The Majors

By Chris Haymes (of the Australian Rock and Roll Appreciation Society)

In 1962, with R&B black groups moving en masse over to soul, the infectious sounds of the happy R&B song “A Wonderful Dream” stood out like a beacon to keep up the spirits of lovers of the Big Beat. There was no mistaking the sound of The Majors, the sensational ear-piercing falsetto of Rick Cordo and the warm harmonies of the group stood out clearly from other contemporary groups.

Robert Morris, Gene Glass, Frank Troutt, Rick Cordo, and Ron Gathers made up the original quintet, with Idella Morris soon replacing her brother Robert. The group first called themselves The Premiers and formed in Philadelphia in 1959. Although they attended different high schools, they hung around together after school, and on weekends, in Harlan Street, performing on the street corners between 19th and 20th streets. Idella was the youngest member at nineteen years and Gene Glass, who had just returned from the US Air Force, was the oldest group member, being twenty five. Gene Glass and Idella Morris later became husband and wife.

The group met club owner Buddy Caldwell early in 1960 and he persuaded them to record for his Ro-Cal label. They recorded "Lundee Dundee" and "Let Me Whisper in Your Ear" as The Versatiles since the studio apparently had another group listed on their books as The Premiers. Luther Dix, who worked with The Shirelles, came in to the studio and assisted with production. The record had local success, but Ro-Cal just wasn’t geared up for national distribution and the group received little in the way of royalties. “Lundee Dundee” is a fine piece of work sung in a medium tempo, the flip is a nice ballad and the record is now a treasured Doo Wop collector’s item. At that point some of the male members went off to the service. Two and a half years later, the group reformed, with an identical lineup, as The Majors.

When the group reformed Jerry Ragavoy heard them perform and he already knew of "Lundee Dundee". Ragavoy had been in the vocal group business since the early 1950s, when he had The Castelles on Grand performing his work. Ragavoy liked The Majors enough to get them a recording deal with Imperial. In the 1960s Ragavoy became one of the most influential producers of black music, producing soul acts such as Lou Courtney, Lorraine Ellison, Bobby Freeman, Garnett Mimms, Freddie Scott, Howard Tate, Irma Thomas, and Baby Washington.

In July 1962 they turned up at the Imperial studios and “A Wonderful Dream” b/w “Time Will Tell”. “A Wonderful Dream” entered the Cashbox pop chart on the 4th of August and rose to # 20 on September the 22nd, it made # 22 on Billboard and # 23 on the national R&B chart. Wayne Janic in Goldmine enthusiastically describes “A Wonderful Dream”; as “a fine, fine freaky falsetto 45. It was helium-headed and soared like an angel. Airplay surely indicated a much stronger hit than the #22 position it gathered on Billboard's Hot 100”, sentiments with which I would concur. Interestingly the record reached its highpoint during The Four Seasons long run at the top of the hit parade with “Sherry”, which spent six weeks at number one. A record based very much on the tradition of a falsetto lead of the Doo Wop style. Here in Melbourne the record was a big favourite of Stan “The Man” Rofe and he gave it plenty of air. I purchased my copy but, unfortunately, not enough others did for the record to make an impact on our Top 40.

The most notable performance is the work of the act’s glass shattering lead vocalist Rick Cordo. On all the group’s recordings he carries his amazing falsetto through the entire song, in some ways similar to the delivery of Johnny Jackson lead singer of The Ladders. Jerry Ragevoy claims he was responsible for developing the high tenor work of Cordo and at the same time dismisses the record’s importance, most probably because he moved over into producing soul acts soon afterwards. Ragevoy is quoted, referring to both the record and to Cordo, “It was a complete and total contrivance on my part. I said to myself at the time, after listening to the radio; ‘What's missing in the market place? A high falsetto voice’. So, I made this lead singer perform in falsetto. A piece of crap”.

Of course, it is Ragevoy who is uttering the crap. On both “Lundee Lundee” and “Let Me Whisper in Your Ear”, recorded two and a half years before the group had met up with Ragevoy, Rick Cardo sings in exactly the same way; a simply outstanding high tenor lead. The comments of two of the group members, recorded in the 1990 Goldmine interview, make interesting reading. According to Idella Morris, “We were into rock’n’roll harmonies, this was fun, but “A Wonderful Dream” had more of a pop sound, and as for Jerry making Rick sound like that, no way; Rick Cordo always sounded like that.” Rick Cordo, himself was not impressed when he heard what Ragovoy had said. “Jerry Ragovoy, ah, oh no,” he says, halting and near stuttering”. “You got to understand when we met him, he was on his behind. He was living in this crummy two-room apartment that we had to rehearse in. I don't know why he'd say those things because we put him back on the road. He should have nothing but kind words for us. Jerry just don't wanna remember. Hey, that “crap” made him and he knows it.”

Following the success of “A Wonderful Dream” a lone and now quite collectible, LP was issued and, in rapid succession, six more singles. The next release was a bouncy tune in the mould of Wonderful Dream, “A Little Bit Now (A Little Bit Later)” b/w “She's A Troublemaker”. Both sides made moderate moves on the national listing. “A Little Bit Now” peaked at # 63 and “She’s A Troublemaker” reached # 83. As Idella Morris observed “I think, that was our problem. Our second Majors record had two good sides that started to get radio action. Bill Fox, manager of both The Majors, and The Silhouettes and Jerry Ragovoy wanted “A Little Bit Now” to be the side, but a lot of DJs preferred the other side. After that the momentum was gone; all, yeah; but it was an experience I'll never forget.” Stan The Man plugged “A Little Bit Now”, but it unfortunately failed to chart locally and became the last Australian release for the group.

Three of the groups remaining five Imperial releases made the Bubbling Under list on Billboard. “Anything You Can Do” reached # 117 in Februrary 1963. I don’t like this side much at all, but the flip “What In The World” is a great ballad and deserved to do better. Their next release “Tra La La” is one of my great favourites and I have no idea why it didn’t fly high in the charts, as it is a sensational up-tempo effort. “One Happy Ending” was also a great piece of Doo Wop and deserved to chart. “Your Life Begins at Sweet Sixteen” made #125 in September 1963 and “I’ll Be There” reached #113 in February, 1964. Both records were nice pieces of work, but in the soul idiom. At this point The Majors contract with Imperial Records concluded.

The Majors, with their line-up intact, recorded just once more. In 1966 they entered Frank Virtue's studios as The Performers. ABC-Paramount issued the Peter DeAngelos’ produced disc, but it failed. The group continued to tour during the 1960s, but made no more recordings and disbanded. In a 1986 a Dick Clark TV special gathered all of the original members for a performance. Rick Cordo, Idella Morris, who had by this time changed her name to Haleema Alkhatib and Gene Glass then, recommenced working as The Majors. Sometimes Troutt and Gathers also join them.

The Majors had only one big hit, but they produced four or five really great records that represent a talented and interesting example of a Doo Wop group performing in the old tradition, right at the twilight of the rock’n’roll era.

Record labels are from the author’s collection.



Rocal 1002 : Lundee Dundee/I'll Whisper In Your Ear (as the Versatiles). 1960
Imperial 5855 : A Wonderful Dream/Time Will Tell. 1962. (Australian release - London HL-1995).
Imperial 5879 : She's A Troublemaker/A Little Bit Now (A Little Bit Later). 1962
(Australian release - London HL-2041)
Imperial 5914 : Anything You Can Do/What In The World. 1963
Imperial 5936 : Tra La La/What Have You Been Doin'. 1963.
Imperial 5968 : One Happy Ending/Get Up Now. 1963.
Imperial 5991 : Your Life Begins at Sweet Sixteen /Which Way Did She Go. 1963
Imperial 66009 : I'll Be There/Ooh Wee Baby.1964
ABC-Paramount 10777 : Love Is The Answer/Just Dance (as The Performers). 1966


Imperial 12222 Meet The Majors 1962


Janick, Wayne. “The Majors”, Goldmine, December 28th 1990, pp. 46 & 96.
Rosalsky, Mitch. Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups. Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland, USA, 2000, Pp.371 – 372.
Warner Jay, The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups. A History 1940 – 1990. Billboard Books : New York, 1994. Pp. 414-415.