SEPTEMBER 15, 2013 – Singer BOBBY MANSFIELD (b. August 26, 1937 in The Bronx, New York City) died at age 76 in NYC.Mansfield was an original member of The Wrens, a doo-wop vocal group from The Bronx, New York City, best known for their song “Come Back My Love”. They began in the Morrisania section of the Bronx in 1950. Neighborhood friends Waldo Champen (tenor, usually referred to as “Champ Rollow”), Francis “Frenchie” Concepcion (tenor/baritone lead), Archangel “Archie” Oropeza (baritone), and Raoul McLeod (bass) sang together under this name for around two years.
They slowly drifted apart.Concepcion was determined to make the group last, and in 1952, he recruited two new members; tenor George Magnezid and bass James “Archie” Archer. They sang as a trio in the community center of P.S. 99 for a couple of months before deciding to expand to a quartet by adding tenor Bobby Mansfield. At the time, Mansfield was about fifteen years old and attending Morris High School in the Bronx. Oropeza was around the same age and Concepcion and Magnezid were already out of school.In 1954, they heard about a contest that was being held by an arranger/pianist named Freddy Johnson at the old CBS building.
The Wrens entered and won, and Johnson became their manager. The Wrens were known best for their smooth, elegant harmony singing, which elevated both their ballads and their jump numbers above much of the competition. They sang R&B, but it tended more toward mature ballads and serious jump songs, rather than teen novelties.Johnson got the group an audition with George Goldner’s Rama Records and a recording contract followed late in 1954, with the group’s first session taking place on November 21 of that year. They recorded four songs that day: “Love’s Something That’s Made For Two” (led by Mansfield), “Beggin’ For Love” (fronted by Concepcion), “Come Back My Love” and “Eleven Roses” (both by Mansfield). Fred Johnson, who provided the other session musicians, played piano behind them on that session and Goldner produced, but in later recordings, legendary saxman Jimmy Wright led his Jimmy Wright Orchestra to back them.The group’s first released single was “Love’s Something Made for Two” b/w “Beggin’ for Love,” featuring Mansfield and Concepcion, respectively. It was their second single, “Come Back My Love,” however, that achieved some local popularity in New York early in 1955 and put the Wrens on the map for R&B vocal fans.
At their best, the Wrens sounded a lot like the Moonglows, with Mansfield’s singing at times bearing a striking resemblance to Harvey Fuqua of the latter group, and both outfits were at their best doing mid-tempo jump numbers and ballads, though the Wrens’ records also had a hard edge from Wright’s sax and the bold sound of the Rama house band under his leadership.Goldner issued a total of six singles by the Wrens, but they never enjoyed a bigger hit than “Come Back My Love,” which became their signature song despite competition from a cover version done by the Cardinals on Atlantic that same year. By 1956, however, Mansfield had split off from the group for a solo career, during which he made some records for Goldner with The Supremes (the male R&B vocal group, not the Motown trio) backing him, but the songs were never released. The Wrens disappeared into the mists of R&B vocal group history, while Mansfield remained active into the 1990s, performing with The Morrisania Revue, and even recording with a new incarnation of The Wrens in the middle of the decade.
His son Robbie also became a member and sang with his dad’s group for about 4 years, but eventually the Wrens disbanded and Robbie became a full time member of the Solitaires.The original Wrens all lived long enough to see themselves inducted into the United Group Harmony Association’s Hall of Fame in 1998. Collectables Records issued a collection of the Wrens’ recordings in the early ’90s and England’s Westside label followed this up in 2000 with “Strictly for the Birds” compiling the Wrens’ and the Crows’ material on one CD.