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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Top Notes
Promotional photograph of two mean in light-coloured shirts and dark bow ties.
Derek Martin and Howard Guyton, while members of The Pearls (1956)
Background information
Origin Detroit, Michigan
New York City
Genres Rhythm and blues, doo-wop
Years active 1960–1963
Labels Atlantic (1960–61)
Festival (1962)
ABC-Paramount (1963)
Past members Derek Martin
Howard Guyton
George Torrence Jr.
Barbara Wells
Dionne Warwick
Rosco King

The Top Notes was a rhythm and blues vocal group, centered around the singers Derek Martin and Howard Guyton. They released a number of singles in the early 1960s, amongst which was the first recording of "Twist and Shout".

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Derek Don Martin (also known as "Derek Ray") was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 2, 1938.[1] He began his professional career at the age of 17 when he joined Duke Ellington as a vocalist.[2] Howard "Howie" Guyton (also known as "Guy Howard") was born c. 1938.[3] He was a cousin of Dave "Baby" Cortez, who performed with Guyton and Martin in The Pearls.[4]

Despite being primarily a vehicle for Martin and Guyton, other members of The Top Notes included George Wilson Torrence Jr. (who later became a pastor in Duncan, Oklahoma) [5] and singers known as Roy and Johnny.[1] When the group changed record labels in 1961, the lineup consisted solely of Martin and Guyton, who subsequently hired Barbara Wells, Dionne Warwick and Rosco King, a bassist who had previously sung with them in The Five Pearls.[1]


The group was formed from members of Martin and Guyton's previous bands, known at various times as The Five Pearls, The Sheiks, The Pearls, and Howie and the Sapphires.[4] These groups released records on Aladdin, Cat, Atco and Okeh Records respectively.[4] In a 2015 interview, Martin suggests that the formation of The Top Notes was just a name-change to move away from names that had previously been associated with payola.[1] The Top Notes signed to Atlantic Records in 1960,[6] releasing two singles—"A Wonderful Time" (b/w "Walkin' with Love") and "Say Man" (b/w "Warm Your Heart")—the same year.[6]

The Top Notes' 1961 single "Twist and Shout"
The Top Notes' 1961 single "Twist and Shout"

In 1961 the group recorded the single "Hearts of Stone" (b/w "The Basic Things") under the direction of Phil Spector, with King Curtis on saxophone.[4] The second single that year was the first recorded version of Phil Medley and Bert Berns's "Twist and Shout",[7] which was also produced by Spector.[1][8] Recorded at Atlantic Studios on February 23, 1961, Martin and Guyton were accompanied by an orchestra conducted and arranged by Teddy Randazzo, which included (among others) King Curtis on tenor saxophone, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, and Panama Francis and Gary Chester on percussion and drums respectively.[8] Further accompaniment came from a 10-piece string ensemble and vocals from The Cookies.[8] The single was not a hit,[7][9] and the group did not release through Atlantic again.[1][4] "Twist and Shout" was later recorded by The Isley Brothers and The Beatles; the latter group's version was kept from the top of the US charts by "Can't Buy Me Love" in 1964 when they held all of the top five positions in the chart.[10] By the end of the decade, Spector had moved on to produce the Beatles themselves.[11]

In 1962, the group released "Wait for Me Baby" (b/w "Come Back Cleopatra) on Festival Records, before their final single, "I Love You So Much" (b/w "It's Alright") was released through ABC-Paramount Records in 1963.[4]

Martin launched a solo career the same year; his debut single was a cover of Otis Blackwell's "Daddy Rolling Stone". A later single, "You Better Go", fell just short of the Top 20 R&B chart.[2]

Guyton later joined a group touring as The Platters. During a tour of Argentina, 39-year-old Guyton collapsed in his Buenos Aires hotel room on October 22, 1977 and died from a heart attack.[3]

Singles discography


  1. ^ a b c d e f Suosalo, Heikki. "Derek Martin interview". Soul Express. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b Leggett, Steve. "Derek Martin". Allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Platters' Singer Guyton Dead". Observer–Reporter. Washington, PA. October 22, 1977. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Godin, Dave. "The Topnotes". Soulful Kinda Music. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  5. ^ Ridley, John. "George Torrence". Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "The Top Notes". Allmusic. RhythmOne. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  7. ^ a b Bronson, Fred (January 15, 1994). "'Dazzey' Dukes Out the Competition". Billboard: 78. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Selvin, Joel (2014). Here comes the night : the dark soul of Bert Berns and the dirty business of rhythm & blues. p. 369. ISBN 1619023784. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  9. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon : listen to this book. [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 250. ISBN 095445281X.
  10. ^ Lifton, Dave. "The Day the Beatles Held the Top 5 Positions on Billboard's Hot 100". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  11. ^ Matteo, Steve (2006). Let it be. New York: Continuum. p. 108. ISBN 0826416349. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
This page was last edited on 18 June 2018, at 15:28
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