Beauty, Jazz and Dreams: Kathryn Wimp’s Musical Journey With Duke Ellington

— By Carrie Moea Brown

Stage name, Kay Davis production shot while touring with Duke Ellington

As Kathryn “Kay” MacDonald finished up the last two songs in her performance in Chicago, her eyes fixed toward the back of the auditorium. In walked a man surrounded by what in modern terms is referred to as an entourage. The year was 1944, and within moments she recognized what others around her already did— Duke Ellington had arrived. She left her place on stage and joined those down in the audience; pushing to get a closer look, when she finally reached him she was greeted with a question…

…“Can you be in Baltimore next week?” Ellington asked.

A week earlier, she and a friend attended one of Ellington’s performances. On a whim she decided to head backstage and after brief introductions she sang a tune. When she saw that Ellington seemed to enjoy it —and feeling even braver— she invited him to an upcoming performance.

“I was crazy about the man and his band,” Kay (now Kathryn Wimp) said in an interview with Northwestern Alumni News in 2001. “He was the epitome of style and class.”

She was pleasantly surprised that he had taken her up on her invitation— and even more surprised when he offered her a job. “I went home and packed my little trunk,” she said. “And that was the beginning of my career.”

The Formative Years

Born Kathryn MacDonald, in Evanston, Wimp knew early on in life that she wanted to sing. When her father, a chiropractor and her mother a homemaker from Evanston moved the family Bushnell, Ill. (62 miles outside of Peoria) she left behind a rich family history that included her grandfather, William H. Twiggs. An active civic leader, Twiggs was ahead of his time in working toward success in Evanston’s Black community. In 2000, this publication reported that he arrived in Evanston from Davenport, Iowa in 1884. He went on to own and operate a barbershop and printing press. Today, a park located south of Canal between Simpson and Payne streets bears his name.

Twiggs family c1912. Katherine Twiggs (Kay’s mother) far left

By the time Wimp arrived back in Evanston for high school her interest in music had piqued. “I remember singing ‘Trees’ in elementary school,” says Wimp by phone from her home in Florida. It was her first time singing in public. She also recalls that her father used to sing in a Catholic choir—and she credits that with being a major factor in her choice to pursue music.

In her last two years at Evanston Township High School, Wimp began taking voice lessons. The school was de-segregated because it was the only high school for students in Evanston, black or white. There, she was a student of Roy Schuzler, a music teacher at ETHS who happened to be a student of Northwestern University music professor Walter Allen Stults. The relationship she forged with Schuzler would prove beneficial when she enrolled as a voice major at Northwestern’s School of Music.

Back at ETHS, she joined a choir newly formed by the head of the music department. Wimp recalls walking into the rehearsal room to find the entire choir was Black. They were all perplexed, she says. The head music teacher, a white woman from Texas, explained that she thought forming an all Black choir was a good idea because she felt the Black students sang so well.

Wimp says they all walked out of the room.  And the notion of an all Black choir was soon dismantled.

There were other challenges that faced Blacks living in Evanston at the time. On Sundays she would go downtown with her two younger brothers and her parents to get ice cream, but they would eat it on the drive home because they weren’t allowed to sit in the parlor.

Once, when Wimp was a teenager she and a friend who was darker skinned attempted to eat in at a popular diner in downtown Evanston. The staff offered to serve the lighter skinned Wimp, but refused service to her friend. They eventually let them eat in, but according to Wimp they doused the food in salt. She and her friend cleared their plates and left. She proudly refers to it as their version of a sit-in.

Early Training

The first Black undergraduate to enroll and subsequently graduate from Northwestern was Lawyer Taylor. The Louisville-born Taylor enrolled at the age of 34 and graduated in 1903. Thirty-five years later Wimp enrolled at Northwestern’s School of Music majoring in vocal performance. Only six Black students were enrolled in the music program at the time and because of Northwestern’s policy at the time, students of color were not permitted to live in the residence halls.

“We used to drool over Willard Hall, which was right across from the music building,” Wimp said in 2001. “I had a good time at Northwestern, but there were those limitations.” Wimp says that the limitations placed on both Black and Jewish students forged a sense of unity. “We kind of bonded together,” she says.

But those years were not without controversy. In 1942 at Northwestern’s annual Waa-Mu Show, a showcase of the campus’ musical talents, Wimp sang a duet with fellow music major Jack Haskell despite the social taboos on cross-racial stage romance.

The Man and His Band

In 1943 Wimp graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in voice. The following year she received her Master’s degree. Then, the opportunity came to work with Ellington. One of her first experiences in Ellington’s band came when he taught her the simple melody to “Creole Love Song.” Within an hour she was onstage with him performing the song. The year was 1944. The place was Carnegie Hall.

“I sang, it got a wonderful ovation and then I got the heck off the stage!” she exclaims.

Her first recording with Ellington came about as he was teaching fellow band member Al Hibbler notes from “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” Wimp sat humming along off stage. Ellington asked her to join in humming. When he eventually decided to keep her on the track Wimp was less than thrilled.

“I called home crying,” she says. She wanted to be on the frontlines.

Jet Magazine, Dec. 25, 1952

But there were plenty of opportunities to showcase her talent. The following year, in April 1945, President Roosevelt died. Ellington’s band was the only jazz band asked to perform for a national audience. One piece “A City Called Heaven,” was sung by Wimp. The years went on and according to Wimp band members came and went. Among those, the only still alive are Maria Ellington (of no relation to Duke), who later married Nat King Cole and gave birth to Natalie. She now resides in Florida. The second was Joya Sherrill who now resides in Great Neck, NY. But Wimp describes Ellington as a “genius” and says that even with constant flux of female band members he remained focused. She says, unlike many of his day he didn’t fraternize with female band members. In fact, he completely absorbed by his work.

“Music was his mistress,” she says. He was always at the piano. She even heard that later he bought a portable piano –presumably before they became a main stay– which he toyed with while on the road. She says he would stay up until all hours of the night “constantly composing” music.

The years between 1944 and 1950 were filled with high profile engagements, one-nighters and cross continental trips. Wimp describes life on the road as hard.

“It’s not that glamorous day after day,” she says. As time went on “I kept holding on hoping something dramatic would happen,” she says.

The band toured relentlessly, to the Palladium in England and with the Nicolas Brothers and Pearl Bailey in Liverpool, and seemingly everywhere in between. “It was quite an experience, very exciting,” she says. In 1947 the band toured California, Texas and Georgia.

It was a “whole different thing,” she says referring to race relations. She says they were bad, and despite their high profile they couldn’t even sit down in restaurants to eat. She recalls a frightening time in Macon, Georgia. The band had just finished a show and their manager, who was white, arranged a deal with a restaurant owner across the street from the theatre. Ellington and his band hastily made their way into the restaurant, so as to avoid any controversy. When a patron saw the band arrive he demanded to know why Blacks were being served.

The restaurant owner introduced Duke Ellington. And according to Wimp the angry patron answered, “I don’t care about no Duke Ellington!”

Before things could get any more tense, Wimp ran out of the restaurant and back to the concert hall where she set up a make shift hot plate. That night, she heated a can of Campbell’s soup over the sink in the ladies’ restroom.

Though things were rough at times, she and the band remained focused. But by 1950, after a four-week tour of Europe Wimp says, “I was tired. . . I got home and said, ‘That’s it,’” she says.

One night gigs and the relentless travel schedule began to take their toll. To this day she says feelings of fatigue remind her of those one-night summer gigs.

On the music of the day she says, “It escapes me.” But she is also encouraged by the recent resurgence of old standards from the likes of artists like Michael Buble, hailed as a modern day master of the music of yesteryear.

As for advice she gives to people aspiring to break into the music business. She says, “So much of what happens to you, no matter what you do is luck.”

Kay Wimp, visiting relatives in Chicago viewing artifacts Shorefront found in her childhood home in 2006.

She parallels this with the story of a childhood friend from Evanston who also graduated from Northwestern’s music school. Ann DeRamus was Black and studied classical piano. She was considered a prodigy by most, but breaking into the world of a classical pianist as a Black woman proved to be difficult. She went on to become a social worker.

But, Wimp adds that today, “If you’re really serious about something, no matter what you do, trust and have faith that it will happen.” She adds, “Look at me. I never dreamed that I would be on stage with Ellington.”


Notes: The original article first appeared in the original printed version of Shorefront Journal, volume 7 number 3, 2006. Images from the Shorefront photographic collection, Kay Davis music collection.


Now. . .”Everybody Knows” Patti Drew. . .in “The Butler”

Patti Drew c1969
Patti Drew c1969. Shorefront archives.

—By Dino Robinson

Pretty little thing let me light your candle ‘cause baby I’m sure hard to handle now. . .

Patricia E. Drew belted out these lyrics for the song, “Hard to Handle,” in 1968 when she was 20 years old. . .with an attitude. Then, it just about summed up her lifestyle. Today, she is just trying to handle her life. After several years climbing the ladder in the world of music, she found out how fast life could tumble even for one with all of the talent in the world. However, local residents who knew her then, are rediscovering her voice in the new movie Lee Daniels’, The Butler starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Patricia (Patti) lived part of her childhood in Nashville Tennessee before coming to Evanston with her parents and five sisters in 1956 to start a new life, part of which was for Patti and her sisters to obtain a better education. Her father worked for the city of Wilmette. Her mother worked as a domestic. Her mother’s job later proved to be a turning point in Patti’s life as well as the lives of her sisters.

Patti entered the sixth grade at Nichols Junior High her first year in Evanston and later went to ETHS. She held several jobs during her teen years. At 15, she earned $3.00 an hour folding towels at a local towel company. She baby-sat for the people her mother worked for, worked as a nurses’ aide at Presbyterian homes in Skokie, as a counter girl at a soda fountain shop, and other odd jobs.

Reflecting on her experience growing up in Evanston, Patti saw the city as one with a lot of prejudices: in the schools, work, and in general:

“People here were nice, nasty. If you could picture a person being nice but nasty to you at the same time. They would look at my parents, my sisters and me and say, how could you have money to buy stuff? How could you go into Weibolts and buy nice things? How dare you come into this store with your little Black girls and buy nice things. How dare you.”

“There were places in Evanston that Black people didn’t go. We just didn’t go. If we were not going to be treated nice, why go. You knew where to go, you knew what street to stay off of. You didn’t go into Skokie at all. One might be picked up by the police just for being there. I didn’t want to be treated badly. So we started going into the ‘Loop’.”

Patti’s family first attended Mt. Carmel Baptist church, then transferred their membership to Bethel A.M.E. Church, both in Evanston. “Every Sunday we had to go to church. If you didn’t go to church, you couldn’t go anywhere. We were involved in the choir, the youth choir, the adult choir, or the senior choir, and we went to a lot of youth-related functions.”

I’m so alive, cause you are near. . .

Growing up Patti says she wasn’t always the nice girl on the block. “We had a club called the Latin Ladies, the tough girls on the block. We wore black scarves tied around our head, black jeans and black shirts and we hung around a group of boys called the Latin Lovers. Of course my mom wouldn’t let me wear these clothes so, as teens do, we snuck the clothes out of the house and changed into them later. But in reality, I was a loner and did things on my own.”

Patti’s music interest started in church. Her grandmother in Tennessee had insisted that she and two of her sisters, Loraine and Erma, sing in the church. In Evanston, her paternal grandmother heard them singing and had them sing in her church. The girls would sing around the house and entertain their dad and guests with songs. Their mother found the opportunity to have the girls heard by a much bigger audience.

“My mother worked for a guy who was a distributor for Capitol Records,” Patti reminisced. “She happened to mention one day that she had three girls who could sing. By this time, we were popular in the church and they were always asking us to sing. My mother was asked to bring a tape for her employer to hear and to see what he could do.

The Drew-Vels (Patti, Erma and Lorraine) with Carlton Black
The Drew-Vels (Patti, Erma and Lorraine) with Carlton Black. Shorefront archives.

So we went there one day to have my mother’s employer, Maury Lathauwer, hear us, and leave a tape for him. He took the tape to producer Peter Wright. The tape had a song called, “Tell Him,” written by Evanstonian Carlton Black. Peter Wright liked it. They pressed it, and that’s how we got our start.”

The group became known as the Drew-vels and featured Carlton Black on many of the songs. Signed by Capitol records in 1964, they pressed six songs. One of the group’s first live performances was at the Regal Theater in Chicago. They also recorded two songs on the Quill label without Patti, while Patti recorded four songs on the same label as a solo act.

From 1967 to 1970, Patti Drew was a solo act on the Capitol Records label. Her sisters often sang backup. On one album, Fontella Bass (“Rescue Me”) was Patti’s backup singer. Patti recorded over 12 45’s and four albums, toured the U.S. and South America, appeared on  both Soul Train while it was still being filmed in Chicago, and on American Bandstand on September 7, 1968, where she sang “Working On A Groovy Thing”. Peter Wright became her agent and moved her onto the Playboy Club circuit for two years. Patti’s list of hits and her live performances had a loyal following in the early Soul Music movement. Critics raved about her powerful voice. “The album, “Working on a Groovy Thing,” was a hot record. The Fifth Dimension picked up the title song and adapted it to their style.”

Patti sang locally at the 1623 Club in Evanston, and at the PussyCat Lounge, the Backroom, the Caraville and several other spots around Chicago.

Then in 1971, the bottom fell out. “The culture of music performers at that time was fast, stressful and demanding,” Patti said, “and it was easy to get caught up in if you were not careful. I was supposed to perform with James Brown and meet with Hugh Heffner of Playboy who wanted me to pose and I missed them both because of my habit. . .By that time, it was either give up the drugs or the singing, and I was not strong enough at that time to give up the drugs. I was strung out. I ended up in rehab. Four months later, I came home. My singing career was over.”

Even though Patti has since been a subject in numerous articles and books like the Record Exchanger magazine and Doo-wop, The Chicago Scene, Patti’s desire to sing has all but left.

“When I got to that place where I just wanted to get high instead of doing my job, I knew it was over,” Patti said, “I just wanted to leave that life in the past. People are now coming to me saying that the oldies are coming back. No way, I won’t do it. It’s too much work. Plus, I don’t have the chops anymore. I had fun though. . .I had a lot of fun performing. I never thought I would end up with nothing.”


In the many interviews with Patti and I, she wanted her story to be a life lesson in that, no matter how successful you may be, bad decisions can quickly leave you with nothing. Patti did continue to sing at local engagements from time to time but retired completely by the mid 1980s. In April 2007, EMI Records released “The Best of Patti Drew, Working On A Groovy Thing.” Comprised of 22 tracks from her solo career and three tracks as part of the Drew-Vels – including both the original “Tell Him” and the re-recording as a solo artist. She does not receive any royalties for any of her work.

On the North Shore, Patti is the talk of the town as it was a pleasant surprise to hear her voice on the song, “Tell Him” written by Carlton Black, in Lee Daniels, The Butler. I spoke with Patti again on August 22, 2013 and she shared, “I plan on seeing the movie this weekend. . .”

Sources: “Everybody Knows” Patti Drew was first published in the printed version of Shorefront Journal, Volume 4, Number 3, 2003. Shorefront oral history tapes: Patti Drew, recorded January 2000 by Dino Robinson. Additional information originated through various informal conversations between Patti and Dino throughout the years. Photos from the Shorefront Legacy Center archives, music collection, Patti Drew. Top pull quote  from “Hard To Handle”. Second pull quote from “Working on a Groovy Thing”. Video © Dick Clark Productions, Inc.  17 second clip used with permission from a 30 second video provided by Dick Clark Productions, Inc. to Shorefront.


— By Chip Ratliff —

David "Chainsaw" Dupont. Portraits of a Community collection. Photo by Rich Foreman
David “Chainsaw” Dupont. Portraits of a Community collection. Photo by Rich Foreman

When you listen to his voice, you can’t help but hear the unique tone of a man that has paid his dues. An unmistakable voice that is all his own. His words speak of “sinners & saints”, love, pain, and survival drawing from a soulfulness coming from years of growing up in the Mississippi Delta, which includes picking cotton at the age of 3. He plays his Gibson Flying V guitar that he calls his “chainsaw” with a touch and sensitivity that is more than just an exercise in how many notes can be played. Still, with a deliberate intensity that wastes no notes, Chainsaw Dupont delivers the Blues the only way he know how. . . his way.

My mother used to play boogie-woogie piano, that she learned from Fats Domino

Born David Julius Dupont in Macomb, Mississippi, 100 miles north of New Orleans, Chainsaw Dupont was raised inside the Blues. “I didn’t choose the Blues. The Blues chose me!”, says Chainsaw, with an obvious sense of pride. This point becomes more than obvious when you hear his story. He started picking cotton at the age of 3, his mother died in a car accident when he was a teen, and he ran away from home in search of his father. Just the first trip in a life that can be definitely called a journey.

When David’s mother died, his brother brought him to the gritty west side of Chicago when he was 15 years of age. By that time, he already had acquired a love for the Blues from his late mother. “My mother used to play boogie-woogie piano, that she learned from Fats Domino.” David said, “Guys used to come around the house playing guitars. That’s how I learned how to play.” About a year or so after his arrival to Chicago, young David (Chainsaw) and his brother moved to Evanston, IL. They first lived on Howard St., near Paulina Ave and Juneway Terrace.

. . .almost killed by white supremacist,  and was homeless . . .

He started playing guitar professionally at the age of 16, forming a “Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies” kind of  neighborhood band called Drifted Soul. The band toured locally, and had an appearance on a local television show called “Stars of Tomorrow”, that was hosted by a young Don Cornelius in his pre-Soul Train days in Chicago. At the age of 18, and after playing locally for a couple of years, Chainsaw was “compelled” by the “Blueseman instinct” to hitch hike around the country, experiencing things that would add to his mystique and permeate his musical style. Incidentally, this was the same year he married his first wife.

While on his journey in the “late ‘70s early ‘80s”, Chainsaw played in various bands, including a Reggae band, and even an Elvis Presley impersonator. He was shot in Houston, Texas, almost killed by white supremacist, and was homeless for most of the time. He survived on what he calls “the Bluesman’s instinct”. Which reinforces the idea of the Blues being more than just music, it is a way of life.

Upon returning to Evanston after his journey (and divorcing his first wife), David took the name “Chainsaw”, which actually is more of a description of how he views his guitar, rather than a description of his character. When asked about where the name came from, he says:

“Most guitar players call their guitar and “axe”. Well, you can cut more with a chainsaw than an axe! If there was a woman, and there was a storm coming in, and she needed wood for the fire. . . the man that could get the wood faster would be her man! So, who would get the job? The man with the axe or the man with the chainsaw?!”

Just like the man himself, his Flying-V guitar (named so due to the fact that is looks like a “v” laying on its side) has been on a few journeys itself. From being pawned then sold during a particularly hard stretch during Chainsaw’s life, and being stolen when someone stole the van he had parked in front of a gas station containing all of his equipment. Yet, the guitar found its way home each time! When Chainsaw says that it was all “by the grace of God”, I have to concur.

Chainsaw writes most of his own material. He has such a deep wealth of experience to draw from, singing and performing his own songs is only natural. This also is the cornerstone of Chainsaw’s unique sound. “I like to be different.”, says Chainsaw. When you listen to his many albums, you can hear his soul being poured out onto every track. When you watch him play, you can see his history. “I was watching a video tape (we) had done on me, and I noticed that I hunch over when I play. I’m bent over like I’m pickin’ cotton. That’s the way I stand when I’m workin’ hard!”

It turns out, after all of these years, Chainsaw Dupont is just a country boy from the Mississippi Delta, pickin’ the Blues. . . his own way.

Source: Recorded interview of David “Chainsaw” Dupont by Chip Ratliff, October, 2010. For more info and discography On Chainsaw Dupont, go to

From the Shorefront Archives #002

Patti Drew Archives
Patti Drew Archives

The Importance of Connectivity with Archival Donors

By Dino Robinson—

What I enjoy most is interacting with community members. What scares me the most is interacting with community members. What I have learned over the last 15 years is that you generally have three minutes to earn the trust of someone who is considering sharing their family history.

In addition, the first impression could guide its outcome especially if certain community social politics are not followed – and are varied from community to community. My experience has taught me that educational degrees mean absolutely nothing. Premise, theory, terminology—unimportant. Where you are from, who your family is, what drives you is are the only things that matter. . . and yes, knowledge about your interest that you wish to learn more about.

I remember several encounters that provided a crash-course lesson in engagement, and fortunately, all had positive outcomes. One that I remember most involved searching for early 1970s “Soul” singer, Patti Drew.

Patti Drew was part of a 1960s Doo Wop group known as the DruVels. The group was made up of the Drew sisters and were a sister group to the DuVals. She later went solo on the Capitol Records label in the early 1970 and produced four albums, appeared on both American Bandstand and Soul Train and performed in the Playboy Clubs across the United States. Her career was set to really take off. Yet the music industry lifestyle was not forgiving and Patti bowed out and disappeared from the industry.

My interest in her grew after I put together an exhibit of local musicians and a resident told me that Patti was around but not sure where. I spent a year and a half looking for her, asking residents of her whereabouts and the reason why I was looking for her. I had a number of her sister that I called from time to time. Patti, never identifying herself, had always answered. On my third call, she replied, “Whatever you are trying to sell, we don’t want.”

I had three seconds. “Not selling, I want to learn from Ms. Drew about her career so that others can learn.” A long pause. “Well, I’m Patti.” I have three more seconds. “May I share something with you?” Patti responds, “Come by me tomorrow.” I found that Patti lived right around the corner from me. What followed was a friendship that has lasted over ten years and counting.

After three visits, I had earned her initial trust. Over the next several years, Patti and sisters shared with Shorefront their story. In turn, Shorefront located several 45s that the Patti no longer had and recovered studio shots used for her album covers and returned them to the family. It was then, that Shorefront received a valuable gift.

The family donated the gathered items back to Shorefront so that “future generations can see what was done by a group of girls from Evanston.” The DruVels and Patti Drew are now a part of the Shorefront music collection at the Shorefront Legacy Center.

As an active collector of artifacts and family documents, I learned several key factors needed in working with communities: Honor, respect, patience and giving. It is only then, you might earn trust — but more importantly, a genuine relationship.

Carlton A. Black — Always Sheddin’

Carlton Black “Sheddin'” in his home.

By Dino Robinson —

Positioning himself on top a red bar stool, his vintage electric guitar propped on his leg. Plug in, adjust, twist of knobs, a bid of feedback, Mr. Black is back in a self-imposed school. The eight-foot by eight-foot room has one function – “Shedding”. The room walls document his accomplishments in music, past and present. “I only wish I started to play earlier in my life.” Black laments, repositioning his fingers and as if on cue he begins again, “Now its time to shred.”

I never thought any of the songs I wrote would go anywhere

His fingers tap along the long wood arm of his electric guitar, his eyes close as he begins to form new chords being composed in his head. After some time, Black stops, “You see, I started playing relatively late in my life, about 22-23 years old.” To his testament, Black has penned many songs and performed with several groups. Today, there are several modern musical groups covering the songs Black penned more than 40 years ago. He still collects royalties from his compositions.

Born September 30, 1944 to Mildred Minola Burnette of Memphis, Tennessee and Warren Black of Evanston, he attended Foster elementary, Haven middle and then Evanston Township High School in 1962. Blacks’ mother worked as a domestic. His father served in the military. For much of Black’s life he and his four older cousins, the Pryor’s, was raised by his grandmother, Esther Black and aunts Ellen and Mildred Black (same name as his mother).

After graduation, Black began his working career at David Lifhord Groceries on Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Later he was employed at a glass factory on Emerson Street. It was while working there when he discovered music. “While working at the factory, I would always come with a pen and a pad of paper.” Black says, “In no time, I had one hundred songs or more.”

“I never thought any of the songs I wrote would go anywhere. Some I threw out, some were prose or poetry, some I wrote for other groups.”

Reflecting on his life growing up in Evanston, he remembers that the local fellas always liked to sing. “Groups would form and sing on street corners, school hallways, at the Foster Center shower room.” Black says. “We would do it for fun and in competitive talent shows.”

One time we opened up for Marvin Gaye in Highland Park

Some of the groups Black remembered included the Velvet-Airs, The Hands of Time, The Naturals (the original group) and the Renells, a rival singing group. “There was a female group as well but I cannot remember the name. Anne Pope was in it. And Gloria. Its been too long.”

The Velvet-Airs was the first group Black was in. The group consisted of Richard Gibbins, Marty Lidell, Donald Pryor and Wellington Giles. The Hands of Time consisted of Barry Young, Lennorard Perkins, Billie Giles, Bobby Caldwell. Black later joined the DuVals. The music scene in Evanston was tight-knit. They were all friends, cousins, or loosely knew each other in the surrounding communities.

A Member of the Foster Brothers, Robert “Bobby” C. Robinson, and Donald Clay formed the record label, Boss Records. Boss recorded several musicians in the Chicago metro area and the Evanston group that Black was in, the DuVals (1962). Members of the group were Charles Joseph Woolridge, Charles Perry, Andrew Thomas, Arthur Cox and Carlton Black. “I was the last to join the group”.

The first two songs on the Boss label was “Cotton” written by Charles Perry and “What am I” written by Carlton Black. The “Cotton” was a minor hit in the Chicago area. Smash Records later pick up the group and they performed in various talent shows and record hops in high schools and colleges around the Chicago area. “One time we opened up for Marvin Gaye in Highland Park.” Black said.

The DuVals group eventually disbanded. Black then was part of a revised group, the Naturals. The original group, from in the 1950s, included Charles Davis, Charles Frazier, Keith (Dicky) Frazier and Richard Lee. A later changed up brought in Ike Wilson who took the place of Charles Davis.

“We wanted to honor the original group.” Black says. “So we brought back the name in 1963.” The new Naturals recorded at the legendary Chess Record Studios on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. There they recorded “Three Banditos”, “Let Love Be True”, “Hey Little Girl”, “Different Girls” and “Hey Fellas”.

An Evanston based companion female group, the DruVels, also recorded at Chess Records. “On the same day we recorded “Let Love Be True”, we assisted with the recording of “Tell Him” for the DruVels.” Black’s baritone voice became the iconic opener for that song. The lead singer of the DruVels, Patti Drew, later went solo on Capitol Records and produced four albums.

Black reflected again, that it was so many years ago. The music scene changed over the decades. He held a day job in the northern suburbs where he eventually retired from. Throughout the years, Black continued to play in local bars and clubs. He also continued to practice. If you see Mr. Black today, but you might possibly hear him first, ask him what he would be doing today. He may answer, “Going to the Woodshed”.

Note: From a recorded interview conducted September 13, 2008 (1:27) by Dino Robinson and archived at the Shorefront Legacy Center as well as sample selections from the Foster Brothers, The Naturals, The DuVals, DruVels and Patti Drew.  Additional information on many of the groups in this article can be found in Robert Pruter’s publications, Doo Wop, The Chicago Scene and Chicago Soul.