Unsung Heroes of Soul: The Capitols and The Radiants

By Dean Farrell
As host of “The Soul Express,” I play the biggest names in 1960s and ‘70s-era soul music. I also mix in the many great soul artists who did not necessarily become household names but were no less talented. This month’s column features two vocal groups from the Upper Midwest.
They formed as the Three Caps in 1962. The line-up comprised Samuel George (lead vocals and drums), Don Storball (back-up vocals and guitar), and Richard McDougall (back-up vocals and keyboard). After they performed at a local dance with Barbara Lewis (“Hello Stranger”) headlining, the group (now renamed the Capitols) came to the attention of her manager, Ollie McLaughlin. He signed them to his Karen label and released the group’s debut single, “Dog and Cat,” in 1963. When it failed to sell, the Capitols broke up and went back to their day jobs.
Three years later, George, Storball and McDougall re-formed the Capitols and looked up Ollie McLaughlin. Inspired by a current dance craze called the Jerk, Storball had written a song about the “Pimp Jerk,” done by the neighborhood pimps who danced in the clubs but were too “cool” to do the Jerk. He renamed it “Cool Jerk” to avoid possible bans on the radio. McLaughlin liked the song and had the Capitols record it at Detroit’s Golden World Studios on March 14, 1966. Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers, provided the instrumentation. The song was supposed to include a horn section, but the musicians never showed up.
“Cool Jerk” became a solid smash, hitting #2 on Billboard magazine’s Rhythm & Blues singles chart and #7 on its Hot 100 pop survey. It also hit #1 in both Detroit and Philadelphia To cash in on their newfound success, the Capitols released two albums in 1966: Dance the Cool Jerk and We Got a Thing. Both were top-heavy with Motown covers, and were not exactly not hot sellers.
The trio followed up “Cool Jerk” with eight additional singles, three of which made the Billboard charts. None, however, could duplicate the group’s initial success. The Capitols would forever be known as “one-hit wonders.” They broke up for good in 1969.
Unlike its creators, “Cool Jerk” has enjoyed a long shelf life. It was used in Cool Whip commercials (changing “Cool Jerk” to “Cool Whip”), and it appeared in the soundtracks of movies like More American Graffiti (1979), Night and the City (1992), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), Calendar Girl (1993), and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012). The song was also ranked at #70 on Digital Dream Door’s list of “100 Greatest Rock Bass Performances,” and at #48 on “VH-1’s 100 Greatest Dance Songs.”
Of the group original members, Donald Storball became a Detroit police officer, Samuel George was killed in an altercation on March 17, 1982, and Richard McDougall’s whereabouts are unknown.
Charted singles:
“Cool Jerk” (1966) R&B #2, Pop #7
“I Got to Handle It” (1966) R&B #49, Pop #74

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