Akron honors Ruby and the Romantics

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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A 1963 photo of Ruby and the Romantics - (from left) Leroy Fann, Ed Roberts, Ronald Mosely and George Lee surrounding Ruby Nash.

On Feb. 9, 1963, a bossa nova-based, lovelorn, pop tune, Our Day Will Come, recorded by an Akron vocal group, entered the Billboard Hot 100. The tune by Ruby and the Romantics became the No. 1 song in the country, a global hit that is still heard on radio, television and films, and has been covered by artists such as Katharine McPhee and Amy Winehouse.

Fifty years later, the city of Akron celebrated the song and the group that recorded it by declaring Thursday as Ruby and the Romantics Day in a ceremony at the City Council Chambers.

With the seats filled with friends, fans and well-wishers, the group’s lead singer and lone survivor, Ruby Nash Garnett, joined about a dozen members of the families of the Romantics — Ed Roberts, George Lee, Ronald Mosley and Leroy Fann — to be feted by the city.

Hosted by Billy Soule, assistant to the mayor for community relations, the program featured proclamations from local representatives of the NAACP and the Akron Urban League, in whose former building the group used to compete in talent shows in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

It also included musical and historical information about 1963, and presentations by Soule and Akron City Council President Garry Moneypenny.

Nash Garnett, 78, sat quietly alongside her husband, Robert Garnett Sr., as the group’s history was recounted.

The program ended with a performance of Our Day Will Come from Jasmine Moore, an eighth-grader at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts. The rendition nearly brought Nash Garnett to tears and garnered a hug of approval and words of encouragement from the song’s original singer.

Nash Garnett was not originally expected to attend the ceremony, as she still is grieving the loss of her son Reginald Garnett, who died Dec. 25 at age 38.

“My husband talked me into coming,” Nash Garnett said following the ceremony. “He said my son would have wanted me to be here. He couldn’t be here, but I changed my mind and I said I’ll try it, and I’m glad I did.

“This right here was a big surprise and it was very nice. … It was really overwhelming, that’s all I can say.”

Nash Garnett said that accolades and awards are not particularly important to her. If the honor had come from another source, “it wouldn’t have meant that much,” she said.

But it was special receiving the official recognition from the city of Akron, where she returned in 1971 after the group disbanded, and worked at Ohio Bell and the Salvation Army in Barberton.

“Especially from home, hometown people,” she said.

Of the group’s touring days, she said, “even when we were all over the place, I wanted to go home. You know home is home.”

Among the supporters were Nash Garnett’s son Robert Jr., who was born the year after Nash returned to Akron and is a vocational specialist at Towpath Trail High School.

“It’s hard to believe sometimes that it’s my mom up there being honored,” Garnett Jr. said.

“After hearing all the different stories all the time, I finally get to see some of what my mom went through in her younger days with all the pictures and the interviews and autographs. It just seems surreal sometimes, and I’m honored that I get to say that’s my mother.”

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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