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The Eternals

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These Eternals were a vocal group who scored big with "Rockin' in the Jungle"; the "other" Eternals were based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and recorded several cover songs that became Canadian hits in the late '60s.

The Eternals formed during the late '50s, in the Freeman Street neighborhood of the Bronx, where the quintet — Charlie Gerona on lead, Fred Hodge on first tenor, Ernie Sierra on second tenor, Arnie Torres on baritone, and Alex Miranda on bass — started out singing in junior high school as the Gleamers, cutting their teeth on covers by the Flamingoes and the Spaniels; Gerona, meanwhile, was crafting songs in the humorous pop tradition of the Coasters, the Cadets, and the Olympics. Soon the Gleamers were calling themselves the Orbits, and developing a sound all their own. A novelty Gerona penned for the holidays, "Christmas in the Jungle," which came complete with jungle sounds and bird calls (mostly done by Torres) received airplay from the Murray the K and WABC's disc jockey Bruce Morrow's shows and soon became their calling card.

Their new manager, Bill Martin, a friend of Morrow's, then turned them on to Melba Records chief Morty Craft, who put the group in Beltone Studios in late spring of 1959 to record the song, which by now had been changed to "Rockin' in the Jungle." The group also felt that a new name was in order and crowned themselves the Eternals, no doubt hoping for everlasting success. "Rockin' in the Jungle" was released in early summer on Craft's new Hollywood Records label, becoming an immediate hit in New York (number 11 locally). On July 13th, the song hit Billboard's national Pop Charts, where it lodged at number 78. The Eternals' second novelty release — "Babalu's Wedding Day" — was just starting to break, when the Etemals' manager felt compelled to sue shady booking agents who were apparently attempting a less-than-ethical move on the group. As a result of the court case, "Babalu's" distribution was stopped and the Eternals were denied their shot at stardom. (The single became a jingle on WABC disc jockey Bob Lewis' radio show and helped kept the group's image alive for years to come).

In January 1961, the Eternals' last single was issued through Morty Craft's Warwick Records. The A-side was written by new member George Villanueva, who also sang lead, and should have been a hit but more legal entanglements kept the record from charting. The group disbanded in 1962, but by 1972 they re-emerged for a show at the Academy of Music (the lineup now featured Ernie Sierra, George Villanueva, Arnie Torres, Richard Sierra, and Hector Garcia). Another lineup — Sierra, Villanueva, Herman Velez, Tito Santiago, and Freddie Clavel — are still going strong today on the oldies circuit.

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