by Jess Jocson
(re-posted on August 2011)

It was the first quarter of 1957 when I watched and heard this bunch of boys on Student Canteen. A daily noon time radio and TV show of Leila Benitez, Eddie Ilarde and Pepe Pimentel. Geesss! I got glued at our monochrome TV set. From that day on, I wanted to be a member of a combo (that was the term use during the 50s & 60s to a group or band, even Elvis Presley used such term also). Not knowing, in the later years I will be a part of this legendary Five Brown Boys.

Ok,let me tell you how this combo started from the horse's mouth. The story of the FIVE BROWN BOYS began in 1955 when the movie "Rock Around The Clock" was being shown in local theaters. BERNIE MANABAL Jr. who saw the film was so inspired and began to wish to form a singing group of his own. He began searching for talents and the first to join him was his younger brother MANUEL who has almost the exact singing style of Little Richard (a famous black artist from USA). Later on, a cousin ARMANDO VILLANUEVA joined them.

The singing group become popular in their vicinity and many aspired to join. One of them was VICENTE VARONA who had with him his new innovation Bass instrument made of empty GI gasoline container. This attracted the singing group of 3 and Vicente was qualified.

They started joining amateur combo contest and that's where the met ELEUTERIO (ELI) GARDINER who was the lead singer of the Starglows combo. And they became a singing group of five. Max Francis, a showman, discovered and baptized them as THE FIVE BROWN BOYS on March 2, 1957.

Thus, the original FIVE BROWN BOYS were: Vicente Varona, Armando Villanueva, Manuel Manabal, Eleuterio (Eli) Gardiner, Bernie Manabal Jr.

They were highly admired during their first performance in which their audience were all Americans. And since then, they were booked in series of engagement. On the 30th of April, 1957, they joined the Student Canteen and the program gave them more fame.

THE FIVE BROWN BOYS was the first to use a bass instrument made of an empty gasoline container.

The first Student Canteen Combo to appear at CLOVER Theater and last but not least, the first combo using an empty gasoline container as a bass instrument to perform abroad.

After their success in Korea and Japan during the late 50's, they came back with TEISCO electric guitars and amps and an upright Acoustic bass where I saw them performing as a guest combo during a fiesta and combo contest at Malibay, Pasay City. The group was so busy performing to more series of engagement mostly at US military bases in the Philippines, radios/TV and Clover Theater, not to mention invitations from so many town fiestas and events.

That's when Manuel became sickly but never did missed a performance. Things happened so fast and the passing away of Manuel affected the group not only spiriutally but emotionally as well. Their spirit as a performing group diminished but not their friendship. ARMANDO layed low and finally left, followed by ELI who, due to emotional stress, went to Olongapo and joined a group playing at The White House club that he baptized as THE PRESIDENTS.

BERNIE searched again for talents after getting over the death of his brother. REY SANCHEZ, RIC ARELLANO, and FELIX GARCIA became the 2nd Generation of the 5 Brown Boys was.

The new team did not last long leaving BERNIE and VICENTE behind. While I was guesting with my quartet at CBN Aduana, Intramuros, I met BERNIE for the first time and he was scouting for a new lead guitarist and asked me. I did not hesitate because I really wanted to play an imported electric guitar and this group is part responsible in making me wish to join a combo when I saw and heard them earlier.

We were the 3rd generation of the famouse 5 Brown Boys (BERNIE MANABAL, VICENTE VARONA, JESS JOCSON, ROLAND VILLAMIN and RENE NIDUAZA.) It was really an experience and lot's of fun performing with the 5 Brown Boys combo.

After almost a year doing shows at US military bases as a Brown Boys combo, sad but I have to call it quits from the group to seriously attend my B.S. Nursing course as an intern and student at University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

Last thing I heard after I left, Roland and Rene, quit too.

THEIR WHEREABOUTS The surviving members of the Original 5 Brown Boys are ELI GARDINER as we all know became a succesfull businessman exporting talents all over asia. He is now into Manpower Placement Agency and Real Estate. He is still active and sings every now and then and host a weekly TV show with Susan K for OFW's and OCW's. However, Eli passed away in 2009.

BERNIE MANABAL goes back and forth to Singapore as a solo artists. ARMANDO VILLANUEVA now lives in USA.

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