Fee Bee Records, located in Pittsburgh, Pa, came to prominence in 1956 with the release of the Del Vikings hit singles “Come Go With Me” and “Whispering Bells.” Joe Averbach, owner of Fee Bee, recorded and promoted new Doo Wop and Rockabilly Rock artists from 1956 through the mid 1960s. Fee Bee recorded the Doo Wop groups the Del Vikings, The El Capris, The Five Playboys, Chuck Corby and The Entrees, Frankie Joe and The Embers, the Diadem,and Lou Christie and the Classics on the Alcar label. The rockabilly acts on the Fee Bee Roster included Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Buddy Sharp and his band The Shakers, Dave Day, and Willie Ward. "Balin' Wire" Bob Strack was the only country artist on the label. The Fee Bee Records artist roster also included Buddy Carle, Joe Biscoe, Luke Lawton & The Chickadees, Moondog Lawton, Hank Karoll, The Wright Brothers, 4 Friends, Sonny Day and The Tony Ray Combo, Johnny By The Way, The Gentle Rain, Jim Robinette, and Bill West. The music of Fee Bee Records in featured on two compilation disks “Rock & Roll Fee Bee” that was release in 1993 by Flyright (UK).and “Great Labels of The Doo Wop Era - Fee Bee Records” released on the Collectables label in 2008.
Fee Bee Records was founded and owned by Joe Averbach. He began in the music business in 1949 running RB&S (Rhythm, Blues and Spirituals) a wholesale record distributorship in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joe promoted and sold “race’ records performed by African Americans such as Little Richard and other Specality Records artists. Song writer Matt Furin, owner of the Greensburg based Jo Jo, Wig Wag, and Round Up Records labels, convinced Joe to start his own record label. With Joe’s knowledge of music promotion and his record distribution network, Matt believed Joe would find success with a label. Joe gave it shot. According a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article written by music promoter Pat DiCeaser, who worked with Averbach on a song for the Del Vikings, Averbach named the label for his wife. Other sources report that Averbach derived the name from the record industry term "freebee” representing the free records he, as a distributor, received from record companies.
In 1956 Fee Bee released its first record, the pop single “Tender Words” / Tender Words and Wicked Lies” by Buddy Carle with Danny Hurd and The Hurdlers. Pressed by Rite Records in Cincinnati the single was issued in 78 and 45 RPM formats. The B side song had first been released in 1955 on Matt Furin's Round Up label by Bill Pence & the Round-Up Aires.
The Del Vikings vocal group formed in 1955 at the NCO Service Club of the Pittsburgh Air Force base. DJ Barry Kaye of WJAS radio saw the group perform at a local high school dance and became their manager. In October of 1956 Kaye recorded the Del Vikings in his basement. He shopped the demo tape to several labels finding interest from Joe Averback. They were signed to the Fee Bee label. In December of 1956 the Del Vikings made their first recordings for Fee Bee. They recorded at George Heid’s studio on the Club Floor of the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. The closet size one track studio only had one microphone. The sextet and their backing band squeezed into the tiny studio for record four songs.
Fee Bee released the Vikings first single in January of 1957 "How Can I Find True Love" / "Come Go With Me." Barry Kaye gave the Vikings their radio debut on WJAS. Other Pittsburgh stations aired the B side "Come Go With Me". With strong airplay and sales in Pittsburgh Fee Bee had a hot record. But Fee Bee was too small to promote and distribute in nationally. Averbach reached an agreement with Randy Wood at Dot Records to distribute the Del Vikings single across the U.S. The song quickly reached Number 4 on Billboard's Pop chart and Number #2 on the R&B chart. It stayed on the charts for 31 weeks to become a million seller. Fee Bee /Dot released the Del Vikings recording of "Whispering Bells" in the summer of 1957 scoring a number nine hit on the Pop charts.
Due to contract and management issues, the group split into two rival ensembles. Alan Strauss, the legal counsel for the Pittsburgh Air Force base, took over management of The Del Vikings Barry Kaye. Fining a loop hole in the Fee Bee contact, he negotiated a new deal with Mercury Records. Strauss claimed that the Fee Bee contract was void because all of the Del Viking members, except for Kripp Johnson, were under 21 when they signed it. Keeping the Del Vikings name those members moved to Mercury Records. They Mercury Records Del Vikings released their first Mercury single in May of 1957 "Cool Shake"/"Jitterbug Mary".
Kripp Johnson who was over 21 when he signed was still bound to the Fee Bee contract. He headed up a new second version of the group named the “Dell-Vikings that included former member Donald Jackson and three new members that included Chuck Jackson. There were now two competing Del Vikings groups. The Fee Bee/Dot group was free to tour as none of the members were in the Air Force. Fee Bee / Dot released a four song EP titled “Come Go With Us” in June of 1957. The new Dell-Vikings recorded the song ‘I’m Spinning” that was written by Pat DiCease and Don Bray. It was a big hit in Pittsburgh and reached the Billboard Top 100 in August of 1957. Another single Willette"/"Woke Up This Morning" was released by Fee Bee / Dot
The Mercury Records “Del-Vikings” won the rights to the group and the Del-Vikings name in October 1957. The Fee Bee contract expired on December 1, 1957. Kripp Johns signed with Mercury in 1958 as a solo artist and later rejoined the original Del Vikings. The Fee Bee “Dell-Vikings” changed their name to the Verstiles. The Mercury Del Vikings broke up in 1959. Joe Averbach released two single using the "Del Vikings" name "What Made Maggie Run" /" Down By The Stream" and "Willette" / "Woke Up This Morning". He also released more "Versatiles" records with Chuck Jackson in the lead on his Petite label.
The Five Playboys
The Five Playboys formed in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1956. They auditioned for Joe Averbach at Fee Bee Records in early 1957 singing their original song “One Summer Night”. Averbach signed them and they recorded several songs at George Hied’s tiny studio in June of 1957. Fee Bee released the Five Playboys single “Of My Scrapbook”/ “Love Me Right”. The song was a hit in Pittsburgh add was distributed nationally by Dot Records. They Five Playboys performed in concert at Syria Mosque. The doo wop ballad “When We Were Young” was released on Fee Bee in 1957. “Signing with Mercury in February of 1958 they released the single Time Will Allow / Why Be A Fool” in 1958. Averbach continue to release singles from the Playboys. The single “She’s My Baby /“Angle Mine” was released on Fee Bee in late 1958. Chuck Jackson of The Del Vikings sang the falsetto part on “She’s My Baby” Mr, Echo” was release on Averbach’s Pettte label in 1959. With little chart success the Five Playboys broke up in 1960.
The Five Playboys claim that Joe Averback sold their song “One Summer Night” to another group cutting them out the deal. The Danleers recorded “One Summer Night” on April 1, 1958. The song is credited to the Danleers manager Danny Webb. It zoomed to number 4 on the R&B charts and number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957.