The Turks

Los Angeles R&B group the Turks traced its origins to the 1952 formation of the Flamingos. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the June 1977 issue of Yesterday's Memories, that short-lived but historically significant group comprised lead tenor Cornelius Gunter, first tenor Gaynel Hodge, baritone Curtis Williams, and bass Richard Berry. Almost immediately after signing to Federal, the quartet splintered: while Hodge and Williams split off to join the Hollywood Flames, and Gunter and Berry reteamed in the Flairs, a new Flamingos lineup was hastily assembled. To avoid confusion with the Flamingos of "I Only Have Eyes for You" fame, at the last minute this new group was renamed the Platters, and an R&B legend was born. But in the meantime, the Hollywood Flames -- also featuring Bobby Day and David Ford -- continued touring the L.A. club circuit, with Curley Dinkins replacing Williams (who later resurfaced in the Penguins of "Earth Angel" fame) in time for the group's 1954 debut, "Fare Thee Well," issued on the Money imprint. For reasons unknown, the 1955 follow-up, "Emily," was credited to the Turks, not the Hollywood Flames, and when the group split soon after, Hodge made an agreement with Money owner John Dolphin to brand his new group -- which featured his brother Alex on baritone, first tenor Delmar Wilburn, and second tenor Jody Jefferson -- under the Turks aegis. They even wore fezzes on-stage, much to the chagrin of the emerging black Muslim movement.

The Turks' official debut, "I'm a Fool," followed in early 1956. Jefferson resigned from the group soon after, and was replaced by Carl Green, the first "Johnny" in Marvin Phillips' duo Marvin & Johnny. The Turks next backed Wynona Carr on her Specialty single "Hurt Me," followed at mid-year by their own "It Can't Be True." A one-off for Chicago's Bally label, "Why Did You," appeared in the fall of 1956, but was the group's last new disc for close to two years. At some point both Wilburn and Green left the lineup, and when the Turks finally resurfaced in mid-1958 with the Keen label release "Father Time," the Hodge brothers were joined by first tenor Tommy "Buster" Williams and, on bass, one Jesse Belvin, soon to mount his own meteoric solo career. The Turks then moonlighted with Eugene Church as the Fellows, releasing "Pretty Girls Everywhere" on Class Records. Through circumstances unknown, in late 1958 Imperial licensed both "I'm a Fool" and "It Can't Be True" for re-release on its Knight subsidiary. Minus Belvin, the remaining trio again backed Church on 1959's "Rockville U.S.A." The Turks dissolved the following year, although in 1973 the Hodges reunited with Williams to contribute backing vocals to Bill Medley's Smile LP. Gaynel Hodge also cut a handful of little-heard solo singles, one of them, "What Now," crediting backing vocals to the Turks, although the exact personnel is unknown. ~ Jason Ankeny

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