The Silhouettes began in Philadelphia in 1956. Local gospel singers Earl Beal and Raymond Edwards, previously of The Balladeers, had added Bill Horton from North Carolina to their new group the Gospel Tornadoes, and that year Richard ‘Rick’ Lewis, another local singer, became the fourth member, replacing tenor James Jenkins, a friend and former colleague in The Parakeets.
When they eventually signed a recording contract with local promoter and broadcaster Kae Williams in 1957 they used the name The Silhouettes, as they had heard of another group called The Thunderbirds.
Their classic hit Get A Job came from their first session, recorded at Robinson Recording Laboratories in Philadelphia in October 1957. Rollee McGill played the saxophone break, with Orlando “Slim” Howard playing piano and James “Coatsville” Harris on drums. The arranger was Howard Biggs, but as tenor Rick Lewis later said, “The true story is, when we auditioned Get A Job for Kae, the arrangement was as it is on the record”.
Get A Job – originally the B-side to I Am Lonely – was issued by their manager Kae Williams on his Junior label before being sold to the nationally distributed Ember label in late 1957. It reached number one on both the R&B and pop charts in USA in February 1958 (selling more than a million copies) and the group performed it on several television shows, including American Bandstand.
In 1980 the four original members reunited, touring to popular acclaim on the revival circuit (with Rick Lewis’s wife Elaine on bass guitar) and appearing as themselves in the 1986 movie Joey, along with other stars of the 1950s. Get A Job was used in the soundtracks of several major movies and the group members finally saw their share of the royalties generated by the song’s phenomenal success – like many other artists they had not been served well by the music industry of the 1950s.
As Rick Lewis explained in 1988, after leading a successful campaign to reclaim the copyrights: “The people that we were involved with in the music industry never paid us, and that is the story that is told by most of the groups… Back then, you had a record company executive who usually was your manager, handled your business, and had a vested interest in ripping you off. But it was beneficial for us to get back together, because all the people that owed us, have paid us. The courts made them pay us.”
Widow of Silhouette Rick Lewis, Elaine was an integral part of the group’s revival in the 1980s. In this June 2007 interview she shares some of her memories.
Elaine recently released an anthology CD entitled “The Silhouettes, All the songs…with love from Elaine” is is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elaine can be contacted regarding additional information at email@example.com