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Al Alberts - The Four Aces
Alberts - The Four Aces
(By Al Alberts as told to Bill Kagler, Daily Times Staff Writer, September 1960)
Contributed by composer George Hoven's daughter
The Four Aces started in a Prospect Park milk bar for $28 a night and wound up in a plus Las Vegas Hotel for $10,000 a week.
In between, though, there was a good deal of hard work and push. Take our first big record ["It's No Sin"] for instance. If it had not been for two events directed by fate, we might never have made it. But we did, and are forever grateful.
The first event occurred in 1951. We were playing at The Old Mill in Concordville and had changed from a strictly instrumental group to one which sang as well as played. We were attracting the college crowd from West Chester and Philadelphia, so we decided to ask for a raise.
We asked for $5 more per man but were turned down. So we left and went to the Ukrainian-American National Home, a private club in Chester. This move changed our entire lives.
While we were playing at the Ukrainian Club, George Hoven [biography, obituary] and Chick Shull began coming in regularly. They gave us the music to a song they had collaborated on, but we didn't have time to get to it.
Finally, George kept pestering us so much about the song that one day during rehearsal we worked out an arrangement, just to get the guy off our ear. We used the song, liked it and kept it in the act. To this day, we are grateful to Hoven and Shull.
Shortly after this we got our raise at The Old Mill and returned there. The audiences began asking for the song more and more and we were enthused by what was happening.
In order that we might bill ourselves as "recording artists," we decided to make a record of the song. Two friends of mine - Mel Korn and Larry Pleet - and I put together a $1,000 kitty to finance the thing. We called the company Queen Victoria Records.
I was working the the advertising field in Philadelphia during the day, so I stayed in the city at night and toured the radio stations plugging the record. The disc jockeys in Philadelphia, Chester and Wilmington really helped us.
I had $400 saved with which I planned to get married but had to postpone the wedding. As it developed, Stella and I didn't get married for another two years.
We recorded the song in Philadelphia. It took at least 25 "takes" before we got the sound we wanted. The big problem was [?]ance since we were using microphones. There was one by me on the piano and another by Lou Silvestri at his drums. Dave Mahoney and Sod Vaccaro stood by the third.
It was the first time we had made a record, so you can imagine how nervous and tense we were. Actually, it's somewhat of a miracle that four guys who were instrumentalists could turn to vocals and come up with a lead-tenor-baritone-bass combination. If two of us had had the same type of voice, The Four Aces might never have been.
When it came time to manufacture the records, we had to trim the "Queen" from the company title because it would not fit on the label. Thus, the record was released on the Victoria label.
We had 500 records made and sold them at The Old Mill. We figured this would give us some [?] as entertainers.
But the records began selling swiftly and we began getting more and more requests for the song, so we decided to push a little harder.
... We are particularly grateful for Jimmy Lynn's efforts in Chester.
Even Stel got into the act. She organized the girls in her office and assigned them various record stores to visit on their lunch hour. They'd walk in and request the record. Often they were told it was not available.
The next day the record shop owner would get a mimeographed card from us asking "Have you had any requests for..." and telling him how to get the record. On my lunch hour, I'd follow up with visits to the stores as a salesman for the record company.
When the record began to move, Dave Miller of Essex Records - he's now head of Somerset Records in Swarthmore - bought the master recording for $500 and entered into a royalty agreement with the Aces. He also secured distribution rights for 44 states, with our company retaining rights for the other four states.
The record stayed high on the popularity charts for 21 straight weeks, and made stars of The Four Aces. In a few weeks, we had quadrupled our engagement price and were ready to opin in a big Ohio night club.
And all because of a rejected pay raise request, a pair of persistent songwriters and a tune called "It's No Sin."
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© 2006 John A. Bullock III.
This page last updated 02/12/06