African American Studies
Interviewee: Arthur Crier
Interviewer: Mark Naison
Summarized by Concetta Gleason
Crier is an organizer of the Morissania Review and a leading figure in Doo-Wop and Rhythm and Blues in the Morrisania community. Crier was born in 1935 in Harlem, but raised on Prospect Ave in the Bronx. His mother was from the South, specifically North Carolina, which is where he currently resides. He attended a mixed elementary school and also played street games with the other children on the block. The schools were very good and teachers genuinely cared for their students. The neighborhood was safe and the families looked out for each other. The family attended St. Augustine’s Presbyterian and was neighbors and good friends with Rev. Hawkings. There were tough, all black gangs in the surrounding areas, especially the Sixers, but singers were able to avoid offending territorial lines.
Crier’s junior High School was mostly black and he entered a trade school, which he hated and eventually dropped out of. Crier joined the Marines, but was sent back after being hurt during training. After being discharged from the Marines, he became interested in secular music and joined a singing group. Crier notes there was a huge shift in music from gospel to secular music between 1950-52. The group entered talent shows and gained a good local reputation. The group, “The Chimes” joined Rose, a jazz label and had a good career for ten years, before the Beatles and Motown arrived. Crier became a songwriter and arranger at Motown, and relocated to Detroit. He eventually became a manager of several groups. He returned to New York in the early ‘70s to work for a different record label, which led him to taking and dealing drugs. When he was clean again and the record label did not pay him, he left and began running a block association with talent shows, a football team and a baseball team. When he returned from Detroit to the Bronx it was completely different, especially because of the drugs. He was determined to change the situation in the Bronx with the block association and he recruited gang members to join the re-creation environment and reform them. He noticed many singers did not play musical instruments anymore because the schools had eliminated the music programs. He also owned several clubs and he witnessed the development of rap music. Crier remained involved with music and he visited hospitals and senior citizens to sing for them. In the early ‘80s he was a youth coordinator in the city and when crack hit the area the areas where he worked it became extremely dangerous. In 1994 he began the Morrisania Review and Crier discusses how Doo-wop has reemerged and found a younger audience, especially among the Italian-American community. He currently receives royalties for songs he wrote and recorded in the 1950s that are used in television shows, movies and advertisements.
Crier, Arthur. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
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