Humble Beginnings

Calvin Simon was born in Beckley, West Virginia, where his first music styling would be for his church choir. Every Sunday evening, Calvin’s voice could be heard over the radio at 6:00 pm, during the gospel singing.  Even at an early age it was apparent that he had a gift , though it would be other talents that brought him to the music.

cal_13_smallAt the age of 13, his family moved to New Jersey. It was while working in a barber shop that his voice would start him on a path that lead to a life time of music. Calvin’s first group The Crystals were a stepping stone in a time and place where Doo Wop quartets were on every corner. It was only a matter of time before all the good guys ended up on the same corner. And so The Parliaments were born.

par1966_smallThe Parliaments began as a doo-wop barber shop quintet, put together in the backroom of the barber shop in Newark, New Jersey in 1955. Calvin ,George  and Grady were all working as Barbers, While Ray and Fuzzy were customers at the same shop. The group was originally modeled after Frankie Lymon’s Group, the Teenagers, but soon moved on to a sound all their own. Founding members George Clinton, Calvin Simon, Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas and Ray Davis, moved the band to Detroit in the mid-60’s.

They snagged a Motown contract, only to end up on an over talented bench. The group moved from label to label, releasing 45 after 45, making Poor Willie/Party Boys for APT, Lonely Island/ Cry For Flip, and Heart Trouble/ That was my girl for Golden World.

the_parliaments-testifyin-ac_smallThen in 1967, the group finally got a single out on Revilot Records; “(I Wanna’) Testify” hit number three on the R&B and pop charts in 1967. Calvin recorded on the album, and then was subsequently drafted and served in Viet Nam. lousy distribution and an ensuing contractual dispute prevented an effective follow-up.

In the meantime, The band was busy immersing themselves in Sly and Jimi, studying the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Once they discovered the transportational power lurking in those big amplifiers, soul and rock would never sound quite the same.