The Flairs

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The Flairs (or Flares) were an American doo-wop group known for their 1961 hit "Foot Stompin', Pt. 1." Based in Los Angeles, they went through several lineup changes during their existence. Their notable members included Richard Berry (writer of 'Louie Louie') and Cornell Gunter, who would go on to being a member of the Coasters.[1][2]


In 1952, an African-American musical group calling themselves the Debonaires had formed in Los Angeles, with members Arthur Lee Maye, Pete Fox, Obediah Jessie, Joe Winslow, and A.V. Odom. Winslow dropped out, leaving the qroup a quartet. Bass man Odom was out soon after, and was replaced by Richard Berry. Maye began putting baseball ahead of singing (he would later be a professional baseball player for the Milwaukee Braves), and the group brought in Beverly Thompson to replace him. Cornell Gunter, who had recently left the earliest lineup of the Platters, came in to make the group a quintet. The Debonaires made a handful of recordings for Recorded In Hollywood with no real success.

The group then found Modern Records, and were transferred to Flair Records, owned by a brother of the owner of Modern. At this point, the Debonaires changed their name to the Flairs. Although named after the label, they had little success there. They recorded several singles through 1953, beginning with "I Had a Love". The next was "Rabbit On A Log", which was credited to the Hunters, to avoid competition with "I Had A Love". More singles followed into 1954. Thompson left in the summer of 1954. The group performed as a quartet, and brought in Charles Jackson as a fifth member on recordings.

Shortly after Thompson's departure, Berry left as well. He had been working with Arthur Lee Maye's new group, the Crowns, as well as his own second group, the Dreamers. This caused friction in the Flairs. His replacement was Randy Jones (who also did some bass spots with the Crowns). The group continued recording, with one of their singles, "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me", being credited to the Chimes. Jackson left to join the Chimes at this time, and Jones left to fill the bass spot in the Penguins. Gunter, Jessie, and Fox continued as the Jac-O-Lacs, recording for Tampa Records. The group broke up at this point. Jessie recorded one more Jac-O-Lacs single, "Mary Lou", backed by the Cadets. He got to know this group and, when a baritone was needed a few years later, recommended fellow Flair Pete Fox for the job. Jessie continued as a soloist.

With Fox joining the Cadets and Jessie recording solo (as Young Jessie), Cornell Gunter formed a new group, the Ermines, with new members George Hollis, Thomas Miller, and his cousin, Kenneth Byley. After a brief stint with Loma Records, they signed up with manager Buck Ram, and moved to ABC-Paramount Records, taking the name the Flairs. After recording for ABC a short time, they moved to Modern, then to Aladdin Records. Old Ermine's tracks continued to be released by Loma. Also, during this time, they frequently backed up Gunter's sister, Shirley.

Gunter was out in late 1957, and was replaced by Vince Weaver. The group recorded into the summer of 1958 for Ram's Antler Records. Later that year, Weaver and Byley both left the group. The Cadets were again associated with the Flairs—they had just split, and ex-Cadets Willie Davis and Aaron Collins joined the Flairs. Former Flair Pete Fox was also a member of the Cadets when they split, and he did not join the Flairs. The fourth Cadet, Will "Dub" Jones, filled one of two recent vacancies in the Coasters, the other being filled by recent Flair departee Cornell Gunter.

Miller, Hollis, Davis, and Collins recorded only briefly as the Flairs, before changing their name to the Flares, in 1959. Buck Ram had actually proposed a different name, the Peppers. After a two-year break, the Flares began to record again. By this time, however, both of the former Cadets had left, and the group was now Miller, Hollis, Eddie King, Robbie Robinson, and Beverly Harris. This lineup recorded for Felsted Records. Then the lineup returned to Miller, Hollis, Willie Davis, and Aaron Collins (possibly featuring Harris). They recorded as Bennie Bunn and the Cadets for Sherwood Records in 1960.

At that time, Hollis left and was replaced by a former Flair, Randy Jones. Patience Valentine was added as a fifth member. Once again as the Flares, the group recorded for Jan-Lar Records. The group's lineup shifted rapidly at this point- later, Davis was out and Hollis was in. Then, Jones and Valentine were out, and Davis and Collin's sister Rose Collins were in. Rose was only in shortly, then she and Aaron's sister Betty Collins. Then, Davis was out again, replaced by the returning Vince Weaver for a short time, before Davis returned.

As the Flares, their biggest hit was the 1961 release "Foot Stompin' Part 1", which hit #20 on the Black Singles chart and #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.[3]

In 1961, the group took Buck Ram's previous suggestion and recorded as "The Peppers" for Ensign Records. Then it was back to the Flares for Ram's Press Records. They alternated between the Peppers and the Flares through 1964. At that point, the group split.


  1. ^ Lee Cotten The Golden Age of American Rock 'n Roll -1989 Volume 1 - Page 114 The Flairs were another of the Los Angeles groups ...
  2. ^ Vladimir Bogdanov - All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul 2003 " basically the Flairs were formed by teenagers in LA. in the early '50s and founded by future the ..."
  3. ^ Billboard Singles,

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