Original members included Paul Cooper, Marc Connors, Claude Morrison, and Denis Simpson; Simpson was soon replaced by Ralph Cole, who left the group to be replaced by Arnold Robinson; in the late 1980s Paul Cooper left the group, with substitute Micah Barnes taking his place; Marc Connors died in 1991 and was replaced by Billy Newton-Davis; Barnes and Newton-Davis left the group for solo careers in 1993, opening spots for Garth Mosbaugh and Gavin Hope. Addresses: Record company--Scotti Bros./Warner.
This vocal quartet has been performing and recording a cappella works since 1982. They have replaced half their group twice and gone through an exploratory style change but their initial combination of fifties, sixties, and seventies classics and original material remains. They have paved the way for other groups such as Boyz II Men, Take Six, and Colour Me Bad, who have filled the airwaves with songs based on multi-part vocal arrangements. Billboard Magazine's Book of American Singing Groups called the Nylons "one of the few groups to bring dominant vocal harmony to the American charts in the 1980s." The Nylons have record sales of over two million and have seven gold and six platinum recordings. They are known for their sophisticated arrangements, dazzling harmonies, and an a cappella sound that uses little back-up instrumentation except for occasional percussion.
In 1979 Paul Cooper, Marc Connors, Claude Morrison, and Denis Simpson, actors from the Toronto theater scene, began vocalizing classic doo wop and some more contemporary material at parties. Simpson left the group to concentrate on the theater and was replaced by Ralph Cole. A local nightclub owner discovered the quartet and told them that, with a group name and ten minutes of material, he would give them a regular spot at his dinner club. In 1981, Ralph Cole left and the remaining three members met with Arnold Robinson, a native of North Carolina who had been touring with the Sonny Turner Platters. Their work received rave reviews that eventually led to a recording contract with Attic Records in 1982.
Paul Cooper developed into the group's most prolific songwriter and Marc Connors became the driving force behind the group's on-stage presentation, which featured multiple costume changes, dramatic stage sets, and precision choreography. Four separate stage personas emerged: Cooper was the master of ceremonies, Connors was the heart throb, Morrison was the comedian, and Robinson was the slightly menacing father figure.
The band's debut album, The Nylons (1982), went gold in Canada in just two months and produced such hit singles as "Up The Ladder to the Roof" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." A second album, One Size Fits All, saw their distribution expand to the United States as well, and the single "Silhouettes (Up on the Roof)" got some notice on the radio. The group began touring and started to develop a strong fan following, especially in Canada and the Midwestern United States. Over the next seven years, the Nylons went on to record six albums for Attic Records. They sold over two million records and had other hits like "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Good-bye)," a version of The Turtles' "Happy Together," and "Wildfire," from what many critics considered to be their best album, Rockapella, released in 1989. They toured the world and, in 1986, won best singer honors at the annual Tokyo Music Festival.
In the late eighties, Paul Cooper got tired of touring and phased himself out of the group. Micah Barnes replaced him. Then, tragically, in 1991, Marc Connors died of an AIDS-related illness at the age of 43. The only original member remaining was Morrison. It was rough patch for the group but less than a month later, Juno award-winner rhythm and blues singer Billy Newton-Davis, from Cleveland, Ohio, joined the group and they performed at Massey Hall in Toronto. After all, "The musical idea is bigger than the people in the act," Robinson told Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail.
The group got a new record deal with Los Angeles-based Scotti Brothers Record. Their first record with the new label, Live To Love (1992), was aimed at a younger audience and experimented with rap, funk, and rhythm and blues sounds. The record did not do as well as its predecessors and there were other problems as well. Tenor Barnes and baritone Newton-Davis wanted to leave the group for solo careers. "They were good solo singers, but they weren't group-minded. We needed someone who could get their headspace into an a cappella act," Robinson said to Heather Clancy of the Contemporary A capella Newsletter.
In 1993, Morrison and Robinson again searched for replacements. After going through more than 200 audition tapes, they found Garth Mosbaugh, a cast member from the Toronto productions of Miss Saigon and Les Miserables and the popular children's television program "The Polka Dot Door," and Gavin Hope, a Calgary native who had worked with the a cappella group, The Earthtones, which had been an opening act on occasion for the Nylons. Both Mosbaugh and Hope are a generation younger than Morrison and Robinson. Their youth seemed to revitalize the group.
The group quickly went back to work in the studio on two new projects. On the 1994 album, Because, the group started a return to their roots with distinctive versions of such sixties classics as "Because" by The Beatles, "Time of The Season" by The Zombies, and "Will you Still Love Me Tomorrow?" by The Shirelles. On the Christmas CD entitled Harmony (1994), the group combined traditional carols with original material.
However, it was two years until their next release and that album, Run For Cover, was strikingly different. The album featured versions of classics by the Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Chantels, and Little Richard. It was a return to basics, without most of the synthesized and instrumental background tracks that had been on their last several albums. "They didn't receive it too well. People that are core fans of ours are core a cappella," said Robinson in the Contemporary A capella Newsletter.
However much Run For Cover returned to their early style of work, their stage act had evolved from the early days. The quartet is looser and band members, particularly veteran Robinson, tend to joke and improvise on stage. At a performance at The Kingston Summer Festival One Night Only Series in July of 1996, Gavin Hope's sensual interpretation a song led to some audience heckling. Robinson offered the heckler his money back and then surrounded Hope who proceeded to perform in a parodically chaste manner before breaking loose with a soulful climax. The audience loved it. The Nylons' distinctive approach to stage and musical styling, and their dedication to the concept of vocal music, continue to make them as much a driving musical force in the nineties as they were in the preceding decade.
by Link Yaco
Nylons, The's Career
Awards: The Nylons have seven gold and six platinum recordings to their credit; in 1986, they won best singer hours at the Tokyo Music Festival.
- Selective Works
- The Nylons, Attic, 1982.
- One Size Fits All, Attic, 1982.
- Seamless, Attic, 1984.
- Happy Together, Attic, 1987.
- Rockapella, Attic, 1989.
- 4 On The Floor, Attic, 1992.
- Live To Love, Scotti Bros./Warner, 1992.
- Harmony, Scotti Bros./Warner, 1994 Because, Scotti Bros./Warner, 1994.
- Run For Cover, Scotti Bros./Warner, 1996.
- Contemporary A capella Newsletter, April 1996, issue 6.5.
- Frontiers, April 19, 1996.
- Globe and Mail, September 10, 1994; November 23, 1995.
- Idaho Statesman, June 24, 1994.
- Kingston Whig-Standard, July 15, 1996.
- MAC Report, May 27, 1994.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 17, 1995.
- The Record, May 6, 1996; August 15, 1994.
- Scene Magazine, December 8-14, 1994.
- Sunday Post-Crescent (Appleton-Neenah-Menasha, WI), May 7, 1995.
- TWN News Magazine, April 17, 1996.
- Vancouver Sun, August 25, 1994.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Attic Records press material, 1996.