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Mark Clague

musician and songwriter, was born Claude Augustus Benjamin in Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands (then Danish West Indies), the son of Joseph Benjamin and Euphrasia Seteon (spelled Shöin on his Anglican baptismal certificate). Benjamin's early life was difficult. His father was a fisherman who died when Benjamin was an infant, and changes in the shipping industry, hurricanes, and World War I pushed the economy of the Virgin Islands into decline. After graduating from Virgin Islands High School in 1925, he abandoned his early hopes of becoming a physician for lack of tuition to enter medical school, and worked as a tailor and cabinetmaker instead. In 1927 he moved to New York City in search of better opportunity.

Inspired by a local island musician, Louis Stakemann Benjamin had taught himself ukulele and banjo by ear as a youth Upon arriving in New York he added guitar to his skills ...


Joe Street

songwriter and falsetto and tenor vocalist, was born Edward James Kendrick to Jonny and Lee Bell Kendrick in Union Springs, Alabama. Aged seven, Kendricks moved to Birmingham, and in 1955, with friends and singing partners Paul Williams (baritone) and Kell Osborne, formed a doo-wop group, the Cavaliers. In 1956, the group moved to Cleveland, Ohio. After moving to Detroit and changing their name to the Primes in 1957 or 1958, they lost Osborne but gained Otis Williams (baritone and tenor), Melvin Franklin (bass), and Elbridge Bryant. Through frequent performances at local dances and singing battles, the Primes soon developed a popular following on the Detroit circuit. A 1960 single, “Oh Mother, Oh Mine,” on the Motown affiliate Miracle, sank without a trace. Bryant departed soon after, to be replaced by David Ruffin tenor which also precipitated a name change with the Primes becoming ...