It’s always fun to listen to a doo-wop group sing the rhythmic gibberish that was often part of the music. You know the kind I mean — ‘papa ooma mau mau’ and the like. One of the best was a Brooklyn-based quartet known as the Quotations, who not only had all the odd sounds down pat but also pulled off another move often used by singing combos in the era. They revamped an old song — in this case, “Imagination” — to make it more teenager friendly, and it became their biggest hit.
The late 1950s saw a lot of singing groups getting their start, but the Quotations might have been the only one that was started by poolroom buddies. Richie Schwartz, Lew Arno, and Harvey Hersh began harmonizing as a lark, but after being joined by Larry Kassman, who would eventually take over as lead singer, the guys decided to try to turn professional. It wasn’t long before they were singing in Brooklyn clubs and even making appearances on the boardwalk.
Taking its name from one of the group’s favorite songs — “Quotations Of Love” — the quartet began to rise in popularity, and by the end of the decade had caught the attention of record company pros. Signed to the Verve label, a record company more known for its jazz stars, the Quotations soon brought doo-wop into the picture with the 1961 release of “Imagination,” a Jimmy Van Heusen jazz classic updated for modern fans.
Although the group would continue to issue somewhat successful records like “This Love Of Mine” and “In The Night” over the next couple of years, none would hit the charts in a big way and the quartet eventually dissolved. Various combinations of personnel have reunited from time to time through the years, and have even shown up in the new millennium, but the original Quotations are just a memory.