45: “Destination Moon”/”It’s Only a Paper Moon” b/w “I’m Shooting High”/Music From Out of Space” by the Ames Brothers. RCA Victor EPA-4227. Recorded in 1958.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The four Ames Brothers—Joe, Gene, Vic, and Ed—were born in 1920’s Malden, Massachusetts. They were the youngest of 13 children. Their parents, David and Sarah Urick, were Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who encouraged the boys’ musical interests and read Shakespeare to them.

In the mid-1940’s, a one week engagement at Boston’s The Fox and Hounds nightclub was so successful that it turned into a six month run. The brothers’ unexpected success convinced Milt Gabler of Decca Records to give them a chance to record for the first time, in late 1947. But the American Federation of Musician’s 1948 strike meant that the songs would never be released. Fortunately, new label Coral Records gave them another chance in 1950, with a version of the old standard “Rag Mop.” It was a fun number, one that really showed off the singing group’s dexterity, but it was the B side that really took off. Here it is: “Sentimental Me.”

Soon enough the group was featured on Toast of the Town. Never heard of that show? Well, it would later be renamed The Ed Sullivan Show. Here they are with the ever-charming McQuire Sisters, singing “Side By Side.”

I’ve always found it a bit creepy when four or five singers confess their love for the same lady, so it’s nice to not only see one group express their admiration for another, but also see them candidly address the 4 boys/3 girls problem. 

“You You You” was their biggest hit, staying at #1 for two whole months in 1953.

Their take on “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane” is a clever statement on gossip gone too far. Here are the lyrics, just in case the last line of the song throws you off balance like it did to me.

By the time we get to the EP in question, The Ames Brothers popularity had begun to wane. Rock and Roll was stealing the thunder of harmony vocal groups, and in just a few years, Motown would offer a more powerful alternative with the likes of The Temptations and The Four Tops. Still, “Destination Moon” is a jazzy hoot, due in no small part to Sid Ramin’s orchestral prowess. Dig it.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

I can’t help but wonder if this song inspired Tracy Morgan to come up with Saturday Night Live’s Astronaut Jones.

Sorry. There’s no video of the actual skits on YouTube because Lorne Michaels is selfish like that. Or maybe Lorne Michaels is justifiably protective of his intellectual property. Discuss.

The Ames Brothers would break up in 1959. Ed Ames tried his hand at acting, appearing in an off-Broadway production of Carousel and landing a starring role as Mingo on TV’s Daniel Boone.

Ed is the only surviving member of the group, and he continues to sing to this day. Here he is in 2008, singing “The Impossible Dream.” Pretty impressive.

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