and guitarist Tommy Gaither. Originally called the Vibranaires, the group formed when its members were teenagers.

They came to the attention of Deborah Chessler, a local merchant who also wrote songs; she would write many of the group's subsequent hits. Chessler became the band's manager and she was able to get the Vibranaires a spot on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television show. Although the group lost to pianist George Shearing, they caught the eye of Jerry Blaine, a New York record company executive, while they were in town for the program.

Blaine signed the group to his newly created It's a Natural record label and had the band cut "It's Too Soon to Know," a ballad written by Chessler. After they signed their deal with It's a Natural, the band changed its name to the Orioles. In the late summer of 1948, "It's Too Soon to Know" was released on It's a Natural, but shortly after the single's release, National Records complained about the name of Blaine's new label, so he re-released the song on Jubilee Records, a record label he had previously used to release Yiddish comedy records. "It's Too Soon to Know" became a number one R & B hit and crossed over to number 13 on the pop charts. At the time of its release, no black group had managed to cross over to the pop charts with what was then known as a "race" record. the Orioles immediately followed the success of their debut single with the seasonal "(It's Gonna Be A) Lonely Christmas," which reached the R & B Top Ten at the end of 1948.

"Tell Me So" became the Orioles' second number one R & B hit in the spring of 1949, beginning a streak of six R & B hit singles that year. In addition to "Tell Me So," the group charted with "A Kiss and a Rose" (number 12, late summer), "I Challenge Your Kiss" (number 11, fall), "Forgive and Forget" (number five, fall), a re-released "(It's Gonna Be A) Lonely Christmas" (number five, winter), and the B-side of "Lonely Christmas," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" (number nine, winter).

Following their peak year of 1949, the group ran into tragedy. In 1950, Gaither, Nelson, and Reed suffered an automobile accident that killed Gaither and severely injured the other two members; Nelson quit the group later in the year. As Reed recovered from the accident, the group found replacements for Gaither and Nelson, finally settling on guitarist Ralph Williams and vocalist Gregory Carroll. The new lineup of the band had its first hit in 1952, when "Baby Please Don't Go" reached number eight on the R & B charts. The following year, the group had their biggest hit with "Crying in the Chapel." Released in the summer of 1953, "Crying in the Chapel" spent five weeks on the R & B charts and reached number 11 on the pop charts, eventually going gold; Elvis Presley had a hit with the song 12 years later. Toward the end of the year, the group had another Top Ten R & B hit with "In the Mission of St. Augustine." The single would turn out to be their last hit.

In 1954, the Orioles began to splinter, as Sharp and Reed left to join the Ink Spots. Til assembled a new lineup, but the group didn't gain much attention. He continued to lead various incarnations of the Orioles, performing concerts and re-recording the group's old hits, until his death in 1981. Nelson died sometime in 1959 and Sharp died in the early '70s. In 1995, 40 years after the original lineup of the group disbanded, the Orioles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

-- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Janice's Notes . . .

I recently sailed on the 'Doo-Wop Cruise with Matt The Cat' (May 12-19, 2012), and met Dwight Datcher and his beautiful wife, Cornell. I found him to be the most gracious, kind, and the friendliest person I've ever met. He is currently a member of The Orioles, and even though his group was not onboard the ship, he performed beautifully with a group formed onboard and aptly named 'The Gemtones'. (The ship was The Norwegian Gem, get it?) The main star was Big Jay McNeely, but this group made the shows and jam sessions really 'shine'. This was the biggest thrill of my lifetime, to meet these people in person. Not to mention meeting Matt The Cat and his beautiful wife, Kelly!

I could not verify the release dates of their records, and in those days it was mostly singles, so I'll just list the albums that I own.

Dwight, Janice, and Gary Datcher

Dwight Datcher, Janice, and Gary Datcher

Cruise 2012 Videos
Peace of Mind by the Gemtones
Glory of Love by the Gemtones

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1991The Orioles Sing Their Greatest Hits
1992The Orioles: For Collectors Only (Box Set)
1994Sonny Til And The Orioles: Greatest Hits


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1991 The Orioles Sing Their Greatest Hits

01. It's Too Soon To Know
02. At Night
03. Tell Me So
04. It's Gonna Be A Lonely Christmas
05. Forgive And Forget
06. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
07. I Miss You So
08. Baby, Please Don't Go
09. Till Then
10. You Belong To Me
11. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
12. I Cover The Waterfront
13. Crying In The Chapel
14. In The Chapel In The Moonlight

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1992 The Orioles: For Collectors Only (Box Set)

Record 1
01. Moonlight
02. Pal Of Mine
03. I Cover The Waterfront
04. In The Chapel In The Moonlight
05. It's Gonna Be A Lonely Christmas
06. Crying In The Chapel
07. I Miss You So
08. Goodnight Irene
09. Till Then
10. It's Too Soon To Know
11. A Kiss And A Rose
12. Walking By The River
13. Trust In Me
14. Don't Stop
15. I Promise You
16. I Don't Want To Take A Chance
17. Once Upon A Time
18. My Baby's Gonna Get It
19. I'm Beginning To Think You Care For Me
20. See See Rider
Record 2
01. Don't Keep It To Yourself
02. Waiting
03. Don't Cry Baby
04. Along About Sundown
05. I Challenge Your Kiss
06. I Had To Leave Town
07. Tell Me So
08. Baby Please Don't Go
09. I'd Rather Have You Under The Moon
10. You Belong To Me
11. At Night
12. I Need You So
13. Hold Me, Squeeze Me
14. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
15. Forgive And Forget
16. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
17. Pretty, Pretty Rain
18. Feeling Low
19. Good Looking Baby
20. Teardrops On My Pillow
Record 3
01. Bad Little Girl
02. Cigareetos
03. Bring The Money Home
04. Wanted
05. Maybe You'll Be There
06. Drowning Every Hope I Ever Had
07. Everything They Said Came True
08. Why Did You Go
09. Please Give My Heart A Break
10. Deacon Jones
11. You Are My First Love
12. Barbara Lee
13. Getting Tired, Tired, Tired
14. Can't Seem To Laugh Anymore
15. I May Be Wrong
16. Would I Love You
17. Blame It On Yourself
18. How Blind Can You Be
19. My Loved One
20. So Much

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1994 Sonny Til And The Orioles: Greatest Hits

01. Crying In The Chapel
02. It's Too Soon To Know
03. Chapel In The Moonlight
04. Secret Love
05. I Miss You So
06. Back To The Chapel Again
07. Lonely Christmas
08. Don't Tell Her
09. What Happened To You
10. Don't Mess Around
11. New Year's Eve
12. Write And Tell Me Why
13. Wobble
14. Hey Little Woman

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graphics by YSM

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