Five Empress, The

Band members               Related acts

- Tony Cantania - guitar (1964-)

- Don Cook - vocals (1964-)

- Mike DeRose - drums (1964-)

- Ron Pelkey - guitar (1964-)

- Bill Schueneman - bass, keyboards (1964-)



- none known





Genre: garage

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  A Whole Lotta The Five Emprees Singing Little Miss Sad and Other Hits

Company: Freeport

Catalog: FR-3001

Year: 1965

Country/State: Benton Harbor, Michgan

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 4694

Price: $200.00

Cost: $66.00


Originally known as The Five Empressions, most of the band members knew each other while attending school in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The group (guitarist Tony Cantania, singer Don Cook, drummer Mike DeRose, gutiarist Ron Pelkey and bass player Bill Schueneman), became quiet popular playing school dances, including Lake Michigan College (where several members attended school), local bowling alleys and clubs  (Glendale, The Other Unicorn, Shadowland Ballroom, etc.).  One of those performances caught the attention of local DJ Bob Richards who promptly signed on as their managed and helped the band record a demo at Chicago's Universal Studios.  Signed by the small Gold Standard Records, the group debuted with the single 'Little Miss Sad' b/w 'Nobody Cares' (Gold Standard catalog GS-262). With the single beginning to pick up local airplay Irv Garmissa's Illinois-based Freeport Records picked up national distribution rights.  Unfortunately, before the single could be re-released the band was hit with a restraining order by ABC Paramount and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.  With sales at stake, without bothering to consult with the band, Freeport executives simply renamed the group 'The Five Emprees'.  Reissued as a single, 'Little Miss Sad' b/w 'Nobody Cares' (Freeport catalog number FR-1001) promptly went top-10 in Chicago and broke into the top-100 national pop charts.  


As was standard marketing procedure, on the heels of the 45's success Freeport rushed the group back into the studios to record a supporting album.  Clearly recorded in a rush, 1965's "A Whole Lotta The Five Emprees Singing Little Miss Sad and Other Hits" offered up a mixture of popular pop and soul hits, including a cover of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions' 'Mama Didn't Know'.  While there wasn't anything particularly original to be found here the performances were surprisingly engaging and enthusiastic.  Cook had a surprisingly versatile voice that was capable of handling the band's diverse repetoire.  Moreover, in spite of their youth (Cantania and Schueneman were both still in high school) and clean cut all-American looks, on tracks such as 'Georgianna' and 'Johnny B. Goode' the band played with an enjoyable garage edge.  As is frequently the case, the best track here was the lone original.  Written by Cook and DeRose, 'Why' should've been tagged as a single. 

Freeport did reach into the album for several follow-on singles:

- 1965's 'Hey Babe' b/w 'Why' (Freeport catalog number FR-1002) 

- 1966's 'Johnny B. Goode' b/w 'Hey Lover'(Freeport catalog number FR-1010) 


"A Whole Lotta The Five Emprees Singing Little Miss Sad and Other Hits" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Little Miss Sad   (Don Addrisi - Dave Addrisi) - 2:15

2.) Hey Lover   (J. Berry - Don Covay - 2:46

3.) Tell Her No  (Rod Argent) - 2:04 

4.) Georgianna   (Donald Cissone) - 2:13

5.) Over the Mountain   (R. Gavin) - 2:23

6.) Running Bear   (J.P. Richarson) - 2:37


(side 2)
1.) Mama Didn't Know   (Curtis Mayfield) - 2:18

2.) Pretty Woman   (Roy Orbinson - Dees) - 2:38

3.) Oh Carole   (Jeff Berry) - 2:40

4.) Hey Baby   (J.R. Cobb - Bruce Channel) - 2:25

5.) Johnny B. Goode   (Chuck Berry) - 2:33

6.) Why   (Don Cook - Mike DeRose) - 2:06


There are also a couple of non-LP singles:


- 1965's 'Little MIss Happiness' b/w 'Over the Mountain' (Freeport catalog number FR-1007)

- 1966's 'Hey Diddle Diddle' b/w ''Gone from My Mind (Smash catalog number 2065)  


Unfortunately the draft ended Cook's recording career.  He was briefly replaced by Mike Romeo, but by 1968 the band had run out of steam.



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