|Interview With the
Member and Songwriter Ed Wells
(July 20, 1937--February 18, 2001)
By JIM DAWSON
In 1955-56 Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers were the rage. In their wake came The Students on Note, The Youngsters on Empire, The Teen Queens on RPM, The Schoolboys on Okeh and other adolescent black vocal groups whose names played upon their callow youth. One such group was The Sweet Teens on Flip Records, who quickly became The Six Teens and recorded their own song, "A Casual Look," which reached #25 on the national pop charts in the fall of 1956. Ed Wells, one of the groupís members and its songwriter, talked several years ago from his home in San Francisco about those early days. Ed Wells died in early 2001 after a lengthy illness.
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I was 17 years old, the oldest member of The Six Teens, when our record, "A Casual Look," became a hit. We were caught unawares by that record. Weíd never performed professionally before. We had to learn our craft and work out stage routines after the record created a demand for us.
Besides me, there were Darryl Lewis, Kenneth Sinclair, Beverly Pecot, and two sisters, Louise and Trudy Williams, who had already been singing as a duo at local functions. We were all from Catholic schools around Los Angeles. When I first put the group together I wanted one or two girls because theyíre more dependable than guys and because The Platters had Zola Taylor, whose voice sweetened their music. But when Louise showed up to audition, she brought along her 12-year-old sister, Trudy, and that changed everything around. All of a sudden she was the lead singer and we were doing Frankie Lymon songs, with Trudy changing the pronouns, like "I Want You to Be My Boy."
We came up with our name by adding up our ages and dividing it by six to get an average, which was sixteen.
Max Feirtag thought "Teen Age Promise" was the A-side, but the deejays had the sense to turn it over and play "A Casual Look."
We were all still in school so we could only do shows on weekends, around California. We couldnít do any real traveling until summer , and then we went to Hawaii. When we arrived in Honolulu, our second record, "Send Me Flowers," was number-one there. The Hawaiians were crazy over the opening line, mocca locca. It sounded to them like some Hawaiian slang that was slightly obscene.
For our third record, I wrote "Only Jim" because Max Feirtag wanted a song about a sailor. In "A Casual Look" Trudy was singing about her boyfriend in the Army, so Max figured weíd have another hit if we sang about the Navy this time. It did okay in some places.
After that, the song "Arrow of Love" came out. I would have gone with the other side, "Was It a Dream of Mine." That was really my favorite of all the songs I wrote. After that, they just got worse and worse. We were going for the kid market. We kept the lyrics clean and simple. Remember, we were Catholic kids. Trudy wasnít soulful and she couldnít do [vocal] slurs, so there wasnít much else I could do but write those dumb songs. I canít believe I wrote "Stop Playing Ping Pong With My Little Heart" and canít believe Max Feirtag recorded it. Not long ago I heard "Only Jim" on the radio and I thought, "Oh my God, thatís horrible."
Iím surprised those old records did so well. When I hear them now itís like somebody else wrote them. But I enjoy getting the little checks. Unlike some other groups, we never had a problem with our royalties because, since we were underage, the courts had to supervise our contract. I did pretty well with "A Casual Look." It was a big hit, and Gale Storm [on Dot] covered it, and Little Clydie & The Teens [on RPM] covered it, and The Orlons [on Cameo] recorded it later.
I went off to college, so I wasnít around all the time. Louise went into a convent for a couple of years to become a nun and we replaced her with Diane Smith. Then Trudy got married and had a baby and we replaced her with my sister, Maydiea Cole. Finally I left Los Angeles and moved to New York around 1968, and that pretty much ended The Six Teens.
Those times were fun but I donít really dwell on them. That was a long time ago. We were just children then.
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