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A number of significant racially integrated groups emerged in the '50s and '60s

Sly & The Family Stone were one of the prominent racially integrated groups of the '50s and '60s.
Sly & The Family Stone were one of the prominent racially integrated groups of the '50s and '60s.eil.com

Although much of the pop music over the past century fused influences of black and white music, for many years, there were a surprisingly low number of racially integrated bands.

Until recent years, more than 90 percent of pop-rock bands were composed of all-white or all-black musicians, although some jazz bands in the '30s and '40s featured a blend of blacks and whites.

By the mid-1950s, some doo-wop groups -- including The Del Vikings and The Crests -- featured racially mixed lineups, but they were the exception, rather than the rule. In part, this situation stemmed from the fact that most youngsters grew up with friends of the same race, and therefore, if they formed bands, they were of the single-race variety.

In a way, the eventual tearing down of "racial barriers" in the musical venue enabled overall progress in eliminating such barriers in other settings. This article will take a look at a dozen examples of prominent integrated bands of the '50s and '60s, and to hear any of the accompanying music samples, simply click on the title.

  • 1. SLY & THE FAMILY STONE was a San Francisco soul-pop group headed by singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Sylvester "Sly" Stewart. Active from 1967 to 1983, the band posted 11 Top 40 singles, including three chart-toppers: "Everyday People" (1969), "Thank You Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Again" (1970) and "Family Affair" (1971). The group was one of the first U.S. rock bands to feature an integrated, multi-gender lineup. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Everyday People" (No. 1, 1969).
  • 2. THE CRESTS were formed as a black doo-wop group at a Manhattan junior high school in 1955, but Johnny Mastrangelo (a k a Johnny Maestro) joined as lead singer the following year. The group charted 10 Billboard Hot 100 entries, including "Sixteen Candles", which went to No. 2 nationally in 1958. Maestro left for a solo career in 1960, and he later was the man behind the formation of The Brooklyn Bridge. MUSIC SAMPLE" "Sixteen Candles" (No. 2, 1958).
  • 3. THE DEL VIKINGS were formed at an Air Force Servicemen's Club in Pittsburgh in 1955, and they are primarily noted for two huge 1957 hits: "Come Go With Me" and "Whispering Bells." Although the group had numerous personnel changes, the original lineup consisted of Norman Wright, Krips Johnson, Gus Backus, David Lerchey and Clarence Quick. The group recorded on several labels, including Fee Bee, Luniverse, Dot and Mercury. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Come Go With Me" (No. 5, 1957).
  • 4. BOOKER T & THE MGs -- formed from studio musicians for Stax-Volt Records in Memphis -- was an instrumental funk band headed by pianist-organist Booker T. Jones. Other original members were Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass) and Al Jackson Jr. (drums). In the '60s, they played on numerous recordings by artists such as Wilson Pickett, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding. In 1965, Steinberg was replaced by Donald "Duck" Dunn, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. One of the first racially integrated rock groups, they charted 15 Hot 100 items. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Green Onions" (No. 3, 1962).
  • 5. THE FOUNDATIONS, a British group that underwent numerous lineup changes, first hit it big in 1968 with "Baby Now That I Found You" with Clem Curtis as lead singer. But by the time they had a second major hit with "Build Me Up Buttercup" in 1969, Colin Young was fronting the group, which eventually disbanded in 1970. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Baby Now That I've Found You" (No. 11, 1967).
  • 6. THE IMPALAS was a Brooklyn doo-wop quartet featuring black lead singer Joe "Speedo" Frazier, accompanied by three white backup singers: Richard Wagner, Lenny Renda and Tony Carlucci. They originally recorded for the tiny Hamilton label before they were discovered by promoters Artie Zwirn and Aristides "Gino" Giosasi, who had written "Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)", which reached the No. 2 position on Billboard and was the group's only significant single. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)" (No. 2, 1959).
  • 7. JAY & THE TECHNIQUES was a seven-man group from Allentown, Pa., that had two major 1967 hits with "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" and "Keep The Ball Rolling." The group featured the lead vocals of Jay Proctor, who formed the band. After a third Top 40 hit with "Strawberry Shortcake" in 1968 and one other minor charter, the group faded into obscurity. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" (No. 6, 1967).
  • 8. THE AMERICAN BREED was a quartet from Cicero, Ill., led by Gary Loizzo, and two other members -- drummer Andre Fischer and keyboardist Kevin Murphy -- later were members of the group Rufus. The group's biggest success was "Bend Me, Shape Me", which charted at No. 5 on Billboard in 1968. Their signature song was actually a cover of a song written for The Outsiders the previous year. After three other Billboard Hot 100 charters, the group disbanded in 1969. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Bend Me, Shape Me" (No. 5, 1967).
  • 9. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS was a soul group consisting of white drummer Brian Keenan, plus four plus four Mississippi-born brothers. Their signature hit ("Time Has Come Today") was a blend of blues, gospel and psychedelic music, and they also charted four other recordings in the Billboard Hot 100. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Time Has Come Today" (No. 11, 1968).
  • 10. JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE was led and founded by the legendary psychedelic blues guitarist from Seattle. This was an English-American band formed in Westminster, England, in 1966. Composed of singer-guitarist Hendrix, bassist-backing vocalist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the band was active until June 1969, prior to which time they released a number of successful albums. Redding left the group in 1969, and Hendrix and Mitchell continued to work together on other projects. The Experience reunited in 1970, with Billy Cox on bass, until Hendrix died in September of that year. MUSIC SAMPLE: "All Along The Watchtower" (No. 20, 1968).c
  • 11. BOBBY TAYLOR & THE VANCOUVERS was a soul-oriented sextet formed in Vancouver, British Columbia, and it included Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong fame) on guitar. Briefly signed to Motown Records in the late '60s, they had only one Top 40 single in the U.S. As a producer and solo artist, Bobby Taylor contributed to several other soul recordings, both inside and outside of Motown, and Taylor is most notable for discovering The Jackson 5. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Does Your Mama Know About Me" (No. 29, 1968).
  • 12. THE EQUALS were a British-Jamaican rock-R&B quintet led by guitarist Eddy Grant (of "Electric Avenue" fame) and vocalist Derv Gordon. The group, formed in London in 1965, is primarily remembered for their million-selling hit, "Baby Come Back." The record didn't originally fare well in the UK, but it went to No. 1 in both Germany and the Netherlands. On the song's re-release in the UK, it also topped the charts. MUSIC SAMPLE: "Baby Come Back" (No. 32, 1968).

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