Five New York school friends led by 15-year-old Arlene Smith made the Top 20 in 1958 with Maybe, produced by disc jockey Alan Freed for George Goldner’s Rama group of labels.
Their first release, He’s Gone, failed to make an impact on the charts in 1957, but established their style – a blend of four-part harmony topped by Arlene’s impassioned lead vocals.
Considered by many to have been the best of the early girl groups, The Chantels – who took their name from a rival school – met in their school choir, and by 1957 had been singing together for several years.
Their early experience of singing Gregorian chants stood them in good stead for the close harmonies and switching vocal parts of doo-wop.
The Chantels were discovered after auditioning for producer Richard Barrett, lead singer of The Valentines.
Their hits began to dry up when their record label became preoccupied with promoting their latest sensations, Little Anthony and The Imperials. Although The Chantels were one of the first female vocal groups of the era to release an album under their own name, the girls were dropped by their label in 1959.
Sonia Goring Wilson
Renee Minus White
Lois Harris Powell
Jackie Landry Jackson