On Distant Stations: The Rev-Lons

Girl Group Month On Distant Stations

On Distant Stations is a recurring feature devoted to obscure bands and artists – particularly those who never recorded a full-length album. In it, we explore the stories and songs behind some of pop music’s most intriguing “could have been” cases.

It’s been ages since the previous On Distant Stations feature, but similar to that profile on The Luv’d Ones, I was also introduced to this installment’s subject by way of the excellent 2005 Rhino box set, One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found. Among the plentiful highlights on that generous four-disc set, the A-side to the final release by a little-known trio of Bakersfield, California sisters is a particular standout.

“After Last Night” was issued by Reprise Records in 1964 – The Rev-Lons’ first, and only, release with the label after a pair of singles for smaller Southern California imprints. It’s an upbeat, sassy, and immediately-appealing track, but one with enough musical depth, lyrical intrigue, and “earworm potential” to have worked its way into a comfortable spot (#815) on Strange CurrenciesA Century of Song project.

Good stuff, right? As I’m inclined to do when diving into a compilation like One Kiss Can Lead to Another, I like to dig around to find out more about the artists – especially the lesser-known ones who show such potential – and track down the rest of their discography.

The thing is, there’s not much out there about The Rev-Lons. Between RateYourMusic and Discogs, I’ve been able to identify a catalog composed of just nine songs: six that appeared on the A- and B-sides of their three singles, two others released on compilations long after the group’s dissolution, and a demo recording that was only issued for the first time in 2015.

Personal details about the group are similarly scant. There’s no website, no Wikipedia entry, and unfortunately, I lack the liner notes for One Kiss Can Lead to Another. What I have found out about The Rev-Lons is almost entirely based off of a Facebook page, purported to be maintained by Raquel (Rachel) Hernandez-De La Rosa – lead singer of the group.

Apparently, Rachel initially formed a singing group with four friends at Garces High School in 1958. Over time, this morphed into a project that involved her younger sisters. While photographs of the group show three members, there were four Hernandez sisters who sang at various points. However, by the time that they became known as The Rev-Lons, the group consisted of Rachel, Lupe, and Frances (Fran) Hernandez.

The Rev-Lons (Fran, Lupe, and Rachel Hernandez), early-1960s

The Rev-Lons were discovered by Lloyd Johnson, who became their manager, and appears to have arranged a deal for the group to release their first single through Gary Paxton’s Garpax Records – best known for issuing the novelty singles “Alley Oop” and “Monster Mash.” “Give Me One More Chance” / “Boy Trouble” was released in September 1962.

The group’s first A-side is nothing spectacular from a compositional or performance standpoint. Rachel Hernandez’s vocals are presented in a semi-awkward low register, and the song sounds like it would benefit from a quicker tempo and livelier arrangement. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t set the world on fire.

B-side, “Boy Trouble,” brings more energy, personality, and a stronger hook in its chorus. While it’s unlikely that the song would have made a big dent in the charts, hindsight seems to indicate that Paxton may have picked the wrong track as The Rev-Lons’ inaugural A-side.

For their second single, The Rev-Lons made a (small) jump over to Lloyd Johnson’s Star-Burst Records, which – according to the 45 label – was still closely affiliated with Paxton, who produced and arranged “Love Can’t Be A One Way Deal” / “I Can’t Forget About You.”

Written by Kenneth Johnson, “Love Can’t Be A One Way Deal” was probably the most interesting song in the group’s catalog to date, from both a musical and lyrical standpoint. Rachel Hernandez’s lead vocals are more nuanced than before, and the backing work of her sisters adds significantly more to the track and its downbeat feel. Though released in 1963, there’s a slight trace of the homespun, garage rock vibe that would soon mark American singles from coast-to-coast, after the February 1964 arrival of The Beatles. It’s doubtful that any amount of promotion would have made it a smash hit, but this is a quality song.

Similarly worthwhile is the single’s B-side, “I Can’t Forget About You.” Again, one can’t help but wonder what a post-British Invasion jolt of energy might have brought out in the song’s relatively basic composition and arrangement, but like its A-side, this track finds the Hernandez sisters working better as an ensemble than on their first single.

The Rev-Lons’ first two singles showed enough promise that the group was picked up by Reprise for their third. Released in 1964, the aforementioned “After Last Night” sounds like the work of an entirely different group, and – as “girl groups” were generally controlled creatively by labels, writers, producers, and arrangers – it essentially is. “After Last Night” is brash, confident, and musically invigorating. For whatever reason, it wasn’t a hit, and its ultimate failure to sell appears to have been the death blow for The Rev-Lons, who – according to detail-lacking accounts online – disbanded in 1965.

What remains in the group’s tiny catalog fails to recapture the magic of “After Last Night” – and lacks even the most basic chronological context – but nevertheless remains worthy of a listen. For what it’s worth, the B-side to “After Last Night” – “It’s Gonna Happen Some Day” – is not presently available on YouTube or any streaming services.

Given that they were released on a compilation of Garpax groups, it’s probably safe to assume that both “Whirlwind” and “How Can You Keep from Loving a Boy Like That” were both recorded prior to The Rev-Lons’ brief dalliance with Reprise. Of the two, the latter is the more intriguing track – if for no reason other than its ability to work a rather unwieldy title into a reasonably catchy chorus.

The only remaining recording by The Rev-Lons that has been released to date is a demo of a song called “Shoes and Rice and Paradise,” which arrived on a 2015 compilation of Garpax-affiliated artists. Though it doesn’t quite match the heart-melting nature of Penny & The Quarters’ similarly low-key “You and Me,” it’s an effortlessly charming track that – for me, at least – stands as The Rev-Lons’ second best moment on record.

The Hernandez sisters’ careers as recording artists appear to have ended in 1965; in a seven-year-old post on the Facebook page maintained by Rachel Hernandez, she states, “I need to write a book about our lives and why we had such a short lived career.” In the case of her sister Dolores, who briefly sang with the group before they signed with Garpax, the reasons for departure seem to have been marriage and motherhood – a common occurrence among young female singers of the era.

The little that remains on the Facebook page – rarely updated, and followed by just 139 people – is a mix of musings from a now 80-year-old woman, photographs from recording sessions, and warm remembrances from family and friends. There’s a somewhat uncomfortable nature in viewing it at all; the most recent post from Hernandez shows unashamed support for the outgoing Trump administration, to which a lone commenter – presumably a family member – replies, “Dont speak for my sisters they hated him.”

Speaking for sisters aside – Lupe appears to have passed away several years back – I suppose that I have much bigger “separating art from artist” issues to worry about than an elderly woman who sang a song that I like nearly sixty years ago showing support for a toxic, narcissistic threat to American democracy. Besides, despite the bad taste left by that post, it doesn’t take too much away from the charm of a story about three young sisters who, for a precious few moments, got to live out their dreams.

(L-R) Rachel Hernandez, Johnny McKay, Lupe Hernandez, Fran Hernandez, and Gary Paxton

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