The Stereos

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Recorded the Doo Wop Classic "I Really Love You"

Doom, Doom-doom-doom, doom-doom-doom.......

That was the sound emanating from radios across the country on September 25, 1961.  The Dow Wop classic “I Really Love You” by the Stereos hit the Billboard Top 100 and stayed there for nine weeks peaking at number 29.  It also climbed the R&B chart reaching number 15.  With its classic “doom-doom-doom da-da-da…I really, really love you” lyrics the Stereos’ hit song became a long time staple of oldies radio stations.  George Harrison kept the song alive with a cover version on his 1982 release Gone Troppo. 

The Stereos went on to make several appearances at the famed Apollo Theater in New York and toured on the Eastern Chitilin circuit. In 1967 they evolved into a funky Northern Soul sound to record three songs released on Chess Records subsidiary Cadet.  Their song “Stereo Freeze” is a Northern Soul classic.  Over their career from 1954 through 1968 they recorded four songs as the Buckeyes on the Gibrlater label and 23 songs as the Stereos on six labels: Cub, Columbia, World Artists, Ideal, Val, and Cadet.  “I Really Love You” is featured on the Rhino Records 1966 compilation of classic Doo Wop songs “Doo Wop Box” Volume 2.  “Stereo Freeze” is included on the 2004 compilation of classic Chess Records soul jazz recordings titled “Chicago Soul”.  Several of their singles are included in the Greatest Hits of Pittsburgh compilation series, the Phenominal 45s series, and the Explosive Doo Wops series.  But there is no compilation of all of their singles on a Stereos album.  

Pool Hall Beginnings in Steubenville

Believing that singing was a great way to meet girls, a group of neighborhood friends got together to practice at the L.C. Williams' pool room on 6th Street in Steubenville, Ohio in 1954.  They named themselves the Monetrays.  The original members were Bruce Robinson, Tom "Tex" Williams, Leroy Swearingen, and Ronnie Collins.  After six months of rehearsals they booked their first gig in Pittsburgh in 1955.  DJ Bill Powell of station WILY hired them to appear at his teen dance.  Before they went on stage they learned that another group from New Jersey named Moneterays was also on the bill.  To avoid confusion they changed their name backstage and went on announced as Hi-Fis to perform for a crowd of 700 screaming young women.  The Hi-Fis became a popular act appearing at dances and on television in the Steubenville and Pittsburgh Markets.  They were seen often in Pittsburgh on WSTV channel 9 performing on Stan Scott's "9 Teentime" TV show that was broadcast from Steubenville.

Wooed and Jilted by Ahmet Ertegan

After one of the Hi-Fis television appearances, Athena Dallas, the owner of a dress store, called them at the studio and volunteered to be their manager.  She came through in a big way in the fall of 1956 getting them an audition in New York with his eminence the Ahmet Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records. They sang to Ertegen and he signed them to a contract.  But he told them they had to get a new lead singer.  The Hi-Fis went back to Steubenville and hired Howard Alsbrooks, a singer/pianist from another local band.   In late November of 1956 the Hi-Fis drove 350 to New York to record.  They were shown the door when they arrived at the Atlantic Records offices.  Ertegen would not honor his signed contract.   

Meet the Buckeyes

Athena Dallas did not give up.  She took the Hi-Fis to Kings Records office in New York where they met A&R man Henry Glover (a former resident of Zanesville, Ohio).  After their audition Glover signed them to a two year contract and took them to the studio.  They recorded four songs on November 27, 1956 with Howard Alsbrooks on lead: "Since I Fell For You," "Dottie Baby," "By Only You," and "Begging You Please."  Glover, the Ohioan, renamed them the “Buckeyes” with the sextet line up of Bruce Robinson, Leroy Swearingen, Ronnie Collins, Ray Manson, Esther Thompson, and Howard Alsbrooks.  When they got back to Steubenville, Howard Alsbrooks quit to return to his original group. 

King Records released the Buckeye’s single “Since I Fell For You/Be Only You” in January of 1957 on the Deluxe label.  A second single was released by Deluxe in April of 1957: "Dottie Baby" / "Begging You, Please”. Both records received airplay from George Wilson on radio station WSTV in Steubenville and Bill Powell on WILY in Pittsburgh.  Having two singles on local radio, the Buckeyes’s popularity in Western, Pa. and Ohio increased.  They made money playing all of the small mill towns of the region.  But their records did not break out nationally.  Deluxe dropped them from their roster.

Meet the Stereos

The group's line-up in 1957 were members Bruce Robinson, Leroy Swearingen, Ronnie Collins, George Otis, and Samuel Profit.  They continued to perform on the Steubenville/Pittsburgh circuit market from 1957 through 1959.  Seeking another record contract the Buckeyes made another trip to New York in June of 1959.  Produced Luther Dixon, also an A&R representative for Scepter Records, liked their demo tape and offered to pitch it to several labels.  Dixon introduced them to Otis Blackwell who signed them and produced the recording of three songs "A Love For Only You", "Dragstrip", and "Sweetpea's In Love".  But Blackwell hated the name “Buckeyes” as it conjured the image of football players, not singers.  Leroy Swearingen came up with a new name: the "Stereos". 

In July of 1959, the single "A Love For Only You" / "Sweetpea's In Love" was released on Gibraltar Records. "Sweetpea" did received airplay in Steubenville, and on stations in the South.  They airplay made them in demand in Pittsburgh for appearances at sock hops, proms, and TV shows. Disappointed that the Stereos once again failed to break nationally, Leroy Swearingen quit the group in late 1959. But he left behind the song he had written “I Really Love”. Swearingen was eventually replaced by Nathaniel Hicks in 1960.  The 1960 line-up of the Stereos was Bruce Robinson, Ronnie Collins, George Otis, Samuel Profit, and Nathaniel Hicks.

The Gibraltar label went out of business in 1960.  Otis Blackwell moved to Cub Records (a subsidiary of M-G-M) and brought along the Stereos.  Working with Otis the Stereos recorded three more tunes in April of 1961: "I Really Love You", "Please Come Back To Me," and "A Long Time From Never."  The single "I Really Love You" / "Please Come Back To Me" was released on Cub in July of 1961.  It quickly became a nationwide hit during the summer of 1961.  

With their national hit the Stereos took to the road playing theaters.  The highlight of their tour was a week long engagement at the Apollo Theater in New York in October of 1961. They appeared with the Spinners, the Limelights and several other acts. While in New York the recorded five more songs for Cub Records.  Two more singles were released on Cub in November of 1961: "Unless You Mean It,"/ "Do You Love Me" and  "The Big Knock" / Water".  The continued their tour playing the “Chittlin' Circuit" appearing at the Howard (D.C.), the Royal (Baltimore), the Uptown (Philadelphia), and the Regal (Chicago).  They were invited back to the Apollo for another week long engagement in January of 1962 where they appeared with the Chantels and other acts.

Wooed and Jilted by Columbia

With one hit record in their resume, the Stereos tried to move up to a major label.  They recorded two classic Doo Wop songs for Columbia Records in September of 1962.  The tunes were "Echo In My Heart" and "Tick Tack Toe." Columbia refused to release them nationally, but pressed a token up100 copies.  50 each were issued in Baltimore and Chicago, with stickers on the label saying "not for sale."

Recording for Pittsburgh Labels

They Stereos returned to Steubenville where the continued to play the local circuit.  In 1963 their booking agent Pete Tambillini got a call from Lou Guarino of the Pittsburgh label World Artist Records. Lou and his partner Lennie Martin had produced and promoted the Skyliner’s hit “Since I Don’t Have You”. Lou sent the Stereos to New York to record the single "Good News" / "Mumbling Word" that was released in October 1963.  In 1964 two members quit and the Stereo line up changed to Bruce Robinson, Ronnie Collins, Ronnie Parks, Samuel Profit, and Nathaniel Hicks.  The Stereos recorded again on Pittsburgh's Val label at the request of owner Augie Bernardi. They released the single "Don't Let It Happen ToYou" / "The Best Thing To Be Is A Person" in 1965. 

Moving to Northern Soul and Chess Records

The group members changed again in 1967 to Ronnie Parks, Bruce Robinson, Ronnie Collins, Nathaniel Hicks, Solomon Huffman, Jerry Williams, and Dan Walters.  Leaving behind their Doo-Wop history they recorded several funky Northern Soul tunes in the basement studio of producer Jerry Hyde.  The single "Stereo Freeze" was released on the Hyde label in 1967.   With its funky guitar and bass driven Northern Soul feel “Stereo Freeze” was well received around the country. Chess Records purchased the masters of the Hyde sessions.  Stereo Freeze was distributed nationally on the Chess Records Cadet label.  The Apollo theatre invited the Stereos back for another performance. Cadet Records issued more of the Stereo’s soulful tunes in 1968. "I Can't Stop These Tears" and "I Feel Soul A Coming".

The Steroes ended their sixteen year career in 1970.  The recorded many great songs but only had one hit. The “Stereo Freeze" era line-up reunited in 1981 for a Pittsburgh oldies show.  That was their last performance.  Bruce Robinson passed away on August 4, 2001.

I Really Love You - 1961 
Stereo Freeze - Northern Soul Classic
Stereos 1961