Friday, January 25, 2013

Original Cavaliere Sid Holmes Talks About "Last Kiss"

Anybody who has been reading Forgotten Hits for any length of time knows how often the song "Last Kiss" has come up in this publication.  

We wrote what many consider to be the definitive history of this song (and the group who had the original hit recording it, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers) back in 2004. Over the years, we've heard from several people who acknowledge our story to be "the most accurate truth" out there about this song and band ... as well as others who claim that Wayne Cochran didn't really write the original ... or that they were there at the recording session and today have the legal rights use of the name. We've heard from original members of The Cavaliers as well as the family members of some of those musicians who are no longer with us ... and numerous latter-day Cavaliers who also have claimed to be part of this historic recording. (At one point,, we finally threw in the towel and admitted that, in order for ALL of these stories to be true, there had to be at least TWO HUNDRED singers and musicians in the recording studio that day!!!)   

(You can read that original piece, in its entirety, here: 
Click here: Forgotten Hits - LAST KISS: The Incredible, Convoluted Story Behind This #1 Classic Hit! 

For more recent updates, scroll back (or type "last kiss" into the search feature on our blog) and you'll find much more conversation and discussion about this #1 Hit that have come up during the past year as well ... it seems to be the topic that just won't go away!!!    

But even I have to admit that I was COMPLETELY blown away when I received an email a couple of months ago from Sid Holmes, one of the ORIGINAL Cavaliers from way back when, who not only praised our research but also told me that he has written the definitive book on the subject ... and would like to send me a copy.   

Naturally, with this much time devoted to the topic, I devoured it the minute it came in ... I had to know if Sid was going to reveal any brand new facts that may have been missing from the story thus far. (As the title of our piece already states, this is one convoluted story!!!)  

Holmes' book not only tells the story of The Cavaliers (and the various players who came and went over the years, including many of the "phonies" who have gotten away with capitalizing on the name) ... but it also talks about the number of times their own record was bootlegged in order to keep up with the demand for copies ... and gives us a behind-the scenes look at so many other characters (like Wayne Cochran, Sonley Roush and Major Bill Smith) who had ANYTHING at all to do with the legend as it relates to this song.  

Titled "ROCKABILLY HEAVEN - WEST TEXAS IN THE '50's - THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE CAVALIERS, 1956 - 1964", it also acts as a journal of sorts, documenting the history of Rockabilly Music as it grew in stature throughout the late '50's and early '60's.  

Delving simply into the story strictly as it relates to "Last Kiss" for our purposes, we tried to zero in on three key areas that have never "officially" been resolved in our minds, despite all the research and comments made over the years ...  

Who was really there that day, at the actual recording session, when the hit single was recorded 

(Be sure to come back tomorrow to read Sid's official documentation of that fateful day)   

And what about the unknown female voice heard on the record ... who did THAT belong to?  

(Holmes admits that to this day he has NO idea who that woman was. In fact, he says, he was hoping that perhaps through word of mouth of his book, this woman might finally come forward and identify herself. He even has a gold record award to give her!) 

In-house (non-RIAA-Certified) gold records were only awarded to J. Frank Wilson, Ron Newdoll and Major Bill Smith by Josie Record executives in 1964 in New York City. A photo of the presentation appeared in Billboard. The "Last Kiss" 45 was NOT RIAA Certified Gold (for sales of one million copies), with the official sales figures being 850,000 copies. In order to correct this oversight by Josie Records in New York City in 1964, The West Texas Music Hall Of Fame board members voted to have framed non-RIAA Certified Gold Record Awards made in Hollywood, California, for all those involved, including the unknown backing singer. It is in hopes that the female vocalist on "Last Kiss" will come forward after this book is released in order to receive her gold record. In later years, J. Frank Wilson sold his in-house gold record award that he received from Josie Records in order to pay his rent ... and the whereabouts today is unknown.  
-- Sid Holmes  

And finally, what, if ANYTHING, did Leo Lucas have to do with The Cavaliers? (For the record, Lucas' name doesn't come up once in Sid Holmes' book ... until you hit the chapter on phonies and frauds who tried to capitalize on the name ... taking advantage of the fact that very little could be officially substantiated now that J. Frank Wilson was dead.) This analysis was pretty much as I figured, despite several emails from Leo this past year to the contrary. As I've stated before, Leo may have purchased the legal rights to use the name The Cavaliers ... but this appears to be his ONLY tie to the band that cut this legendary hit.  

According to Sid's book:  

J. Frank Wilson's Cavaliers: This group from New York City began performing as "J.Frank Wilson's Cavaliers" somewhere around 1985. The leader, Leo Lucas, was fully aware of the "Truth In Music Law", which requires at least one original member to be part of the group. The law has currently been passed by 33 states, including Texas and New York.
Even though this group has no connection with The Cavaliers and J. Frank Wilson from San Angelo, Texas, or the hit recording of "Last Kiss", a registration to trademark the name "J. Frank Wilson's Cavaliers" was filed February 16th, 2003, by Leo Lucas, and government records indicate that the trademark was granted on June 22nd, 2004.  

Leo Lucas claims (and has told his audience during live performances):   

"I met J. Frank Wilson when I was employed by Josie Records in New York City in 1964. It was during this time that he offered to sell me the rights to his name." 

(Yeah, THAT makes sense ... at exactly the same time that they had the biggest record in the country, J. Frank Wilson was going to give away all of the rights to his own name to Leo Lucas who, by the way, has never produced a single shred evidence proving that he EVER worked for Josie Records or had / has any legal rights to the use of the name.)  Despite bold claims to the contrary ... and repeated requests from us to do so, Lucas has yet to produce a single piece of evidence tying him to this song, group or record label. He rests his whole case on being the current owner to the copyright on the name ... which, based on what we've heard from several other people close to the story, including J. Frank Wilson's own son (!), is most likely true ... except, quite honestly, he's never officially offered proof of this fact either!)  Another interesting point is the fact that, once several of us began to question Leo's legal ties to these rights, "The Cavaliers" suddenly changed their name for performing purposes!  (kk)  

If you pick up a copy of Sid's book, you'll also learn about another infamous J. Frank Wilson impersonator out of Michigan who, even when confronted about an appearance shortly after the REAL J. Frank Wilson died, stuck to his guns and said "I don't know nothin' about that ... all I know is that I was given the name J. Frank Wilson and I am the one who sang on the record." Unfrickinbelievable!!!  

Besides a fascinating story, this book also comes with an exclusive CD, featuring rare and previously unreleased tracks of live performances of The Cavaliers over the years. When you put it all together, it makes for an interesting and educational experience. (I had hoped to talk with Sid further for this review but, as we go to press this morning, I have yet to hear back from him.) 

However, after the book arrived, he did email me:  

Hey, Kent,   
What would we do without guys like Leo as he's kept us entertained for all these years with his claims. You'll get to read about another possibly bigger imposter who fooled the State of Michigan for umpteen years as J. Frank Wilson. Leo's doo wop recording of Last Kiss was pretty good. I'll include an actual live performance CD at a golf tournament in Michigan of the J. Frank imposter. He was a pretty good singer.   
The book should clear up most of the BS that's been circulating for almost 50 years, as that was one reason I wrote it. It appears you already have most of the facts. The book will give you some inside info on how Last Kiss with Frank came to be ... plus how close he came to him being voted out of the band in 1962.  

"Last Kiss" garnered premium attention when Pearl Jam recorded and released it as a single in 1999. (Their remake went all the way to #2, thus tying the peak position in Billboard Magazine with the J. Frank Wilson record released in 1964!!!)  However, it is believed that the songwriting royalties earned from the Pearl Jam version generated enough money for Wayne Cochran to buy his own church!  Sid Holmes notes that, at the time his book was published, Pearl Jam's version of "Last Kiss" had already passed 14 Million Hits on YouTube ... whereas The Cavaliers' version had about one million views.  Holmes also notes (with a bit of irony ... and, I would imagine, just a little disdain) that despite nearly twenty different record labels releasing and distributing copies of the J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers' version of "Last Kiss" dating back to 1964, it would appear that "the imposters ended up making the most money of all, playing one-nighters for over 25 years."  

You can pick up your own copy of "Rockabilly Heaven" (Ft. Phantom Lake Publishing; $19.95) here:  
Click here: Rollercoaster Records   

More tomorrow in Forgotten Hits regarding the recording session for "Last Kiss" by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.