"One Mint Julep"
If ever there were a recording group that enjoyed success too soon, it was the Clovers. Formed 1946 in the nation’s capital, they honed their skills and developed a following before they released their first 1950 recording on Rainbow Records label. Yes Sir, That’s My Baby and When You Come Back To Me were the 2 sides. Neither turned out to be hits, but The Clovers were now a recording group.
What really propelled them to R&B success was signing with Atlantic Records in 1951. Atlantic was a new label but right on the cusp of becoming the top label in rhythm and blues. The Clovers’ timing in this case was perfect. But where their timing was not so perfect was the fact they became a top recording act before the rhythm and blues, and later rock n roll boom happened. Television was still in its infancy and rhythm and blues acts got almost no national TV exposure. That wouldn’t come until later in the 1950s.
Despite their lack of national TV exposure they certainly were popular on southern jukeboxes and well known by rhythm and blues aficionados with numerous hit records on national charts. In their first year with Atlantic they scored their first hit with a song titled Don’t You Know I Love You and the hits just kept on coming. These songs represent a “who’s who” of early rhythm and blues. Songs like One Mint Julep Fool, Fool, Fool, Devil Or Angel, Little Mama, Hey Miss Fannie, Blue Velvet, Lovey Dovey, Love, Love, Love, Your Tender Lips, Your Cash Ain’t Nothin But Trash, Nip Sip and many others. The Clovers became the first premier recording group for the Atlantic label.
Ironically, their biggest and most remembered hit was not on Atlantic. Their contract with Atlantic ran out in the late 1950s and they eventually landed with the United Artists. The song, a hit in 1959, has stood the test of time and is quite often played on radio stations today. It is the classic Love Potion Number 9 which was penned by legendary songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. It has been re-recorded by several artists most noticeably by the “British music invasion” group the Searchers in 1965. True, it was The Clovers’ biggest hit but unfortunately it was also their last hit.
The first Clovers lineup consisted of Harold Lucas, Buddy Bailey, Billy Shelton and Thomas Woods. But their sound didn’t really gel until Shelton and Woods were replaced by Harold Winley and Matthew McQuater. That is the group on the first recordings. Buddy Bailey was lead singer, but in 1952 he was drafted and replaced by Charlie White, who was replaced by Billy Mitchell. When Buddy Bailey was discharged from the service he rejoined the group and The Clovers became a quintet.
During the post Love Potion Number 9 period in the 1960s there were several variations of Clovers groups performing. By early 1970 the most visible group was headed by original member Harold Lucas. That group also featured Toy Walton, John Bowie and Tippie Hubbard.
Toy Walton died in 1975 and was replaced by Johnny Mason. Tippie Hubbard died in 1980 and was replaced by Steve Charles. That group (Lucas, Bowie, Mason and Charles) was the one so popular in the Carolinas during their heyday of the 1980s. Two of their recordings became beach music hits, Drive It Home and Don’t Play That Song. Steve Charles left the group in the 1990s. Harold Lucas passed away and John Bowie died in 2002.
Johnny Mason kept The Clovers alive with differing lineups through the years, which included a singer named King Raymond Green. In 2006 Green left Mason’s group to form a new group and recruited the last surviving Clovers’ original member Harold Winley to join them. Today there are two groups. One features Green and Winley, the other features Mason and Charles. It is Mason and Charles who own The Clovers’ trademark. Thankfully for lovers of this sound both groups are working and exposing The Clovers’ music to new generations of fans.
From the earliest days of R&B the Clovers have been one of the acts music lovers in the Carolinas have embraced. Their harmonies, smoothness and rich individual voices have all been reasons Carolinians love them. And of course, the fact their music makes you want to move, to dance, to clap your hands, to just feel good.
The Clovers, known and loved worldwide, have been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Doo Wop Hall of Fame and the United in Group Harmony Hall of Fame. Additionally they have received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award. It is with extreme pleasure that we induct The Clovers into the Beach Music Hall of Fame.