Clovers, The

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Clovers, The

Clovers, The, the most popular R&B vocal group of the first half of the 1950s. Membership:John “Buddy” Bailey, lead ten. (b. Washington, D.C. c. 1930); Matthew McQuater, second ten.; Harold “Hal” Lucas, bar. (b. c. 1923, d. Jan. 6, 1994); Harold Winley, bass voc; Bill Harris, gtr. (b. Nashville, April 14, 1925; d. Dec. 10, 1988). Other members included Charles White (b. c. 1930, Washington, D.C.) and Billy Mitchell.

Formed in 1946 in Washington, D.C. by Harold “Hal” Lucas/7 the group called themselves the Four Clovers after John “Buddy” Bailey joined the group. When Bill Harris joined in 1949, they officially became the Clovers. Signed to Atlantic Records after one single for Rainbow, the Clovers scored a string of top and smash R&B hits beginning in 1951 with “Don’t You Know I Love You.” Featuring the occasional ballad and saxophone accompaniment on up-tempo blues-based songs, they scored smash R&B hits with “Fool, Fool, Fool,” “One Mint Julep” (covered by Ray Charles in 1961) backed with “Middle of the Night,” “Ting-a-Ling” backed with “Wonder Where My Baby’s Gone,” “Hey Miss Fannie” (considered by some to be the first rock ’n’ roll record) backed with “I Played the Fool,” and “Crawlin.’” In 1952 Charlie White became the new lead while Bailey served a stint in the Army. White was featured on the hits “Good Lovin/” “Comin’ On,” and “Lovey Dovey” (covered by Buddy Knox in 1961) backed with “Little Mama.”

In early 1954 the Clovers performed on Alan Freed’s first rock ’n’ roll show. By April, White had left, to be replaced by Billy Mitchell. When Bailey returned in the fall of 1954 the group began featuring twin lead tenors Bailey and Lucas. Subsequent R&B hits included ““I’ve Got My Eyes on You” backed with the classic “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ but Trash” (covered by Steve Miller in 1974), “Blue Velvet” (covered by Bobby Vinton in 1963), “Nip Sip,” and “Devil or Angel” (covered by Bobby Vee in 1960) backed with “Hey, Baby Doll.” The Clovers scored their first major pop hit in 1956 with “Love, Love, Love,” but their Atlantic contract expired in July 1957. Subsequently recording for Poplar Records, they managed one final hit with “Love Potion No. 9” in late 1959 on United Artists. The group broke up in 1961, and Buddy Bailey and Harold Winley formed a new group of Clovers in 1961. Hal Lucas formed a second set of Clovers in 1962. Bill Harris died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 10, 1988; Hal Lucas died of cancer on Jan. 6, 1994.

The Clovers were one of the first such groups to be acknowledged as rock ’n’ roll artists, playing in Alan Freed’s shows in 1954. Recording the classics “Blue Velvet,” “Devil or Angel,” and “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ but Trash,” the Clovers featured the accompaniment of some of the finest saxophone players in N.Y. and utilized twin lead tenors beginning in 1954, years before the Temptations adopted the practice.


The Clovers (1956); In Clover (1958); Dance Party (1959); Love Potion Number Nine (1959).

—Brock Helander