All photographs © Nikki Gustafson & Jim Dunn, 2004 and are not to be used without prior permission.
In Memoriam - Arthur Crier - 1935-2004
It is with great sadness that we must report the passing of Arthur Crier on July 22, 2004. We spoke with him only a few days before, and he was still happy and excited over the success of the Doo-Wop in D.C. event. Although he was a great talent himself, he devoted much of his time and energy to seeing that many of his peers would be honored and recognized for their achievements. For those who were able to attend the Doo-Wop in D.C. program, it was a final chance to enjoy Arthur as a performer, and also to share the pleasure of his company. Above all, Arthur Crier was a warm and wonderful man, who will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Arthur Crier- June 25, 2004
Singer-songwriter-producer Arthur Crier, a bass-singing veteran of the
doo-wop era who sang on dozens of hit records for artists including Gene Pitney, Curtis
Lee, Barry Mann, Ben E. King, and the Halos, died at his home in
Arthur Crier was born in
In the winter of 1953, Arthur formed the Chimes with Gary Morrison, Gene Redd, and John Murray. They recorded two singles, including Dearest Darling, for Royal Roost that year. In early 1956, he recorded several songs for Old Town Records with a group called the Hummers, although it would be decades before these would be released.
That winter, he and Morrison joined original members Lillian Leach, John Wilson, and Harold Johnson in the Mellows, replacing Norman Brown. The Mellows had first recorded for Jay-Dee in the summer of 1954, and had enjoyed an East Coast hit Smoke From Your Cigarette, but were without a contract when the new lineup was formed.
The Mellows signed to Celeste Records in 1956 and recorded Lucky Guy and the fine ballad Im Yours, but lack of promotion doomed the sides to obscurity. In 1957, they recorded the haunting ballad, Moon Of Silver, Criers own personal favorite, for Candlelight Records. Following the breakup of the Mellows, Crier dove headfirst into songwriting, producing and managing. He also formed the Halos and recorded the Coasters-styled novelty, Nag, which became a national hit in the summer of 1961. Criers prominent bass voice, singing oh, baby youre a nag became the songs hook.
As accomplished background singers, Crier and the members of the Halos were among the most recorded vocal groups of the early 1960s, backing artists including Tommy Hunt, Bobby Vinton, Johnny Nash, Little Eva, Johnny Mathis, Dion, the Coasters, Connie Francis, Brian Hyland, and Ben E. King, among others. Criers resonant bass voice was featured on Barry Manns Who Put The Bomp and the Phil Spector-produced Pretty Little Angel Eyes by Curtis Lee, and Gene Pitneys Every Breath I Take.
His songwriting, managing, and producing credits throughout the 1960s
included work with the Four Tops, the Temptations, Thelma Houston, Savannah Smith, Baby
Jane and the Rock-A-Byes, the Rosettes, the Darlettes, and GQ, which included
Arthurs son, Keith. From 1968-1972,
Arthur lived in
In 1984, Crier reformed the Mellows and began performing again for devotees of 1950s R&B vocal group harmony music. Inspired by the We Are The World project, Arthur undertook a similar effort featuring vocal group artists of the 1950s and 1960s called Dont Let Them Starve. After a National Geographic Explorer cable television documentary on the vocal groups of the Bronx's Morrisania neighborhood, Crier and friends formed the Morrisania Revue, recording the critically acclaimed Voices of Doo Wop CD in 1994.
A champion of the music and fervent believer in its historical
preservation, Crier participated in a number of projects that broadened the horizons for
vocal group pioneers. With friend and singing
partner Eugene Tompkins and Beverly Lindsay-Johnson, he organized the 1999 Great Day in
Briefly a touring member of the Chords during the 1950s, Crier joined forces with the groups lone surviving original member, Buddy McRae, for a PBS television appearance in 2002. Criers rich musical history was chronicled in the 2001 book, Group Harmony: Echoes of the Rhythm and Blues Era. People love this music, Crier told author Todd Baptista. Its being ignored, but if you have the right exposure, everybody will love it. Not only collectors, everybody will love it, because the songs are great. I think the music is going to make some noise and find a niche, and be stronger than it is right now.
Crier was instrumental in the production of Doo Wop In DC, a
reunion tribute to the pioneers of rhythm and blues, rock & roll, and doo-wop music
Throughout his half-century career as an entertainer, Crier never tired of singing, entertaining, and associating with fans. The fans are like a drug to me, Crier stated. The friendship, and the warmth that they show me wherever we work, thats my drug. I dont care how hard my day was. When I walk through the doors at any oldies show, its like walking into heaven. It makes you feel good. The songs are standards now, and Im glad, because I want us all to be known and be in the history books where we should be. Let them know that this music did exist.
Survivors include his wife, Dorothy, his sister Shirley, nine remaining children ( one son predeceased Arthur), 19 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
For another comprehensive look at the musical career and accomplishments of Arthur Crier, please see the on-line article by Marv Goldberg & Marcia Vance, "The Arthur Crier Story".
Click here to visit the March 4, 2005 Fordham University "Tribute To Arthur Crier"
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