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Some of the greatest American doo-wop groups originated in Brooklyn

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The doo-wop style of music originally developed in African-American communities in the 1940s, and it attained mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Some of the hotbeds of the genre were Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and the Los Angeles area, but Brooklyn -- and the entire New York City area, for that matter -- certainly had its share of great doo-wop groups, including The Tokens, The Chimes and The Jive Five.

This article takes a look at ten of the doo-wop groups from Brooklyn that made a significant impact on the Billboard Magazine's pop music charts, and some of them had a number of national pop hits, in addition to major success in the R&B field.

Whereas the following listing includes only groups, and their songs, that had at least one item on the Billboard Hot 100, there were many other Brooklyn doo-wop groups that released recordings that had merit, despite failing to reach the pop charts.

Such non-pop-charting Brooklyn doo-wop groups comprise a lengthy list, including The Pyramids, The Quinns, The Love Notes, The Continentals, The Chesters, The Fi-tones, The Legends, The Revalons and The Chalets.

Most doo-wop fans should like the following list of 10 of the finest tunes of that genre originating from Brooklyn, and to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title.

  • "TONIGHT I FELL IN LOVE" (The Tokens, No. 15, 1961) wasn't the monster hit that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" would become later in the year, but it's a featured song here because it's one of the finest-ever doo-wop recordings. The group was formed in 1955 as The Linc-Tones at Abraham Lincoln High School, and Neil Sedaka was an original member. By the time of this single -- the group's first Top 40 charter and a million seller -- the quartet consisted of original members Jay Siegel and Hank Medress, along with brothers Mitch and Phil Margo.
  • "ONCE IN A WHILE" (The Chimes, No. 11, 1960) was performed by a Brooklyn quintet headed by Len Cocco. It was a great doo-wop rendition of a song that originally went to No. 1 nationwide for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1937, and Patti Page also had a big 1952 hit with the song. The follow-up single was "I'm In The Mood For Love", which charted nationally at No. 38. Later, they recorded on the Metro, Laurie and Vee-Jay labels, but without much success.
  • "TILL THEN" (The Classics, No. 20, 1963) has been recorded by numerous artists since it was written by Eddie Seller, Sol Marcus and Guy Wood in 1944, and it was a big hit for The Mills Brothers and the Les Brown Orchestra that year. This single was performed by a white doo-wop quartet headed by lead singer Emil Stucchio. The group, formed in 1958, sang together in high school, and this record also charted at No. 7 on the Billboard adult contemporary listings.
  • "MY TRUE STORY" (The Jive Five, No. 3, 1961), in addition to being a major pop charter, topped the Billboard R&B listings for three consecutive weeks. The quintet -- consisting of lead singer Eugene Pitt, accompanied by Jerome Hanna, Richard Harris, Thurmon Prophet and Norman Johnson -- was formed in 1959. Pitt was formerly lead singer with The Genies.
  • "ONE SUMMER NIGHT" (The Danleers, No. 16, 1958) was the only significant charter for this one-hit-wonder group, headed by lead singer Jimmy Weston. It was written by the group's manager Danny Webb, and it was first released on the Amp-3 label before being picked up by Mercury for national distribution. Although trying for repeat success on five other labels, nothing else even "bubbled under" the Billboard Hot 100.
  • "JUST TO BE WITH YOU" (The Passions, No. 69, 1959) was first recorded by The Cosines -- singers who later became famous as Paul Simon and Carole King -- but this white doo-wop quartet had a Billboard pop charter that spent 10 weeks in the Hot 100. The group was originally called The Sinceres, and at the time of this recording, the lineup included lead singer Jimmy Gallagher, backed by Tony Armato, Albie Galione and Vinny Acierno.
  • "BABY OH BABY" (The Shells, No. 21, 1960) was a chart success on the Johnson label by a doo-wop sextet consisting of Nate Bouknight, Randy Alston, Bobby Nurse, Danny Small, Gus Geter and Alphonse Merkman. The song didn't have much success when first released in 1957, but when re-released by producers Donn Fileti and Wayne Stierle in 1960, it was a nationwide hit.
  • "CAN I COME OVER TONIGHT" (The Velours, No. 83, 1957) featured the lead singing of Jerome Ramos and great bass work by Charles Moffitt and backing by the Sammy Lowe Orchestra. The quintet was rounded out by lead tenor Kenneth Walker, first tenor John Cheatdom and second tenor Donald Haywoode. Originally called The Troubadours, they became The Velours in 1956.
  • "DEDICATED TO THE SONGS I LOVE" (Three Friends, No. 89, 1961) was performed by a trio formed in 1954 while the members -- Joe Villa, Tony Grochowski and Frank Stropoli -- were attending New Utrecht High School. They had moderate regional success with a song titled "Blanche" in 1956, but this was their only Billboard pop charter. For a time, lead singer Villa also fronted The Royal Teens, famous for the novelty song "Short Shorts."
  • "IF" (The Paragons, No. 82, 1961) was recorded by a quartet formed in 1955, and by the time this single was released, the lineup consisted of Alan Moore, John May, Ben Frazier and Donald Travis. Although they had some success on the R&B charts, this recording, with May on lead, was their only entry on the Billboard Hot 100.

[You may subscribe to Bill Herald's oldies pop music columns -- free of charge -- by clicking on "subscribe" near the top of the article, after which you will receive e-mail notification each time a new item is published].


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