Taking a slight detour tonight and jumping into a slice of shellac via The 5 Red Caps and their 1943 classic “No Fish Today”. The 5 Red Caps were one of the more prolific and popular live acts during the period of the 1940s through the 1960s. At various times 4 members, 5 members, 6 members and under various names, The Red Caps had an impressive catalog of singles and a staggering amount of live shows to their career which spanned some 45 years. The members of the group read like a who’s who of R&B and many names that went on to stellar solo careers got a start in The Red Caps.
Part of that genre known as The Human Orchestra, the group used their voices to emulate various horn sounds, which became hugely popular with African American audiences in the 1940s. The style all but disappeared when R&B took center stage and vocal groups focused on elaborate harmonies instead, and Doo-Wop was born.
But this track, No Fish Today predates Doo-Wop by several years and is still in the Human Orchestra mold. Recorded during the infamous Musicians Union Recording Ban of 1943, they managed to secure some recording time under assumed names and put out some 9 sides in two sessions.
But because the turn over in group members was so pronounced, their sound kept changing and by the mid-1950s a number of female singers joined the ranks.
By the 1960s a members left to join other pioneering groups in the area of Soul; among them, The Dells, while others went on to pursue successful solo careers.
At the core of the group, the one who kept it going from start to finish was Steve Gibson. He was the constant from the start in 1943 to the last show in 1968. In that 45 year period they covered a lot of music – and No Fish Today represents only one small part of this highly versatile group. A Google search will yield a lot of information and a ton of records to their credit.
But here’s a sample to check out in the meantime. And some pretty thorough reading about the group and all the offshoots; Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebook: The Red Caps.