Philadelphia R&B group the Equadors formed in 1955. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the February 1999 issue of Discoveries, lead Al Turner, first tenor Oscar Drummond, second tenor Rilly Foreman, baritone Lynn Thomas, and bass Reginald Grant were all high-school friends born and raised in the same North Philly neighborhood. Originally dubbed the Chants, the quartet typically performed alongside accompanists Mitchell Robinson on guitar and Billy Davis on drums, eventually making them full-time members of the roster. Local real estate salesman Larry Kerrin soon agreed to manage the Chants, landing them a plum gig in New Jersey opening for Ray Charles and Pigmeat Markham. The exposure nevertheless failed to launch the group to the next level, and in mid-1956 they began appearing as the Equadors, replacing Kerrin with WHAT DJ Lloyd "Fatman" Smith. Upon signing with the Jolly Joyce Booking Agency, the group landed a record deal with RCA Victor, and in early 1958 traveled to New York City to record a four-song session issued in full a month later.
The EP format actually hampered the Equadors' chances at radio, where the conventional single reigned supreme, and although the lead track, "Sputnik Dance" (featuring the great King Curtis on saxophone), was subsequently reissued with flip side "A Vision," the damage was done. The Equadors nevertheless performed the single on American Bandstand, and toured the East Coast on a bill with Frankie Lymon and Paul Anka. In early 1960 Jolly Joyce execs rechristened the Equadors the Modern Ink Spots in a scheme to position the group for the supper-club circuit. The ploy was a success, with gigs at upper-crust nightspots like the famed Peppermint Lounge soon to follow. Although their repertoire now consisted of the usual ballads and standards, the Modern Ink Spots gradually worked some of their old R&B material back into their sets.
Baritone/tenor Gary Evans joined the lineup in 1962, around the same time drummer Davis left the group. His replacement, Claude Higgs, signed on in time to cut the lone Modern Ink Spots single, the Rust release "Spotlight Dance." Prior to a 1963 booking in Quebec, the Modern Ink Spots learned of a rival group with the same name already touring Canada -- after another quick change, they traveled north as the Cardinals, and under that moniker recorded "Why Don't You Write Me" for the Rose imprint. In the final months of their career they again performed as the Modern Ink Spots, but split in 1965 when Turner signed on with the Philadelphia Police Department. ~ Jason Ankeny