Crew Cuts, The

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Crew Cuts, The

Crew Cuts, The , Caucasian Canadian quartet that made their fortune emulating the music of African-American vocal groups. MEMBERSHIP : John Perkins, lead voc. (b. 1931); Pat Barrett, tenor voc.; Rudi Maugeri, baritone voc. (b. Jan. 27, 1931); Ray Perkins, bass voc.

Originally cast in the mold of the Four Lads, who attended the same Toronto school, the Perkins brothers formed a vocal group called the Canadians. They worked live and on the radio. After one show in Cleveland, a DJ advised a name change to the Crew Cuts and then referred them to Mercury records.

They debuted auspiciously at #8 in the spring of 1954 with their own song “Crazy ’Bout You Baby.” A month later they released a track originally by an R&B group called the Chords, using what was then standard operating procedure for a pop vocal group of working with a small orchestra (in this case, David Carroll’s). That tune, “Sh-Boom” zoomed to #1 and stayed there for nine weeks, starting a trend of white performers singing R&B tunes for white audiences, an early hall-mark of commercial rock and roll. Some historians actually cite this record as the first hit of the rock and roll era. Continuing in this vein, they covered another R&B novelty, “Oop Shoop,” which peaked at #13. Their album The Crew Cuts on Campus topped out at #14, their only album to chart.

Ushering in the rock and roll era in the winter of 1955, they took the Penguins7 R&B chart topper (#8 pop) “Earth Angel” and eclipsed the original by five chart positions, though the Penguins’ version is the one that stood the test of time. Another cover, of Gene and Eunice’s R&B #6 tune “Ko Ko “reached #6. In the spring of that year, the Cuts took Nappy Brown’s #25 hit “Don’t Be Angry” to #14. The B-side, a take on the Dander Hers’ #10 R&B tune “Chop Chop Boom,” was a simultaneous hit. To capitalize on this success, their version of the Nutmegs’ #2 R&B hit “A Story Untold” was rush released and rose to #16 in June. The Charms’ “Gum Drop” was their next hit in Aug., rising to #10.

The Crew Cuts dug into another mine for their next hit, covering Tony Martin’s “Angels in the Sky” which hit #11, then Larry Clinton’s “Mostly Martha” a #2 hit for that singer in 1938. In Feb. 1956, they did Clyde McPhatter’s “Seven Days,” taking it to #18. However, the group didn’t have another Top 40 hit for nearly a year, finally scoring with a version of Sonny James’s country hit, “Young Love,” which they took to #17. By this time, however, the original versions of the R&B and country hits, at first deemed too raw for middle-of-the-road audiences, started to become pop hits in their own right. This acceptance was the death knell for the Crew Cuts and their ilk. It took them nearly six hitless years to get the idea, but they finally broke up in 1963.


I Crew Cut Capers (1954); The Crew Cuts on the Campus (1954); Music a la Carte (1955); Surprise Package (1958); You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby (1960); The Crew Cuts Sing Out! (1960); High School Favorites (1962); The Crew Cuts Sing Folk (1963).

—Hank Bordowitz