BRIAN UTAIN WAS one of a group of Temple University students who used to harmonize on the lawn or in Mitten Hall or even on street corners in the '60s, lending their own original take on R&B and soul numbers.
A lot of their singing was a capella, but there was a piano in Mitten Hall, and a member of the group, Daryl Hohl, could play accompaniment.
They called themselves the Temptones, the name taken from the school they were attending and the popular Temptations, whom they idolized.
Long after the Temptones were no more, Brian Utain continued singing, well into his 60s, linking up with a number of local groups, cutting records and performing live.
But emphysema shut down his smooth baritone for good about two years ago, and led to his death Friday. He would have been 67 this Sunday. He lived in Wyncote.
In their early days, the Temptones had to prove themselves when appearing before largely black audiences.
When they showed up at an all-soul extravaganza at the old Convention Hall featuring 40 other groups, they were roundly booed and jeered when their white faces showed up on stage.
But when they performed a rousing "Old Man River," the audience went wild.
The original Temptones consisted of Brian, Paul Fogel and Kenny Halpern. When Fogel joined the Air Force in late '65, he was replaced by Barry Glazer.
When a tall kid from Pottstown, fellow Temple student Hohl, showed up, he proclaimed that he could sing anyone's part.
Brian told Robert Bosco, a musical historian and writer who was putting together a piece on the Temptones in 2011, about meeting Hohl.
"We asked him what parts could he sing, and he said he had listened to us for quite some time and frankly he could do anyone's part. And he could, including singing lead better than any of us."
Daryl later changed his last name to Hall. And after meeting John Oates, who briefly became a guitarist for the Temptones, the famous combination of Hall & Oates was born.
The Temptones made their first recording in spring 1966 at the small Impact Sound Studio in the basement of a shoe store in Northeast Philadelphia. The song was "Goodbye," written by Glazer, and it was good enough to get the group the gig at the Freedom Show.
Bosco said the Temptones got to meet their idols, the Temptations, backstage at the Uptown Theater, where the Temptones startled the older group by launching into some of their big hits.
The Temptations' Paul Williams was so taken by the younger group that he bought them new sharkskin uniforms at Krass Brothers men's store ("Store of the Stars") on South Street.
The Temptones placed second at a talent show at the Uptown (the Ambassadors were first), and DJ Jimmy Bishop signed them to a recording contract with his Arctic label.
They recorded "Girl I Love You" and its flip side, "Goodbye," at Virtue Studios, across the street from Temple. It got some air time in Philadelphia and Baltimore in 1966 and emerged as No. 17 on the WDAS soul chart.
The record was enough to get the group appearances on the Hy Lit and Jerry Blavat shows.
However, when the group recorded "Say These Words of Love," with "Something Good" on the flip, it got practically no air time.
Brian told Bosco: "That was my big break. I sang lead on 'Something Good.' Jocko [Henderson] spun it a few times as a favor, but it was mostly forgotten."
The same plight befell most of the Temptones' recordings, but Brian went on to lend numerous local groups the benefit of his singing until illness shut him down.
Brian was born in Philadelphia to Harold and Lilyan Utain. He attended Olney High School before Temple.
His younger brother, musician Terry, works for Bobby Eli, a Philly-based Grammy Award-winning musician, composer and record producer. Brian also is survived by his mother.
Services: A memorial service will be arranged.