The Shields occupy a unique place in the history of rock 'n roll. Even though they existed for only a very short time, they left us with a classic 50's doo wop record.
The story of the Shields begins with record producer George Motola. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1919, sold cars for a while, and by the mid-1950's was working in Los Angeles as a record producer at Modern Records. At Modern he produced records by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Jesse Belvin, among other acts, and the two became friends.
Motola wrote a number of songs over the years, many of them with his wife Ricki Page, who was herself a singer/songwriter. Perhaps the best known of these is Goodnight My Love, which he had written by himself in the 1940's but had not finished. Jesse Belvin made a few changes to the song and completed it, then recorded it in 1956. It is said that because Belvin requested $400 from Motola in lieu of the co-songwriting credits, Motola sold the co-writing credit to John Marascalco in order to come up wth the money, and so Goodnight My Love is listed as written by Motola and Marascalco. Belvin's is the definitive version of the song, but others brought it to the top 40 in subsequent years with recordings of their own, including the McGuire Sisters, the Fleetwoods, and Paul Anka.
Eventually Motola started his own record label, Tender Records. He drew in a number of session singers he had known over the years on the West Coast for the sole purpose of recording a song called You Cheated, which had been done originally by a group of friends from McCallum High School in Austin, Texas known as the Slades (and issued on the Domino label). That version went to #42 in 1958. Writing credits for the song went to Don Burch of the Slades. For this recording of You Cheated Motola assembled a group that included Frankie Ervin singing lead, Jesse Belvin on falsetto-tenor, Johnny "Guitar" Watson on bass and Mel Williams and Buster Williams on background tenor. He called the group the Shields. It was first released on Tender 513. The B-side was an interesting song co-written by Motola titled That's the Way It's Gonna Be.
Motola's Tender label was very small and not very well financed, so he sold the distribution rights to Dot Records, headed by Randy Wood. You Cheated by the Shields became an instant Doo Wop classic, soaring to #12 on the Billboard chart in the fall of 1958. This recording is highly regarded to this day.
After that recording session the Shields were not to come together again, and so there is no known video of them performing anywhere at any time. Jesse Belvin and his wife Jo Ann lost their lives in an automobile accident outside of Hope, Arkansas while Jesse was on tour in 1960 with other contemporary performers Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Marv Johnson. George Motola died in 1991 at the age of 71. His ashes were scattered at sea as Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods, who attended the ceremony, sang an a cappella version of that group's last top forty hit, Motola's Goodnight My Love. Johnny "Guitar" Watson, a flamboyant personality and noted guitar picker as well as a good friend of singer Larry Williams, had a long career in the music business before he died of cardiac infarction while on tour in Japan in 1996.
The Shields brief time together left the world of music with a classic 50's doo wop tune in You Cheated.
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