The Chords Biography
The Chords, an American doo-wop group active from 1951 – 1960, consisted of band members Carl Feaster, Claude Feaster, Jimmy Keyes, Floyd “Buddy” McRae and William “Ricky” Edwards.
They were first discovered signing in a subway station. This led to a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Best known for ‘Sh-Boom’, the band’s only hit was their self-titled debut album. “People would be stopping and smiling and waving and hollering, everybody knew our record. They loved us,” band member ‘Buddy’ McRae said after Sh-Boom became a hit.
Clyde Frazier, who worked with The Chords as a producer, said “They were a special group and they changed music.”
The band succeeded with white audiences during a time of peak segregation. “Once we drove to L.A. to do a TV show,” McRae said in a 2011 interview. “When we were almost there, we saw a public swimming pool. We loved to swim, so we stopped to go in…. They wouldn’t let us, because we were black. Then they saw the name on the car, and they said if we were really the Chords, we had to prove it by singing ‘Sh-Boom.’ They would, and were allowed to swim.
“Sh-Boom” was their only hit. It was written by James Keyes and the rest of the band members. The song was ostensibly about a nuclear detonation, but the song was optimistic in tone and suggested that ‘life could be a dream.” The song is credited, along with the Crow’s 1953 Hit ‘Gee’, with introducing white audiences to Black R&B music. It reached #2 on the Billboard R&B Charts and #9 on the Pop Charts. The Canadian band ‘The Crew Cuts’ covered the song, which was #1 on the Billboard Charts for nine weeks. Cover versions of the song blasted American airways during 1954 along with the original version. The song was also used in Pixar’s Cars in 2006. The group appeared on numerous television shows in 1954, before TV’s were common in households.
Morrisania, a six block residential neighborhood in the Bronx, had an outsized influence on the rise of hip hop. In 2011, Mark Naison, a Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University in New York City, lead a pitch to rename a street in The Bronx after The Chords. The proposal passed, and Jennings St. between Prospect and Union Aves. in Morrisania was renamed The Chords. “The Chords started the doo-wop craze throughout N.Y.C.,” Naison said. “This group is truly historic.”
“Rhythm and blues, and its offspring, doo wop, found a home on Morrisania street corners,” Naison wrote in an essay titled “From Jimmy Castor to Grandmaster Flash — The Role of Morrisania in Hip-Hop’s Evolution.”
None of the band members are still alive. Due to a copyright claim on their name, they were forced to change their name to the Chordcats. The band would release numerous other songs under the Cat Records label, and as a last-ditch effort to revive the band changed their name to ‘the Sh-Booms.’ Their last recording was done in 1960.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Chords were an American doo-wop group, best known for their 1955 hit single “Sh-Boom”. The group was formed in New York City in 1953, and originally consisted of lead singer Carl Feaster, tenor James Keyes, baritone Claude Feaster, and bass David Baughn.
The Chords Hit Song?
Sh-Boom” was released in 1954 and became an overnight success. Many people believe that the song was originally written by James Edwards, but it was actually composed by Claude Felder, Carl Felder, and Richard Finch. The song has been covered by many artists over the years, including The Crew Cuts, The Platters, and The Beach Boys.