Local band featured in music magazine
Little Tommy and the Elgins graced the cover of ‘Echoes of the Past’
Local band Little Tommy and the Elgins was recently featured in the cover story of a music magazine called “Echoes of the Past.”
The doo wop band was formed by five young men from Coatesville when they were students at Scott High School – Tommy Bryant, Arnold Runner, Curtis Allen, Nathan Alston and James Toland.
Toland told the Daily Local News it was a happy occasion to travel to Philadelphia with Alston and Allen to do the interview with Bob Bosco, who wrote the story that was published in “Echoes of the Past.” Bryant passed away a couple of years ago, and Runner is also deceased, Toland said.
Toland, who is now 80, said he’s been in the city for 75 years. He said he and his fellow band members formed the doo wop group because they used to practice music on the streets of Coatesville for fun. He said the band was originally going by the name, Little Tommy and the Germs, but then they ended up using the Elgins moniker, named after the watches that were manufactured in Elgin, Illinois. Toland said Alston and Allen were the guitarists for the band, while he, Bryant and Runner performed vocals. He said they also used to tour with another doo wop band called the Rocket Tones.
Little Tommy and the Elgins played at many college campuses in Pennsylvania, such as Muhlenberg College and Shippensburg University, Toland said. He said many of the bandstands were at fire stations, so they would play there, and they also played at some venues in New Jersey.
Toland said one the band’s biggest concerts was at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City in the summer of 1962, and many of their fans from Coatesville made the trip out to the shore to see them play. He said the concert was also broadcast in
black and white on Grady and Hurst’s “Summertime on the Pier” television show.
Little Tommy and the Elgins’ two most well-known hit songs are “I Walk On” and “Never Love Again.” The band had record deals with three companies for these songs: Elmar, ABC-Paramount and Sparton. He said their first band manager under Elmar Records was a man named Billy Jackson, from Philadelphia, who was a founding member of another doo wop band called the Re-Vels. According to Bosco’s article in “Echoes of the Past,” Jackson later went on to work with other well-known musicians, including: the Tymes, Ronnie Dyson, Miles Davis, and Aretha Franklin.
Toland said he hopes some of the young people in Coatesville today will draw inspiration from the story of Little Tommy and the Elgins to get together and do things instead of being out on the streets. He said he’s also working on starting a youth group at his church, the Hutchinson Memorial UAME Church on Chestnut Street in Coatesville.
According to Bosco’s article, after Toland left show business, he worked for the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center and then the Eagleville Hospital for 26 years, and he’s now retired. Toland still lives in Coatesville with his wife, Brenda. Together they have seven children, 15 grandchildren and eight greatgrandchildren.
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Toland said he’s working on starting a youth group at his church, the Hutchinson Memorial UAME Church on Chestnut Street in Coatesville.