Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The Four Deuces, WPLJ.
The Meadowlarks, Heaven and Paradise.
The Cadillacs, Speedo.

The legend is that 15,000 doo-wop groups were formed in the 1950s: here are the testaments of three.

The Four Deuces' "WPLJ" stands for "white port [and] lemon juice," a rather volatile cocktail (see below) that was a band favorite. The song may have been initially designed as a jingle for a local wine merchant--no one really knows. Formed in Salinas, California, by a quartet of army buddies, the Deuces put out three singles before splitting up in the late '50s.

A decade later, around the time Frank Zappa and Lowell George covered the song, the New York City radio station WABC changed its call letters to WPLJ (once home of Vin Scelsa, whose "Idiot's Delight" program in the '90s was one of my primary inspirations for this starting this site). Ironically, PLJ's current ossified "hot adult contemporary" format means that the station will never play its namesake. But we will, by God.

"WPLJ" was released as Music City 790 in 1955 and became a regional hit by early '56. It's rarely been put out on CD, though it appears to be on a compliation called "Doo Wop Party" found here.

More on drinking WPLJ, from the jazz musician Roy Porter's autobiography, There and Back, 1991:

"At that time we were drinking Molotov Cocktails, which is white port wine mixed with lemon juice. Man, we would get four or five quarts of white port, buy some inhalers [filled with benzedrine], break them open, put the strips in each bottle of wine, put the wine next to a heater or heat, and let it sit and dissolve for a few days. When you drink that shit, man it will blow your mind, but we would be feeling mellow being loaded for days without any ZZZ's.

"But my real name is Mr. Earl." The legendary "Speedo" was released as Josie 785 in December 1955. Find on the utterly essential Best of Doo-Wop Uptempo.

The Meadowlarks were a Los Angeles group, consisting of Don Julian on lead, Randolph Jones, Earl Jones, Ron Barrett, and Bill Pruitt. Their masterpiece, "Heaven and Paradise", was released as Dootone 359 in March 1955--it was by far their biggest hit (although mainly on the coasts). The group would persevere in some form or other for another decade. In the '70s, Don Julian wound up scoring blacksploitation films like Shorty the Pimp. Find "Heaven" on Golden Classics.

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