Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hurting last night...

The Hearts were the brainchild of Zell Sanders who in '53/'54 saw Joyce West, Forestine Barnes, and Hazel Crutchfield singing at the Apollo and scooped 'em up. The girls were between 12 and 15 years old. So, the usual story right? They go into the studio, make some records, have a hit, and that's basically it, right?

Well, no. The story of the Hearts is about as complicated as it gets. Within a relatively short period of time, Zell Sanders turned the Hearts into a franchise with two separate groups recording under that same name and several others as well. Group members came and went, altogether something like two dozen singers were involved at one time or another. Both Baby Washington and Betty Harris are notable alumni. As you might imagine, the recordings vary from girl group sweetness to a much tougher RnB sound.

Sanders recorded the Hearts for her own labels but also leased them out to other record companies. In fact, once you look into the breath of her dealing with other labels it becomes clear that she engineered Baby Washington's early solo career and may have done the same with Betty Harris.

While it's fairly easy to find a Hearts discography, it's my experience is that they are often wrong, or at the very least contradict other discographies in obvious ways. Truth is, no matter how hard anyone tries to lay it all out, it's still very confusing.

For instance, one source says this record was issued in 1956 on J&S, but another says 1960, and yet another says 1963. I also happen to know there was a release on the Zell label [not the common red label issue from 1970] which nobody mentions.

So, what is this record? I'm not really sure, it's the only copy I've run into that looks like this. However, it's clear to me this 45 was issued no earlier than 1963. Check the distributor. Cos Matassa didn't start Dover until 1963. That's why I paid attention to the record in the first place. A Hearts record that was distributed out of New Orleans? How very odd. I end up thinking it's the equivalent of a local issue.

So, who's the lead singer? The folks at Ace Records, who've put out a couple of nice comps of Hearts related material, say that it's Ruth Artis, a name I think I recognize from gospel music but am unable to confirm. Actually, I can't find anything on her at all.

I hope ya'll's a great one.


  1. Great tune. Interesting back story of The Hearts formation and changing personnel. Thank you!

  2. Is lovely. Do you recommend a particular comp?

  3. Holly...the folks at Ace have issued two collections and I believe are working on a third of related groups [essentially the Hearts under other names]. But remember, this was not a group in the usual sense. On the whole there was no consistent sound.