Harrison Hoaney grew up in the rough Southwestern quadrant of the District of Columbia known as Ladroit Park. Populated with unsavory, if not criminal, characters, Harrison’s neighborhood reminded him of the film serial The Bowery Boys. Leo Gorcey portrayed the titular ne’er-do-wells’ leader “Slip” Mahoney, and noting the similarity in their last names “Skip” Mahoaney stuck as his nickname. Together with fellow Francis Cardozo hall-dwellers George Norris, James Morse, Franklin Radcliff, and Morris Moore, the Casuals were formed in 1965. Upon graduation in 1968, Skip had a draft scare, but received a reprieve when, after a few agonizing months in basic, he was deemed flatfooted and sent back to the capital. In 1969, the group solidified around its best-known line-up: Roger Chapman, Billy Jones, and original member George Norris. Most importantly, the quartet joined forces with schoolmate James Purdie, a partially blind multi-instrumentalist who had made a name for himself at Cardozo. Purdie could play, arrange, and write songs, and proved essential to the group’s unique and professional sound; equally important, he would be the driving factor in connecting the Casuals with Robert José Williams.
The Casuals played frequently at The Room and the Mark IV in Northwest D.C. and The Carousel in Baltimore, with guitarist Otis Brown and bassist Ira Watson joining James Purdie, who handled drums and keyboards as needed. Over the course of two years, the group cut seven tunes with Williams at db Sound: “Your Funny Moods,” “(Seems Like) The Love We Had Is Dead And Gone,” “We Share Love,” “I Need Your Love,” “Town Called Nowhere,” “I’m Looking Away From My Past,” and “Strugglin’ Man.” When their first single for D.C. International came back from the pressing plant, the group was dismayed to find itself billed as Skip Mahoaney & the Casuals, after being a vocal group for nearly a decade. Chapman, Jones, and Norris quit in disgust, but their complete R.G.B. recordings were collected on 1974’s Your Funny Moods LP. Unfazed, Skip rallied Tracy Reid, Jerome Rodgers, and Allen Morgan to join him in support of the album, taking the group to realms outside of D.C. International’s limited regional scope.
Released in 1976 on Nashboro’s Abet imprint, Land Of Love took full advantage of the increased recording budget a national label could provide. Now upgraded to producer, Purdie arrived at Track Recorders with a handful of guitarists, backing vocalists, a harpist, two trombonists, two trumpeters, two bassists, an oboe player, a trio of saxophonists, and a full string quartet arranged by Eddie Drennon. The album’s first single, “Running Away From Love,” got widespread radio play on R&B stations, but couldn’t get over the hump and onto the pop charts. After a management deal went south with mob-connected Joe Fontana in New York City and discos sprung up in place of live venues, the group finally petered out in 1978.
A Red Black & Green Production
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It Takes Two EP