Saturday, October 9, 2010

One hit wonders: The Regents

During the 50’s/60’s, it was pretty common for vocal groups to have a hit and not be able to duplicate the success with other songs. They would simply burn out, and this would make it difficult for record labels dedicate too much time to them, since there were so many groups available. The Regents would turn out to be one of the vocal groups that unfortunately had this fate.

The original Regents came together in the Bronx, in 1957.  The original members were Ernie Marseca, Chuck Fassert, Guy Villari, and Sal Cuomo. This lineup was first called The Monterays. A little bit later, they changed their name to The Desires, when they signed with Seville Records. They finally decided on The Regents, named after the cigarettes with the same name that Villari smoked, after adding Tony Gravagna and Don Jacobucci to the lineup. But life was tough for the group, as none of the songs they recorded were released. They had recorded Barbara Ann in only three takes, in 1958, but that didn’t guarantee them a recording contract. Eventually, they broke up.

It was not until 1961 that The Regents became known. As luck would have it, another group, called The Consorts, were in need of original songs for an audition. They ended up recording their own version of Barbara Ann. When the owner of Cousin Records heard the song, he decided to release the original version. The Regents reunited and the song was a #1 hit in New York, getting to #13 in the Billboard Hot 100. After this initial success, they recorded Run Around, which reached #28 on the pop chart. But after a royalties dispute with Roulette/Gee, who were responsible for worldwide distribution of Barbara Ann, the group broke up again.

In 1973, Guy Villari revived The Regents, although he was the only original member. Curiosly, Villari also wrote songs for other singers, like The Wanderer, recorded by Dion. Maybe if The Regents had recorded this song…

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