One of the most popular groups of the late ‘40s and ‘50s, the Ames Brothers were actually the four Urick brothers from Malden, Massachusetts: Ed (lead), Vic (first tenor), Gene (second tenor), and Joe (bass). They were a tight-knit singing quartet, starting as far back as their grammar school days in the 1930s, in spite of diverse interests: Gene wanted to be a baseball player, and made it to the semi-pro circuit in New England. Vic seemed on his way to becoming a serious actor until one of his high school performances had the crowd in stitches, paving the way for a later role as the Ames Brothers’ resident comedian. Ed became a ping-pong perfectionist and won his way into interstate tournament play. Joe had operatic aspirations and turned down several scholarships to continue his music studies.
Cajoling by his mother changed Joe from Pagliacci to pop; she wanted to see her firstborn sons sing together (the four boys were the first of nine children). She got her wish: after winning several Boston area amateur contests the group earned their first one-week professional job at the Foxes and Hounds; it stretched out to three months. In 1948 the Ames Brothers (ages 21 through 24) signed with Signature Records vocalist Monica Lewis for their initial chart record, “A Tree in the Meadow” (#21). The group next emerged on Coral Records and had solo chart success in February 1949 with an adaptation of an old German song, “You, You, You. ” (#23).
The Ames Brothers’ first release of the ‘50s became their first number one record and million seller, “Ragmop.” Their very next single, “Sentimental Me,” also reached number one in mid-1953. The boys scored 15 more chart records for Coral between June 1950 and March 1953, including “Can Anyone Explain” (#5, 1950) and “Undecided” (#2 in 1951).
The Brothers then signed with RCA, and their first release became their biggest all-time hit: “You, You, You” reached number on in mid-1953, staying there for eight weeks and remaining on the charts for nearly eight months. Their biggest international record was “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane.” It hit the charts in November of 1954, skyrocketing to number three in America and number six in England, selling over one-and-a-quarter million singles.
The Ames Brothers performed in every major club in America, for Ciro’s in Hollywood to the Roxy Theatre in New York, and they appeared regularly as TV guests of Milton Berle, Perry Como, Jackie Gleason, and Ed Sullivan.
Billboard magazine voted them Best Vocal group of the Year in 1958. In 1956 the group charted eight songs (one almost every seven weeks), and did it again in 1958.
Their last Billboard best seller came in February of 1960 with “China Doll” (#38).
Ed Ames later ventured out as a solo artist, earning seven chart singles between 1965 and 1969 including “My Cup Runneth Over” (#8, 1967) from the Broadway musical I Do, I Do. He won an acting part on the “Daniel Boone” TV series playing Mingo, the Indian, a role made especially memorable by a hilarious guest appearance on “The Tonight Show” in which Ames pitched a tomahawk at a man-shaped target and hit it in the crotch.
The Ames Brothers’ music, always smooth and clean, brought a refreshing variety to pop music. They delighted in singing and recording a wide range of material, from pre-World-War-I college songs (“The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”) and folk songs (“Goodnight Irene”), to R&B (“I Love You for Sentimental Reasons”) and Western ballads (“Cool Water”). They also created LPs with themes like The Ames Brothers Sing Famous Hits of Famous Quartets (1959) and Destination Moon (1958), in which each song related to the stars, the sun, the moon, or the sky. The Ames Brothers left a legacy of 50 chart singles attesting to their popularity.
– Jay Warner