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Thread: The Utopians

  1. #1

    The Utopians

    Anyone know anything about the Utopians? You may have heard their "Whole lot of shakin' in my heart" on Cellarful of Motown Volume 4. All I know is they cut four tracks for Motown, and recorded all their vocals in New York.
    Last edited by keith_hughes; 12-01-2018 at 03:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Never heard of them. However, Graham Betts Motown Encyclopedia offers the following:

    The Utopians. An extremely obscure group, the Uptopians, were most likely from Brooklyn and recorded Erline for the Cee-Jay label in 1958, the single credited to Mike (Lasman) & the Utopians. They recorded very briefly for Motown ten years later when Al Cleveland and Arthur Crier produced their version of Whole Lot of Shakin' In My Heart (Since I Met You) a song written by Frank Wilson that had previously been recorded by the Miracles and Barbara McNair, without success. The Utopians version never saw the light of day when originally recorded; it finally got an outing on A Cellarful of Motownn Volume 4 in 2010.

  3. #3
    I don't know anything about the group, but I do know that their version of "Whole Lot Of Shakin" is great. Had no idea Barbara McNair recorded the song though.

  4. #4
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    Here's The Motown cut from Cellarful 4:

  5. #5
    Here's the dope on Mike Lasman & The Utopians (a Caucasian ALL male group!) (Courtesy of The Doo Wop Blogg):
    Photo of Mike:
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    Other group members: Jimmy McQueen, Stuart Cohen, Earl (last name unk.)
    1958 Cee-Jay 574 Erlene/I Wish
    1958 Cee-Jay 574 Erlene/I Found A Penny
    Attached Images Attached Images    
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-01-2018 at 11:39 PM.

  6. #6
    Reprinted below, with The Utopias' video.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 12:03 AM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
    I'm sorry, but, I just can't believe that that White all-male Brooklyn Doo-Wop group from 1958 morphed into an all female group recording in Detroit at Motown, 10 years later, when I remember a female Detroit Soul group (with a name only 1 letter off (Utopias)) who recorded for 2 small, local Detroit labels in the mid and late 1960s (Fortune and La Salle Records). I have a feeling that Motown recorded the Detroit girls group, and the "n" in the group name was a misprint in Motown's record keeping, which wasn't corrected because the group never had a release.
    The group you're referring to was all white as well with 1 male and 2 females. Needless to say, they don't sound like Motown's Utopians.

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  8. #8
    I'm sorry, but, I just can't believe that that White all-male Brooklyn Doo-Wop group from 1958 morphed into an all female group recording in Detroit at Motown, 10 years later, when I remember a female Detroit Soul group (with a name only 1 letter off (Utopias)) who recorded for 2 small, local Detroit labels in the mid and late 1960s (Fortune and La Salle Records). I have a feeling that Motown recorded the Detroit girls group, and the "n" in the group name was a misprint in Motown's record keeping, which wasn't corrected because the group never had a release.
    Here's The Utopias' 1966 Fortune A-Side:

    I just don't believe Al Cleveland brought in a washed up Doo Wop group who hadn't recorded in 10 years, and all had sex changes, to record at Motown, and Berry or whoever was in charge of contracts approved. I believe that the local female group, The Utopias, was signed and recorded by Motown, only 1 or 2 years at most, after their La Salle release, which was only one or 1.5 years after their Fortune release; and there was either an adding of the "n" to their name, OR more likely, there was a typo error, adding the "n" mistakenly, that was never corrected because of no release.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 01:26 AM.

  9. #9
    Here's The Utopias on La Salle Records, produced by Don Davis from 1967. They sound like a male lead singing falsetto, with 3 female's backing him up. Because they are listed as a group, rather than a male solo act, I think this mixed group might be the group that recorded with Motown, with one of the ladies on lead, and a slightly-changed name or typo having been made:

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by johnny_raven View Post
    The group you're referring to was all white as well with 1 male and 2 females. Needless to say, they don't sound like Motown's Utopians.

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    Attachment 14870
    Can you please blow up the text under the picture and add it in another post, so I can read it? I'm curious about the fortune group. That photo doesn't look like I pictured them all these years, from hearing the record I bought back in 1965.

  11. #11
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    http://whitedoowopcollector.blogspot...re-sleeve.html

    Group members ... Dave Lasley, Julie Lasley & Joan Hughes.

  12. #12
    July 30, 1966 ... The Ludington Daily News (MI)

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  13. #13
    https://www.discogs.com/artist/274690-David-Lasley

    The Dave Lasley in question is David Lasley (who appeared in 20 feet from Stardom, 2013)

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Here's The Motown cut from Cellarful 4:
    That sounds like a woman singing.

  15. #15
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    Clearly, someone got the name Lasman mixed up with Lasley, and that Brooklyn group is totally out of the question. It's a LOT more likely that Detroit locals, The Utopias, also a mixed group, with recordings in 1966, and likely, also to be the group of that same name, recorded by Don Davis in 1967, were recorded also by Motown, in 1968. Either that scenario is correct, or else The Utopians, are a completely different group, who COULD possibly have been brought from New York to Motown by Al Cleveland, or could have been a local Detroit group with a slightly different name from Davis' La Salle group (which is likely to also be Fortune's group given the same name and only one year gap in record label contracts).

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    That sounds like a woman singing.
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    Of course it is a woman. The background singers COULD possibly be all 3 of Lasley's group, with a separate track of one of the two women on lead. The background singers sound like a mix of one man and one or two women.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 01:23 AM.

  17. #17
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    David Lasley is clearly a "Blue Eyed Soul" singer. And, from the sound of the Fortune Record above, the lead singing woman (his sister or the other), she was one as well. They have a very soulful sound. The falsetto lead of the La Salle cut is clearly Dave Lasley. The Motown cut could well have been sung by the other lady, that didn't lead on the Fortune A side. The backgrounds on the Motown cut sound very like those on the other 2 cuts. Maybe we can get Harry Weinger or someone else at Universal/Motown to tell us any information related to their 4 cuts in The Vault. All we know now is that Cleveland and Crier produced them. Maybe there's a Lasley name in the writing credits of one of the songs. Do we have a list of all 4 songs?
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 01:59 AM.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Of course it is a woman. The background singers COULD possibly be all 3 of Lasley's group, with a separate track of one of the two women on lead. The background singers sound like a mix of one man and one or two women.
    Got it. They actually do not sound bad at all.

  19. #19
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    THIS convinces me that Motown's Utopians were The Lasley's group-Their Fortune record's company sleeve introduces them as "The Utopians". So, they were first called The Utopians, when the sleeve went to printing, but changed their name to "Utopias" when their record came out, and kept that while with Solid Hitbound. They or Motown COULD have decided that "UtopiaNs" sounded better. Motown signing a local Detroit group that had used that same name sounds a lot more likely than Cleveland and Crier bringing a group from New York with a very similar name to a current local Detroit group, and NOT having them change their name.
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  20. #20
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    Here's Dave Lasley in 1973, recorded by Roger Bass and Johnny Powers in Detroit(sounding just like the lead on The La Salle Utopias):
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 02:23 AM.

  21. #21
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    The only thing that bothers me is that Keith said that Cleveland and Crier recorded all their vocals in New York. But, Motown signed local Detroiter, Gwen Owens, and sent her to Memphis to record. So, it is possible that The Utopians/Utopias were signed locally, through a Detroit connection, and given to Al Cleveland, who worked on projects for Motown, but still worked on side projects as an independent producer. And Cleveland decided to record them in New York. Otherwise, Cleveland could have just worked with an unknown New York Area group, and gotten them a contract with Motown, and recorded them for Motown. But, they never got past Quality Control's screening. I'd be interested in hearing their other 3 cuts, as well as seeing any other information you have, Keith.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-02-2018 at 02:33 AM.

  22. #22
    Wow - 20 replies in 12 hours: does that count as "going viral" on SDF? I expected this one to float gently to the bottom of the page with 0 replies! Thanks VERY MUCH to all. I have heard two of the unreleased Utopians tracks (I suspect the fourth wasn't finished), they definitely feature the same lead singer as "Whole Lot" and the bv's are definitely all female. The tracks don't sound anything like any of the cuts mentioned above, and for me, the group remains unidentified. My hunch is that they had another name in NY but it conflicted with a better known group, so Cleveland & Crier had them change it. All the paperwork shows an "n" in Utopians, btw. Hope you'll be hearing more of them soon, Robb.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    The only thing that bothers me is that Keith said that Cleveland and Crier recorded all their vocals in New York. But, Motown signed local Detroiter, Gwen Owens, and sent her to Memphis to record. So, it is possible that The Utopians/Utopias were signed locally, through a Detroit connection, and given to Al Cleveland, who worked on projects for Motown, but still worked on side projects as an independent producer. And Cleveland decided to record them in New York. Otherwise, Cleveland could have just worked with an unknown New York Area group, and gotten them a contract with Motown, and recorded them for Motown. But, they never got past Quality Control's screening. I'd be interested in hearing their other 3 cuts, as well as seeing any other information you have, Keith.
    I rmember Gwen Owens. She had a huge hit in the 70s as lead singer of the group "Hot" with "Angel In Your Arms".

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by keith_hughes View Post
    Wow - 20 replies in 12 hours: does that count as "going viral" on SDF? I expected this one to float gently to the bottom of the page with 0 replies! Thanks VERY MUCH to all. I have heard two of the unreleased Utopians tracks (I suspect the fourth wasn't finished), they definitely feature the same lead singer as "Whole Lot" and the bv's are definitely all female. The tracks don't sound anything like any of the cuts mentioned above, and for me, the group remains unidentified. My hunch is that they had another name in NY but it conflicted with a better known group, so Cleveland & Crier had them change it. All the paperwork shows an "n" in Utopians, btw. Hope you'll be hearing more of them soon, Robb.
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    Thanks Keith,
    Did Cleveland and Crier write the other two songs? If so, were they published by Jobete Music? Was the arranger Richard Tee? You stated above, "ten years later" (than Mike (Lasman) & The Utopians. Does that mean that those 4 recordings were cut in 1968?

    I agree that it is more likely that these Utopians were probably an unknown East Coast group that Cleveland and Crier "discovered". But, I still will not rule out completely that
    Detroit's Utopias/Utopians might be the group. David Lasley's falsetto could well blend in with the 2 women's voices in the background, and they'd sound like an ALL-female group, as they did on their 2 Fortune cuts. I also think the 1968 Motown style arrangement used on Whole Lot Of Shakin' In My Heart was much more modern, and so, it required a newer, more soulful, stronger vocal, which could have been handled by at least one of the 2 female Utopians. So, I can't rule out that possibility. But, I admit that I think it is more likely that the Motown group is an unknown East Coast group. Do we know if they even had artist contracts with Motown? Maybe they were just well-made, more finished than usual demos that Cleveland and Crier submitted to Motown, trying to get the group a contract, so they could produce them for Motown? If they were just demos, Motown wouldn't likely own the rights to release them. But, having one of them released on a Cellarful CD implies that they passed an "ownership test".


  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Of course it is a woman. The background singers COULD possibly be all 3 of Lasley's group, with a separate track of one of the two women on lead. The background singers sound like a mix of one man and one or two women.
    Just to prove it's a woman on lead, in the second verse Smokey sings "the guys I hang around..." whereas the Utopians sing "the girls I hang around...".

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