The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Thursday, January 2, 2003

Former Clover proud of 'footprint' group left behind

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is part of a series on groups inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum, Sharon.

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

Steve Charles knew he would always be able to tell when he was old: when he could no longer understand the popular music of the day.

That day has come.

"The ability to use your talent to touch people, make you laugh, make you smile, make you cry, make you forget your problems -- that's what music was about then," said the former singer for the Clovers. "I don't know about today. The Clovers wouldn't fare too well today. Our music was happy music. It was, 'Come on, let's dance. Come on, let's go down to Lover's Lane. Come on, let's get married.' "

The Clovers were a pioneering rock 'n' roll group, which had its first hit in 1951 on the rhythm 'n' blues chart with "Don't You Know I Love You," and closed out the decade with its biggest pop hit, "Love Potion No. 9." It made the transition with songs such as "Devil or Angel," "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash," "Hey Miss Fannie" and "One Mint Julep."

Charles -- real name Charles Stevens -- joined a Harold "Hal" Lucas-led incarnation in 1978, and retired in 1990.

Lucas founded the group in 1946, when he was a Washington, D.C., high school student. He loved to sing, but was not a fan of the star machinery that went through it.

"He was a very nonpretentious individual," Charles said of Lucas. "He used to always stick me up to do the interviews because he didn't want the limelight."

Charles, who called himself "an old grandfather" at age 63, came to the group as many other later members did -- because he knew the guys in the group at the time.

When the Clovers would do a headline show, Charles was the lead singer of the opening act.

"I had always aspired to be in entertainment as a singer," said Charles, a Washington native who still lives there. "At an early age I began to just, like a lot of kids, pound everybody, 'Let me sit in,' and got to know the singers and musicians over the years.

"The Clovers hasn't ended yet because it's always a combination of friends that know each other. Every guy that gets replaced gets replaced by someone that everybody knows. There's always that friendship there. The Clovers, they don't put out casting calls where everybody can come and audition. They pick their guys."

Of the original group -- singers Lucas, John "Buddy' Bailey, Matthew McQuater, Harold Winley and guitarist Bill Harris -- only Winley is still alive, but he performs with a version of the Ink Spots.

Charles said he is proud to have been a part of carrying on the music of the Clovers.

"It was great to see, to be a part of something that will always be remembered, to leave a footprint," he said. "The Clovers have left their footprint in the fabric of music of popular performing."

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