Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Chantels

The group was formed in the early 1950s at choir practice at St. Anthony of Padua school in the Bronx. The name Chantels came from a rival school, St. Frances de Chantal. Choir like, the girls had been taught to sing Gregorian chants and were perfect at changing notes and trading parts which gave them a unique close-knit harmony. The quintet did talent shows with the Sequins (Red Robin Records) and The Crows (Rama Records) at the PS. 60 Community Center and at St. Augustine's church. By 1957 the members, aged 14 through 17, had been singing together more than seven years. The group consisted of Arlene Smith (lead), Sonia Goring (second tenor), Rene Minus (alto/bass), Jackie Landry (second alto), and Lois Harris (first tenor) and they were discovered by Richard Barrett, (The Valentines) and signed to End Records. Their first professional live performance was at the Apollo Theatre where they wowed the audience with “He's Gone.” Later the single broke into the top 100 in the US in 1957.

Their second single "Maybe" had real acoustic atmosphere and was recorded in a refurbished church in midtown Manhattan. Richard Barrett co-wrote the song with Arlene Smith and also played piano on the recording. In 1958 it became a top twenty hit selling over one million copies.

. Barrett gave up singing to manage the Chantels but the record company dropped the Chantels in 1959 after their other records failed to make charts. Arlene and Louis left the group and Annette Smith (the Veneers) took over as lead in 1960. They signed with Carlton Records and had a huge hit with "Look in My Eyes."

Despite releasing many other singles the Chantels were never able to repeat their earlier success. Music tastes had changed and eventually the group broke up in 1970. Arlene Smith meantime worked with Phil Spector and recorded "Love Love Love (previously recorded by the Clovers).

After the breakup she formed a new Chantels line up and the remaining originals reformed with Noemi (Ami) Ortiz as lead. Both groups enjoyed some success on the retro circuit. Jackie Landry died in 1997. .

Worth a listen
He's Gone (1957)
Maybe (1958)
Every Night (I Pray) (1958)
Sure of Love (1958)
I Love You So, (1958)
Whoever You Are (1958)
Memories of Nod' (1958)
Summer's Love (1959)
Look in My Eyes (1961)
Well I Told You (1961)
Eternally (1961)

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