The Van Dykes
Out of the Windy City of Chicago, The Impressions
would change the course of vocal history by combining
sweet tantalizing harmony with a call and response seed
planted from the roots of gospel music. A combination that
would inject into the world of R&B listeners. This transplant
would seep into one listener, Rondalis Tandy from Forth
Born on Feb 12, 1943 in Owensboro, Kentucky Tandy’s
vocal training began at the Tenth Street Baptist Church
where his father was a minister. Rondalis had an amazing
soprano range and sang in the girls’ choir as a teenager.
His musical influences were The Mills Brothers, The Platters,
Shep & The Limelights, and The Dells. The Impressions,
would become the most influential group in Tandy’s future
Rondalis served in the armed forces in the early 60’s and
formed the first set of Van Dykes who he served with
consisted of Charles Puryear, Lafayette Williams and
Lawrence Spikes. Charles Puryear came up with the
name Van Dykes. After Rondalis came out of the service
in 1964, he hooked up a new set of Van Dykes. James
Mays, Wenzon Mosley and Eddie Nixon.
The group became a trio after Eddie Nixon left for
irreconcilable singing differences with Tandy. They
simply just couldn’t get along.
On a particular talent night at a club called Arby
in Fort Worth, a record producer Charles Stewart
caught their act by word of mouth. He took the
group into Sound Recording Studios to record 2 songs,
the masterpiece ‘ No Man Is An Island’ b/w ‘ I Won’t Hold
It Against You’ on his self-owned Hue label.
Larry Uttal happened to be in Fort Worth when ‘No Man
Is An Island’ was a smash there and got in contact with
Charles Stewart to obtain the rights to the song for his
Mala / Amy / Bell label, located in New York for national
distribution. Unfortunately, Rondalis had to give the
writers credit for the song because of an old standard
tune of the 1930’s was of the same title.
‘No Man Is An Island’ hit No 24 on the R&B singles
chart the week ending April 2, 1966. The Van Dykes
began to circulate various theaters across the country.
The Apollo in New York, the Uptown in Philadelphia,
The Regal in Chicago and the Howard in Washington D.C.
The next release was in the summer of 66’ with the
breathtaking, ‘ I’ve Got To Go On Without You’ (my
personal favorite) b/w What Will I Do (If I Lose You)’.
The song hit No 28 the week ending Aug 3, 1966.
A young lady that Rondalis was in love with was the
inspiration to most of his compositions. He claimed that
their relationship didn’t go too well and some of the tunes
were basically about her.
‘Never Let Me Go’ b/w ‘ I’ve Got To Find A Love was
their 3rd release hitting No 25 R&B the week ending
Nov 19, 1966. Written by trumpet player Joe Scott,
for the late great Johnny Ace on Duke in 1954,
The Van Dykes’ cover version was a tribute to the
Impressions’ hit of 1962 on ABC-Paramount.
Other releases on Mala include, ‘You Need
Confidence’ b/w ‘ You’re Shakin’ Me Up (No 24
R&B the week ending Jan 28, 1967) ‘ A Sunday
Kind Of Love’ b/w ‘I’m So Happy and ‘Tears Of
Joy’ b/w Save My Love For A Rainy Day, borrowed
from the Temptations’ classic 1967 LP With A Lot
The instrumental background on all of the Van Dykes’
recordings were a local group discovered by Charles
Stewart called the Rays. Simplicity was the key to their
great arrangement, three guys playing organ, guitar and
drums. When putting the band together, Tandy told
Charles that he didn’t want a lot of instruments in their
Mala released an LP on the Van Dykes in 1967 entitled
‘Tellin’ It Like It Is’. Legendary disc jockey the late
Enoch Gregory aka The Dixie Drifter from NY soul radio
station WWRL-AM wrote the album liner notes.
The first time I heard ‘ No Man Is An Island’ was on a
1968 Bell compilation LP entitled, More For Your Money
with featured guest artists such as the late Lee Dorsey,
Gladys Knight & The Pips, the late James Carr, James
& Bobby Purify, the Emperors and the Viscounts. My mother
purchased this album at Woolworth’s department store
located on 139th St and Lenox Ave (my former neighborhood
in Harlem) for $ 1.97.
In 1968, James Mays and Wenzon Mosley departed from the
Group. Lafayette Garrett and Lawrence Mosley (Wenzon’s
brother) became their replacements. Tandy explained that
he became tired after taking on more than he can handle.
He did most of the bookings to their air travels, hotel
reservations, theaters etc. Most of their fees were split
three ways and they went as far as they could go. Rondalis
left the music industry in the summer of 1968 and moved
to Los Angeles and joined the New Providence Baptist
Church were he’s been for over thirty some years. Tandy
became a lighting technician for Paramount Studios. He
also featured on a gospel CD with Sandra McKinney
and the Power of Praise Mass Choir.
James Mays still resides in Fort Worth, Texas and Wenzon
Mosley lives in Indianapolis. There’s talk of a Van Dykes’
The Van Dykes were examples of what rich soft distinctive
gospel blended tones represented during the soulful years
of the mid 60’s. Their style helped introduced a breed of
music later injected into the world of R&B: soft soul.
(Chancellor of Soul)