The Dootones

When H.B. Barnum formed the Dootones in Los Angeles, CA, in 1954, he was a seasoned pro. Four years earlier, at the age of 12, he recorded as Pee Wee Barnum for Imperial Records and was a self-taught piano prodigy who had appeared in concerts all over L.A. The original members were teenagers: Barnum (first name Hidle), Ronald Barrett, Charles Gardner, and Marvin Wilkins. The budding doo woppers rehearsed at the Aliso Projects where Barnum lived and were first recorded in 1955 by Dootone Records' owner, Walter "Dootsie" Williams. (Before that Dootsie had them singing backgrounds for the Penguins and the Meadowlarks.) The original group mustered only one release ("Teller of Fortune"), which sold well locally but fail to click anywhere else. Gardner later left to sing with Vernon Green & the Medallions, and the group dissolved soon after. Surprisingly, Dootsie revived the Dootones in the early '60s and released two singles: "The Day You Said Goodbye" and "Sailor Boy." These new Dootones had little to do with the original group, but that didn't prevent Dootsie from putting "Strange Love Affair" (recorded years earlier by the original group) on the flip side of "The Day You Said Goodbye." Barnum was the only member to make a career of music. After singing with the Penguins and the Robins, he began producing for artists including Lou Rawls and the O'Jays. Barnum also started his own company, Little Star Records, but after their first release placed subsequent O'Jays material on Imperial and later Minit Records. He also arranged and conducted road shows for Barry White, Tom Jones, and Aretha Franklin. Also, during Motown's glory years, Barnum was the favorite arranger for the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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