The “Golden Hits Of The 60s 

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(Bert Russell)

United Artists 544

No. 4    January 19, 1963




Herb Rooney was born in 1941 and raised in New York City.   Hankering for a better life, Herb and some of

his buddies tried for years to get a break for their vocal group, the Continentals.     Luck, however, was not

on their side, and the  group dispersed.   With  the Masters, Rooney got to record for Bingo Records,  but

sales were slow.


In 1962, Herb met what became the Masterettes, a sister group to the Masters–four singing, swinging high

school juniors from Queens.  Rooney thought that the girls–Brenda Reid, Carol Johnson, Lillian Walker,

and Sylvia Wilbur–had a really hot sound. Their lone single, “Follow The Leader,” for Lesage Records,



Sax man Al Sears referred Rooney and the girls to United Artist Records and production legends, Jerry

Leiber and Mike Stoller.   The duo concurred with Herb’s assessment, and told Herb to stick around and

sing bottom for the group, now re-dubbed the Exciters.  Reportedly, Sylvia lost interest in the effort and

dropped out of the group.


Before the year was out, the girls were out of school  and the foursome’s “Tell Him”–a Bert Russell (aka

Bert Burns, author of “Twist And Shout” and a cover of a promising but inactive disk by Gil Hamilton (aka

JOHNNY THUNDER)–was chugging up the charts.   Listeners noticed not but it can now be revealed that

Brenda, the lead vocalist, flubbed a number of lines and edits were made in the issued copy, along with a

tape speed up to up the pitch and intensity.


Five more Exciters singles would place on the Hot 100:  “He’s Got The Power” (#57, 1963), “Get Him”

(#76,1963), the original version of the Manfred Mann hit “Do-Wah-Diddy (#78, 1964), “I Want You To Be

My Baby” (#96, 1965), and a up-dated rendering of another    Burns’ composition, THE JARMELS’ “A Little

Bit Of Soap” (#58, 1 966).


In 1964, the Exciters switched to Roulette Records and recorded what may prove to be the first rock videos,

made by an American group-­-one each for “Tell Him” and “He’s Got The Power”–for Scopitone. Rooney

and girls performed in Europe and the Caribbean, toured with Wilson Pickett, and opened for the Beatles.

But after 1966 and a move to Burns’ Bang Records, the media excitement died down to a dribble.   Reid and

Rooney–who had married in the ’60s –continued to carry on whoopin’ and hollerin’, but in the ’70s,

Johnson and Walker quietly walked away from the Exciters, and were replaced by       Skip McPhee and

Ronnie Pace (both formerly of Mother Night).   Tours of England brought the group a following on the

Northern soul circuit and a minor U. K. hit with “Reaching For The Beat” in 1975.   Releases continued

through the ’70s on RCA, Elephant Y, Fargo, H & L, 20th Century, and Tomorrow–though billing shifted to

“Brenda and Herb,” reflecting the nature of the groups line-up.


Brenda and Herb are no longer together.   Herb manages a cosmetic firm.   The Exciters name carries on as

a family tradition with Brenda fronting a unit comprised of offspring:  Jeff, Tracy, Trisha, and sometime

Mark.   Mark as “L.A. Reid” was a member of DEELE and  has gone on to produce and write for Young M.C.,

Eric B. and Rakim, Lisa Lisa, and Regina Belle.


By the turn of the last decade of the 20th Century, the act was recording for lan Levine’s Nightmare label as

The Brand new Exciters.