“Stay” is one of those songs that have been around forever and will be around in the future. Maurice Williams wrote the song in 1953 when he was fifteen years old. It was inspired by an incident when he had a date over to the house and she had a 10 o’clock curfew. He was trying to convince her to stay a little longer, but he was unsuccessful and she went home on time. After that, the words of the song seemed to just flow out of him.
Maurice was born in 1938 in Lancaster, South Carolina and like so many other performers, grew up singing at home and in his church. He formed his first group called the Royal Charms (I have also seen it written the Royal Charmers) and raised enough money to travel to Nashville to audition for a record company there. The record company was Excello Records and they recorded Maurice’s first hit, “Little Darlin’.” (it reached number fourteen on the R&B chart.) Except they changed the name of the group to Maurice Williams and the Gladiolas. You might remember “Little Darlin’.” It’s one of my all time favorite songs, but it’s another example of a black group recording a song and having a white group cover it and do so much better. The Diamonds, who were a Canadian group took “Little Darlin’” to number two where it stayed for eight weeks, never getting into the top spot.
When Maurice and his group left Excello Records, they went to New York and joined Herald Records where they pitched several songs to Al Silver, one of which was “Stay.” Silver liked it, except the original song had a line that referred to smoking one more cigarette. Silver said he didn’t want to cut a record that encouraged young people to smoke, so Maurice went home, changed the line in the song and re-recorded the song.
Since Excello Records back in Nashville still owned the rights to the name Gladiolas, they once again changed their name and “Stay” was recorded under the name Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. The Zodiac term comes from a model of Ford car that they saw one day on their travels and thought it was a good name for the group.
“Stay” debuted at number 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 3, 1960 and spent one week at number one. It has the distinction of being the shortest song ever to hit number one. The song comes in at one minute and 37 seconds. Later, in 1964, The Four Seasons would reach number sixteen with the song and then again in 1974, Jackson Browne took his version to number twenty. A true classic.