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The Pretenders

The Pretenders

The word obscure doesn't aptly describe the Pretenders' brief association with the recording industry. Their recordings were virtually unknown until the reissue of various albums of Carnival Records recordings. The only Carnival acts to receive any exposure nationally were the Manhattans and Lee Williams & the Cymbals; Carnival's many other releases by a laundry list of artists never saw much action. Carnival was a tiny company that owner Joe Evans ran out of his house; his wife and a part-time employee were his only staff. While running Carnival, Evans also played sax and toured with Motown's road band under the direction of Choker Campbell; ex-Temptation guitarist Cornelius Grant says Evans would promote Carnival recordings while touring and backing the Motown acts. The Pretenders also suffered because Joe Evans had practically lost interest in the record business. He earned a G.E.D. and started taking college courses at Rutgers University. This action by Evans was directly related to his money makers, the Manhattans, jumping ship; Evans felt betrayed since he had groomed and polished the group from nothing. However, he was persuaded to make another attempt at making records when he heard a tape of the Pretenders that floored him. They had a different name that Evans didn't like so he changed it. The original group was Harry Simpkins, Eugene Cohen, Neil Page, and Valerie Scott. Page and Scott alternated singing lead. Changes came quick. Though Scott appeared on their first recording, a remake of the Manhattans' "I Wanna Be," her husband didn't want her to tour so she quit. Enter Patricia Tandy who fit right in and had a stronger voice. Their recordings were vocal masterpieces, with exciting harmonies and emotional leads. Three good examples of this are, "For the Rest of My Days," "Hearts Were Made to Love," and an exciting remake of the Manhattans' "I'm the One Love Forgot." They appeared with groups like the Chi-Lites, Kool & the Gang, the Persuaders, the Intruders, Main Ingredient, and the Drifters, mostly in the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, PA, areas. Although they never had a record to chart on Billboard, the Pretenders were a versatile and talented group. Member Eugene Cohen went on to write and produce, some of his work appears on the Philadelphia International label. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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