The Imperial Wonders were one of Cleveland's most popular and best soul groups. The group recorded several 45s that were local and regional hits but were never able to get the big break. The group relocated to Los Angeles and continues to be active with founding member Al Boyd and longtime member Russell Watts.
In 1962, East High school student Al Boyd joined the Matadors (not to be confused with other recording acts by that name). After several personnel changes, Al and bandmate Kennedy Holman were inspired by the Temptations to form a choreographed vocal group. They added Walter Chaney and Leo Green and with that lineup, recorded their 1st 45 under the name of the Mints. The group had already been using the name Imperial Wonders (from Anthony and the Imperials and Stevie Wonder) but apparently the record company wanted a different name. The Mints 45 was recorded at Audio recording and issued on the Lira label, a short lived (two releases) label run by Boyd's former East High music teacher Vernon Jones.
The group started performing at local talent shows and opening slots at clubs like Leo's Casino. Local booking agent Bob Davis was handling the group and when he decided to start his own label, Day Wood records, he wanted the Imperial Wonders to back up Lester McKenzie on their debut 45. The partnership worked so well that McKenzie ended up joining the group and writing the A side of their debut 45, "Just A Dream" b/w an uptempo soul version of the Disney song "Zip a Doe Do Dah". This 45 was issued in 1969 and was a local hit. By this time the included Boyd, Chaney, Leo Green, and Avaughn Wells.
In 1970 the group moved to Los Angeles briefly, but things didn't pan out as planned and they returned to Cleveland. In the years 1970/1 the group recorded two more 45s, but the chonology is not clear. They released a 45 on the Nashville based Black Prince label of the standard "When I Fall In Love" and an original "Trying To Get To You". The group also released a second 45 on Day Wood, a song called "That's Alright". This second Day Wood release is a mystery, as only a handful of copies are known to exist. The flip side reused the older recording of "Zip A Doe Do Dah".
The group continued to change personnel, with Leo Green leaving, then returning, and Russell Watts joining to replace Lester McKenzie, who wanted to work as a songwriter and producer. Will Hargrove replaced Green, who was in turn replaced by James Stewart. In 1972, the group recorded a 45 (at Agency) for a new label started by O'Jays member Bobby Massey. The label was Solid Foundation and the songs were "You Live Only Once" and "Turned Around Over You". The record was a big regional hit, and deservedly so.
A year later, the group released a 45 on Musicor records, thanks to Bobby Massey and the group S.O.U.L. The songs were "Love Coming Down" and "My Baby". However, Musicor didn't try much to promote the group and the record didn't do as well. A year or so later, Leo Green returned and Walter Chaney and James Stewart were gone. Finally. Leo Green left to form Truth with Larry Hancock, a group that had a lot of help from the Imperial Wonders members. During this time, Al and Russell, tired of getting screwed around, decided to leave Cleveland behind for good and relocated to Los Angeles.
After recording and performing under other names, Al Boyd and Russell Watts revived the Imperial Wonders name and have released a couple CDs which are fine examples of the Imperial Wonders' sound. Avaughn Wells also lives in Cleveland. Lester McKenzie and Walter Chaney are deceased. For more information, and for ordering the Imperial Wonders' recent CDs, go to their web site www.imperialwonders.com
I've Got Style / I've Got Style (instrumental) (Lira 777)
Just A Dream / Zip A Doe Do Dah (Day Wood 6901) 1969
That's Alright / Zip A Doe Do (Day Wood 7105) 1971
When I Fall In Love / Trying To Get To You (Black Prince 317) 1971
You Live Only Once / Turned Around Over You (Solid Foundation 101) June 1972
My Baby / Love Coming Down (Musicor 1477) 1973