The Cap-Tans were formed in 1948 when DC Records owner, Lillian Claiborne, encouraged Harmon Bethea to break away from The Progressive Four and join an existing group called The Buddies (Alfred Slaughter, Lester Fountain, Floyd Bennett, and Sherman Buckner). This move gave The Progressive Four the latitude to concentrate on spirituals, while The Cap-Tans, with Bethea's seasoned stage presence and comic timing, moved directly in pop material which today is regarded as R&B vocal group material of the Pioneer era.
Two 78rpm singles on DC Records were heard around town, but in the fall of 1950, they almost scored a national hit with Lester Fountain's composition "I'm So Crazy for Love" which Claiborne wisely placed on Randy Wood's Dot Records out of Tennessee. In a marketing world which then valued the song as a composition over the recording as a performance, the Cap-Tans received a half-dozen backhanded compliments as they witnessed the likes of Billy Eckstine, Lonnie, Johnson, and The Ravens and several other acts cover their song.
This record and a second Dot release, plus exposure from live radio performances, established the Cap-Tans as a group to be emulated. Washington's Clovers were well aware of their success and The Crows of New York City, famous for their 1954 crossover hit "Gee," were apparently fans as they refashioned The Cap-Tans' "Chief, Turn The Hose on Me" into "Call A Doctor" in 1955. Two Cap-Tans' releases on Gotham of Philadelphia and one on Coral were less successful. Bethea reorganized the group as The Octaves and kept a secular group and a religious group rehearsed and ready to perform throughout the decade.
In 1959 he revived the old group name as "L'Captans," which obscured the racial connotation of the original name. He took his third attempt in a decade at the Lillian Claiborne ballad "Say Yes" (the first two efforts had been done by The Progressive Four and the original Cap-Tans). After release on DC Records, Savoy reissued the song for national distribution, but it failed to catch on. Bethea continued his live radio performances as the leader of a spiritual group well into the 1960s, before reinventing himself as Mask Man of Mask Man.
(Front:) Alfred Slaughter, Harmon Bethea, Lester Fountain (Back:) Floyd Bennett and Sherman Buckner
“I need you my darling to love and to guide me”
- I'm so Crazy for love