‘Five Jaunts’ create a life-long harmony

The bottle of Listerine spilled and the car smelled of antiseptic. A 57 Chevy should never suffer such an indignation. 

But, I began carrying the bottle in the glove compartment since the singing group took off, and we’d practice mid-way between where three of us lived in Brewerytown, and Greater Northeast Philadelphia, where two other singers called home. It was a courtesy thing, the glass bottle of mouthwash. I’d use it and pass it on to someone who’d laugh, ask privately if their breath smelled, and laugh even more when I’d dead pan them with a Buster Keaton unflinching look and a sorrowful nod “yes.” 

Loved to sing. No, make that “harmonize.” Blend my voice with another even if it was only one person. But, three-part harmony was made to appease the Greek gods, create visions of gentle waterfalls and meadow lands where an imagination could create a shepherd with their flock, be it a young David or a Little Boy Blue. 

We’d create a beauty to listen to, standing in the second floor landing of an exit to the “El” train stop at Bridge and Pratt. Standing on this side of the metal turnstile, passengers exiting the car of an “Elevated” train would often slow down. Not out of fear of five tough-looking White teenagers huddling together foot-ball style singing the “oohs” and “aahs,” as well as the “doo wops” the genre of music would be called one day. But out of appreciation for free “street-corner” entertainment. Several “old head” would stop, snap their fingers, and even join in remembering the words to such standbys as “Stormy Weather,” “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,” and “Gloria.” Most were Black — African-Americans. We had taken their so-called “race music” and tried to mix in a little blue-eyed soul. 

Street Corner Harmony Transcended Race

Practice” was always fun. Something I’d look forward to as much as I do for group meditation now-a-days. I was instrumental in bringing together part of the group, but our lead singer, Joe Cleary, actually “formed” it and built on the rudimentary “sounds” I had introduced. Sounds passed down from older fellows, those really “old heads” who were in their early 20s. They had me singing baritone with ’em when I was only 14. And lovin’ every minute of it, with or without a bottle of Listerine. These guys had sung with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, met groups like the O’Jays and others that would help create what would be known as the “Philly Sound,” produced by Gamble And Huff. Singing with them was taking part in a legacy of sorts, whether I knew it or not at the time. 

And, I’d “pass on” what I learned to guys my age, seeking to harmonize after school let out and on weekends, until forming an a cappella group called the “Five Jaunts.” Sang together for only a year, but felt more like a life-time, as we appeared on television, stage and many a bathroom with good acoustics in the row house of someone throwing a party. 

The 57 Chevy is gone. Was more than 10 years old when I bought it for $300 in the late ’60s. Listerine no longer makes a “glass” container, but a plastic one. And, the music of yesteryear is just a memory, one I still dream about . . . 

Like last night, as I dreamed of coming out of a building, seeing kids gathering together on the pavement, and heard voices blending as one; I approached, listened with my eyes closed, and knew I would always carry that harmony within me . . .

10 comments on “‘Five Jaunts’ create a life-long harmony

  1. […] copy of our television appearance and while you can’t see us perform, you can at least listen to The Five Jaunts. Give a listen […]

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  2. ?Five Jaunts? create a life-long harmony…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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    • contoveros says:

      I approved this “personal care” site. After all, what is “Listerine” but a product we have learned to use for care of others. We normally don’t gargle mouthwash to avoid “offending” ourselves, do we?

      I know, I know. It can be cleansing and help gums, teeth and what not. But, I was drawn to it by television ads that had a pajama-clad man or woman rolling over in bed, facing “away” from the other, rather than permit ’em to detect thier “morning mouth.”

      michael j

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  3. Abigail says:

    I love good harmonizing. That had to have been SO much fun!

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    • contoveros says:

      Abigail,

      I felt in tune with God’s heavenly choir as we’d sing back up. Greater still, was when we’d “bust a gut” in reaching for the high notes and break up laughing and giving each other high-fives for our efforts.

      michael j

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  4. souldipper says:

    No wonder The Crossing took you to musical paradise. You have a gift.

    In an earlier post, I wrote about my Rotuman friend who loves singing with people from his tiny island home. They harmonize incredibly. I asked if they had to practice a lot to create such incredible music.

    He said, no, they just “stand and listen to the person beside you until you can make your voice work with his or hers. You may sing the same as them or differently, but it would always compliment their voice so BOTH of you sound beautiful.”

    Imagine if we lived like that! Imagine if all the people of the world would stand beside each other and listen long enough to hear the right key to jump in and blend and harmonize with one another so we would all sound beautiful. What a concept!

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    • contoveros says:

      Well, let’s try it. . . “a one and a two and a three . . .”

      It would be great to simply jump in, wrapping arms together, shoulder to shoulder, linking from one part of the world to another.

      You might have started something here, Souldipper.

      I can feel the power of the spirit rising . . .

      thanks.

      michael j

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  5. Helen T says:

    Michael j,
    Reading your article, I got the feeling that I saw all that you described with my own eyes. I smelt Listerine and heard your singing. The energy of the soul knows no distance.
    Helen.

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    • Love to harmonize with you. Don’t need to learn a new language, just offer a soulfilled “ooh and aah,” until you get the beat for a good old fashioned “doo-wop, doo wop.”

      Tapping a foot or snapping your finger can help, but is not mandatory! Be warned, however, that smiling and having crazy fun just might be contagious . . .

      michael j

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