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THE ASTORS

                             STAX RECORDS

 

 

The Astors, Curtis Johnson, Eliehue Stanback, Sam (Byrnes) Jones, Richard Harris, grew up in The Orange Mound community in Memphis, Tennessee, while attending Melrose High School, along with Richard Griffin, a member of the original group called The Duntinos, and Harold Johnsn, Curtis' brother who joined the group when Richard Harris left the group for a while in 1967. The group was organized in 1958 by a neighborhood pianist, Herman "Red" Arnett who held auditions for a singing group at his home in the "Mound". "Red" brought Curtis, Eliehue, Richard, Sam, and Richard Griffin, together for months of work before calling them a "group".

The group, The Duntinos, quickly made a name for themselves performing regularly at local Beale Street and area venues. "Red" taught the guys to perform, and they learned to entertain under the tutelage of Rufus "Walking The Dog" Thomas, while working the "Chittlin Circuit" with him and his band, The Bearcats. After Curtis and Eliehue graduated, the Duntinos moved to Buffalo, New York with Curtis' ralatives, looking, for the "Bright Lights" of New York, but found that Buffalo was very cold, and a long way from "The Big Apple". After working a few jobs in Buffalo, the group return to Memphis to do some backup vocals for Carla and Rufus Thomas and other artist recording at a new studio, then called Satellite Records.

In 1961 the group recorded their first release "You Make Me Feel So Good"(Curtis -lead), a song that Curtis wrote b/w  "As You Can See"(Eliehue-lead), written by Eliehue Stanback.  The group's name was changed to The Chips for this release, named after producer, Chips Moman.  In 1961, Curtis joined the Air Force, but continued to record when on leave from the Military.  In 1963 the group's name was changed again to The Astors for the next release, written by guitarist, Larry Lee who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and later played with Al Green for years. That record was " What Can It Be" b/w "Just Enough To Hurt Me"(Curtis-lead).  "What Can It Be is my favorite of all the songs we recorded", says Curtis. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE70jfEbI1Y

In 1965, Stax Records, formerly Satellite, released a song  on the group "Candy" that was recorded while Curtis was on leave. 

(See Astors video clip of "Candy". recorded in Hollywood, 1965) "Candy"(Curtis-lead), written by Booker T & MG's guitarist Steve Cropper and Isaac Hayes, was their biggest record.  The song b/w "I Found Out" , written by Eliehue, climbed to #12 on the Billboard Top 100 R&B charts, and #63 on the Top 100 Pop charts. As "Candy" moved up the charts, The Astors performed on shows at the Uptown Theater in Philly, the Howard Theater in D.C., The Regal Theater in Chicago, and The Apollo Theater in New York.  The other performers on these shows included The O'Jays, The Coasters, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, and Redd Foxx to name a few.  The Astors also spent 2 1/2 months performing on tour with The James Brown Review.

In late Summer of 1965, the group traveled to Los Angeles, CA with the first Stax Review to perform in Watts, and spent 13 days their filming TV shows during the day ("Where the Action Is" a Dick Clark production, and "Hollywood A-Go-Go", a syndicated dance show and Shivaree, another dance TV show). Nights, the group performed at nightclubs on The Strip in Hollywood.  A 2-night stand at the 5/4 Ballroom Club in Watts was the climax of this tour, and was recorded live.

The complete Stax Review  included Carla and Rufus Thomas,  Booker T. and The MG's, William Bell, The Mad Lads, Wilson Pickett, and The Mar-Keys. These shows were recorded and can be heard on "Funky Broadway: Stax Live At The 5/4 Ballroom" (SCD-8567-2).  The 1965 "Watts Riot" started about this time. "We could see the smoke from the riot while we were flying out of LA." says Curtis.

The follow-up record to "Candy" was "In The Twilight Zone" (Curtis-lead) written by Isaac Hayes, David Porter, and Sidney Bailey b/w "Mystery Woman"  written by Cropper & Hayes. 

Later, Richard decided to leave the group to spend more time with his family, and Curtis' brother, Harold Johnson, joined the group.  In 1967 the group recorded and released a song written by Booker T. Jones and William Bell, "Daddy Didn't Tell Me" b/w More Power To You" written by David Porter and Curtis.  Eliehue and Sam were drafted into the military thereafter, and the group broke up.

Harold "Quake" Johnson passed, May 5, 2003. He was 58. Harold became an Astor after Richard left the group. When he passed he was the owner of Services Unlimited Consultant Group. He also had been a member of Capitol Records group Brothers Unlimited, road manager/sound technician for The Soul Children, with Curtis in Video Unlimited Productions, Funk Factory Productions/Promotions, Inc., and Jazz Unlimited Productions.

 

 In 1992, Fantasy Records, who took over the Stax catalogue, after Stax closed it's doors for good, released a Box Set of 9 CDs that included 5 Astors songs, and in 1995 reissued The Astors music on the CD " The Astors Meet the Newcomers: Sweet Soul from Memphis" that include 11 songs by the group.  Many compilation CDs have been released over the past 8 years that also include songs the Astors recorded at Stax, some of them were never released  before.

Since the breakup, they have all pursued other careers, some of which were in music or the Entertainment Business.  Curtis became Producer and A&R Director of the Memphis Branch of Mercury Records in 1968, writing for, and producing Margie Hendricks when she quit the Rayletts. Harold , and Curtis, were part of the group the Brothers Unlimited , (Capitol Records) from 1969-1971. Harold, Curtis, and Sam were incorporators and directors of Funk Factory Productions, Promotions, Inc., a record producing, and publishing company, based out of Dayton, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York.
At this time the remaining members of The Astors, live in Memphis with their families, and Curtis is presently doing promotions with Gospel Recording Artist, Calvin Rayborn's new CD "He's The One"

Sam played the role of Bartender in the movie "Hustle and Flow".

                                    THE ASTORS DISCOGRAPHY

You Make Me Feel So Good

The Chips

Stax 105A

As You Can See

The Chips

Stax 105B

What Can it Be

The Astors

Stax 139A

Just Enough To Hurt Me

The Astors

Stax 139B

Candy

The Astors

Stax 170A

I Found Out

The Astors

Stax 170B

In The Twilight Zone

The Astors

Stax 179A

Mystery Woman

The Astors

Stax 179B

Daddy Didn't Tell Me

The Astors

Stax 232A

More Power To You

The Astors

Stax 232B

Candy (Live)

The Astors

Ace CDSXD 040 (Recorded at Stax)

Come Out Tonight

The Astors

Ace CDSXD 074 (Recorded at Stax)

A Woman Who Needs The Love of A Man

The Astors

Ace CDSXD 107 (Recorded at Stax)

Strut Miss Sally

The Astors

Ace CDSXD 107 (Recorded at Stax)

Uncle Willie Good Time

The Astors

Ace CDSXD 107 (Recorded at Stax)

The Astors Meet the Newcomers "Sweet Soul from Memphis"

To Order a copy of this CD, Click here... or purchase a copy of this CD while touring the beautiful Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee

For More Information about Stax Records, it's Artist, and The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, (click here) for the Official Stax Museum of American Soul Music Website.

THE STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC

click here....


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Updated 03/07//08

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