The Capitols

The Capitols were an R&B group from Detroit who struggled for a time, broke up, re-formed, and received an assist from some real pros in the Detroit area to come up with one very memorable song in the mid-60's.

They formed in 1962 with Samuel George on lead vocals and drums, Don Storball (born Don Norman) on backup vocals and guitar, and Richard Mitchell (born Richard McDougall) on backup vocals and keyboards (and later, Ralph Jones as a songwriter and vocalist). Originally they were known as The Three Caps. The group performed at a local venue on the same bill with established singer Barbara Lewis, whose manager Ollie McLaughlin liked what he saw and brought them to the studio to record. The result was a record called Dog And Cat, on which they showed promise but unfortunately the song had little appeal and did not do well. The group broke up not long after this disappointment.

Ralph Jones' wife Alice was the cousin of Motown Records founder Barry Gordy and that gave the Capitols some connections. Dances were in vogue in the early and mid-60's, including one that was very popular in Detroit called "the jerk." At many of the clubs a rather lewd version of the dance called the "pimp jerk" was in fashion. Don Storball wrote a song based on the dance and cleaned things up a bit, calling it Cool Jerk. They re-formed their group and started working on the song, and pretty soon realized they had something on their hands that could be very good, so they called their old manager, Ollie McLaughlin. McLaughlin was well-established in the music business in Michigan, having worked as a disc jockey, band manager, and record producer; he was also known around the music industry for his great success with Barbara Lewis.

The group re-named itself the Capitols and in March, 1966 gathered at the small Golden World Studios in Detroit to record Cool Jerk. Some of the musicians scheduled for the session did not show up, but a group of musicians from Motown known as the Funk Brothers were available. The Funk Brothers, the house band at Motown, at the time were working on tracks for the Supremes' forthcoming top ten hit Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart. Gordy and Motown would not approve of the Funk Brothers appearing on another label -- this one was to be recorded on McLaughlin's Karen label -- but they could always use a little extra money, and arrangements were made. The music was rearranged somewhat, eliminating the horns that were unexpectedly not present. The end result was a terrific recording of Cool Jerk by the Capitols.

Cool Jerk went top ten pop nationally and to number two on the R&B chart in 1966. Trying to capitalize on the record's success, the group recorded two more albums that year and several more singles, but nothing would catch on, and the Capitols came to be regarded as a one-shot group. They struggled unsuccessfully trying to come up with another hit before disbanding in 1969.

The members of the group went their separate ways. Samuel George died from stab wounds sustained in a domestic dispute in 1982; Richard Mitchell passed away two years later. Ralph Jones died of lung cancer in 2007. Don Storball is the only surviving member of the Capitols, still living in Detroit after a successful career as a police officer in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park.

Although the Capitols came up with only one hit, Cool Jerk, it was a huge one and is a song that has retained its popularity in rotation on oldies stations for decades.

Most Recent Update: July 1, 2012

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