WASHINGTON, D.C. - This week's Opening Act is The Legendary Orioles, who are part of an ongoing African-American tradition of quartet singing with roots in the late nineteenth century. Current Orioles group leader Albert ôDizö Russell describes this phenomenon as ôsubstituting.
They are generally recognized as the first, and one of the most influential, popular rhythm and blues quartets to emerge in the post-World War II era. The original group, initially named the Vibranairs, was formed in Baltimore in the late 1940s around charismatic crooner Erlington ôSonny Tilö Tilghman, who sang lead and second tenor.
They performed at Mr. Henry's, a Capitol Hill neighborhood & pub mainstay for over 50 years. The restaurant is named after founder, Henry Yaffe, who bought the establishment in 1966. Two years later Mr. Henry hired a local school teacher to sing in the pub. "She told me that if I could give her work three nights a week, she could quit teaching," Henry recalled. Before long an upstairs performance area was constructed just for her, with oak paneling rescued from the Dodge Hotel before its demolition. This singer, none other than Roberta Flack, would go on to win 4 Grammys for the songs "Killing Me Softly” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
With its unique vibe of locals’ bar/soul nightclub, Henry’s drew a diverse crowd of a demographic mix atypical of the sixties.