Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am curious about an obscure reworking of Bobby Vinton's “Roses Are Red My Love.” This version is by the You Know Who Group.

I always liked their recording, but after nearly 50 years I still don't know who the members are of the You Know Who Group. They sound British, but are they? Do they have any other recordings? Who wrote “Roses Are Red My Love?” Is it available on CD?

I am enclosing a December 5, 1964 WOKY (92 in Milwaukee) Lucky Number Survey, and No. 28 that week is the You Know Who Group's “Roses Are Red My Love.”
—Stephen K. Hauser, Elm Grove, Wisc.

DEAR STEPHEN: The You Know Who Group paradox is that when their record was played on the radio, dee jays kept reminding us that we knew who. And though we didn't know who, even they didn't know who. Neither did anyone else!

Now, 46 years later, we still don't know who comprised this mysterious quartet.

But there are a few things we do know:

“Roses Are Red My Love” is just the first of three variations of the same five-word title. Within a couple of weeks of its release, the same record could be found labeled “(Roses Are Red) My Love” and “My Love (Roses Are Red).”

All of which brought about a highly unusual occurrence for the trade publications.

For the first week of January 1965, No. 46 on Cash Box is “Roses Are Red (My Love),” yet No. 43 on Billboard that week is “My Love (Roses Are Red).” About four weeks earlier, Billboard gave the title as “Roses Are Red My Love.”

Regardless of which title is on the A-side, the B-side, “Playboy,” remains constant (4 Corners of the World FC-4-113). Both sides were written by Robert Esposito, whose connection to the group, other than songwriter, is not yet known.

Those rankings represent peak positions on both charts, though “Roses” rose to greater heights in numerous North American markets, including the Top 30 in Milwaukee.

Possibly due to some objection from the owners of the 1962 Bobby Vinton hit, “Roses Are Red (My Love)” — a completely different song having next to nothing in common with the You Know Who Group's tune — they were motivated to vary the wording of their title.

We know the You Know Who Group recorded a dozen tracks at Talent Masters Studios in Manhattan, all produced by T.M's esteemed chief engineer, Bob Gallo.

In early 1965, those 12 takes made up the group's first and only album, “The 'You Know Who' Group (The Boys with That Great New English Sound).” Though the subtitle does not imply this bunch is from England, they would not have objected to teenage record buyers inferring it to mean this band just arrived from the UK. Even the record label name, International Allied (IA-420), evokes a trans-Atlantic connotation.

Interestingly, “Roses Are Red My Love” (using that title) eventually got picked up for British release in 1965 (London HLR-9947). On that label it states “Recorded by 4 Corners, New York.” But the You Know Who Group did not make the NME Top 30.

Whether or not Gallo, also an accomplished guitarist and pianist, plays on these cuts is unknown. Bob may have assembled a group of New York-area studio talent, with singers who convincingly feigned English accents and fit right in with numerous other British Invasion acts.

Among those 12 songs are their two follow-up singles, “This Day Love” and “Reelin' and Rockin'” — the latter being a great version of the Chuck Berry classic. Still, neither of those charted.

Of course the LP includes “Roses Are Red My Love” and “Playboy.”

As for the four young men, wearing masks and capes, pictured on the album cover, they may or may not have had anything to do with the music contained therein.

A few compilation CDs with “Roses Are Red My Love” are available online, as is the original 1965 LP ($50 to $100).

The least expensive option is “Hard to Find 45s on CD, Volume 10: 1960-1965” (Eric CD 11528). Here you get 24 golden goodies for $15, about half of which are on CD for the first time.

IZ ZAT SO? R&B fans may know of Talent Masters Studios, and Bob Gallo, especially in connection with “I Wanna Be (Your Everything)”; “Searchin' for My Baby”; “Follow Your Heart”; and other mid-'60s Carnival releases by the Manhattans.

Carnival co-founder, Joe Evans, could have recorded this Jersey City group closer to home, but his high regard for Gallo's studio skills is what brought the Manhattans to Manhattan.

They recorded their first eight Carnival singles, all Top 40 hits, with Bob Gallo at Talent Masters.

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