Checkmates Ltd.

Herb Alpert heard the Checkmates Ltd. while touring with the Tijuana Brass in Hawaii. The group signed with A&M Records in April 1968 and guaranteed three tours with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Jerry Moss suggested Phil Spector produce the group's first album and Spector chose the songs for the album. According to Checkmates member Harvey Trees, the group did 43 takes of "Black Pearl" then Spector added balalaikas to the song and sped up lead singer Sonny Charles' voice. "Black Pearl" was the initial single from the album. The B side "Lazy Susan" was the only song by the Checkmates that A&M released.

Original copies of the single "Black Pearl" were credited to Sonny Charles. A&M Records relabeled the single to The Checkmates, Ltd. featuring Sonny Charles.

The group also recorded "Proud Mary." According to her book I, Tina, Ike and Tina Turner borrowed the Checkmates arrangement for their version of the song and had a hit record with it.

  1. The Checkmates, Ltd. Harvey Trees. Goldmine, May 15, 1992.
Recording Years / Label
1969 -  A&M Records
Name Member Years Instruments
Bill Van Buskirk electric bass
Bobby Stevens vocals
Harvey Trees guitar
Sonny Charles vocals
Marvin Smith drums
Name Birth Death
Bill Van Buskirk
Bobby Stevens
Harvey Trees
Sonny Charles 1940-09-04
Marvin Smith 1939-03-08 2007-12-15
Name See associated acts
Sonny Charles Sonny Charles

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