I Promise To Remember-part one : The Teenagers©2003JCMarion


Frankie Lymon got his musical influences from the Mother Source of most Black performers who came of age in the forties and fifties - the church. Frankie's father was a singer with the group The Gospel Harlemaires. At Edward Stitt Junior High School in 1954 there was a fledgling vocal group that went by a number of different names - The Earth Angels, Coupe de Villes, The Ermines, and The Premieres were some of them. The members were Sherman Garnes, Joe Negroni, Jimmy Merchant, and Herman Santiago. As they practiced on tunes and began to get attention in their neighborhood - Washington Heights in the one fifties around Edgecombe Avenue. A young but talented kid from the neighborhood named Frankie Lymon was soon part of the group. With Herman as the lead singer they practiced much of the time especially on a song called "Why Do Birds Sing So Gay?". They came in contact with the lead singer of The Valentines, Richard Barrett, who led them to George Goldner the president of Tico and Rama Records. It is said that it was Goldner who suggested that Lymon become the lead singer on the tune and change the name of the song to "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?". And so . . . . . . .

On January 10, 1956, the history of the rock 'n' roll vocal groups and the direction of American music took a new turn and changed the landscape of pop culture forever. Gee Records #1002 was released featuring Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers recording of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and "Please Be Mine". Now for the first time, teenagers singing FOR teenagers took center stage in the business of recorded music. The group immediately goes on the road and appears in Cleveland with WERE radio dj Phil McLeon at Keith's Theater along with The Jewels, Teen Queens, Five Keys, and Ivory Joe Hunter. In March as "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" heads for the top of the charts, the group appears at New Brunswick High School in New Jersey with dj Danny "Cat Man" Stiles along with The Belvederes and Big Mike Gordon. Gee Records has its first number one hit with The Teenagers record. In April Alan Freed's "Easter Jubilee of Stars" has The Teenagers as a headlining act. Late in the month the group appears on television with Chrysler's "Shower Of Stars" on CBS . In April of the year "I Want You To Be My Girl" and "I'm Not A Know It All" is released by Gee Records on #1012. The group signs on for Irvin Feld's "Biggest Rock 'n' Roll Show of 1956" and will appear along with Bill Haley & The Comets, The Teen Queens, Drifters, Colts, Joe Turner, Bo Diddley, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, and The Flamingos. In June The Teenagers appear at the Apollo Theater along with The Cleftones, Valentines, and Pretenders.

In July The Teenagers appear at Carr's Beach Amphitheater in Annapolis, Maryland, with Carl Perkins, Al Hibbler, Chuck Berry, Shirley & Lee, The Cleftones, Spaniels, and Della Reese, to an overflow crowd of fifteen thousand. In July "I Promise To Remember" (originally by Jimmy Castor & The Juniors on Wing Records) and "Who Can Explain" is released on Gee #1018. In July The Teenagers join the cast of the "Top Record Stars Show of 1956" to be presented in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. For labor Day week Alan Freed signs The Teenagers for the show at the Brooklyn Paramount. Also on the bill Fats Domino, Joe Turner, The Cleftones, Penguins, and Harptones. Right after their weeklong appearance with Alan Freed at the Brooklyn Paramount, Gee Records releases "The ABC's Of Love" and "Share" on #1022. In November a specially cut LP of music from the forthcoming Alan Freed motion picture "Rock Rock Rock" is sent to radio dj's across the country. The Teenagers have two cuts on the album. In November it is announced that The Teenagers will embark on a tour of England in the coming months. In late November the two songs the group performs in the picture "Rock Rock Rock" are released by Gee Records. "I Am Not A Juvenile Delinquent" and "Baby Baby" are on Gee #1026. It quickly becomes the fifth smash hit in a row during this year for the vocal group. In December Frankie & The Teenagers appear in Akron, Ohio at a special show honoring the late Jack Clifton of WCUE in that city who died of cancer. The next week the group is in L.A. for television appearances and on stage at The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa with KPOP disc spinner Earl McDaniel. At year's end Gee Records releases an LP by The Teenagers that includes all of their hits for the label (and their flip sides). It is a good seller almost immediately and spurs other independent labels to consider similar packages. It was quite a year for the vocal group that re-defined rock 'n' roll as the music of Young America (soon to be the slogan for the up and coming 60s phenomenon Motown).

In late February of 1957 The Teenagers headline the first rock 'n' roll show at the New York Paramount on Broadway in New York City with Alan Freed. Also on the bill are The Platters, Cleftones, Cadillacs, Nappy Brown, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, Ruth Brown, and others. That month the group's sixth release for Gee Records is out - "Teenage Love" and "Paper Castles" are out on #1032. The group signs on for Irvin Feld's "Biggest Show of 1957" tour and then will appear in Panama as the only American act there for carnival. On April 1, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers begin a twelve week tour of the British Isles. While there they will cut an LP called "at the London Palladium" for Gee Records. Melody maker the top music publication in Great Britain writes about the tour and in an interesting aside describes a growing rift between Lymon and the rest of the group. In April Gee Records releases "Out In The Cold Again" and "Miracle In The Rain" on #1036. The ballad side by the group "Out In The Cold Again" is as good as it gets with vocal group harmony and the performance shows the true professionalism of the group well beyond their young years. The flip side however while not as strong is the one that starts the rumors flying. Despite being noted on the label as by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, it is obviously a solo effort and recent stories about a growing coolness between Frankie and the rest of the group seem to fan the flames of discord. In July of that year the charade is carried further by advertising "Goody Goody" as by the group when it is a solo effort and only Frankie's photo appears in the print advertising in the trade papers. The flip side of this release on Gee #1039 is "Creation Of Love".

The group still an entity signs on with Alan Freed for the July 4th week show back at the New York Paramount. In August the word is out that Gee Records is now looking for a new lead singer for The Teenagers. Frankie as a solo performer will fulfill some dates in California and then in early September hit the road with another Irvin Feld super tour, this time as a solo singer. The Teenagers appear with Jocko Henderson in Newark, New Jersey in mid September now minus Frankie. In December The Teenagers with new lead singer Billy Lobrano record "Flip Flop" and "Everything To Me" on #1046. The new version of The Teenagers appear with Alan Freed at his holiday show at the New York Paramount headlined by Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. In July of 1958 "Mama Wanna Rock" and "My Broken Heart" by The Teenagers is released on Roulette #4086. Late in the year a Roulette release by a group called Tiny Tim & The Hits of the song "Wedding Bells" is rumored to be a reunited Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Roulette Records clears up the mystery by showing the group is from California and Tim is in reality Howard Wilson, a fourteen year old from Los Angeles. The Teenagers are not reunited with Frankie Lymon as both go their separate ways and neither one has any further success.

In 1958 a further George Goldner label, End Records records The Teenagers on #1071 with Joe Negroni on lead on the song "Crying" and on the flip side the song "Tonight's The Night" with lead by Ken Bobo formerly of the group The Juniors. The next release for End on #1076 featured the lead singing of Johnny Houston on the tunes "Can You Tell Me" and "I'm A Little Wiser Now". Jimmy Castor former leader of The Juniors writes a couple of songs for the group and they get to record for the Columbia label with Joe Negroni on lead on "What's On Your Mind?" and "The Draw" as by Sherman & The Teenagers released on Columbia #42054. That was the end of The Teenagers, the group who changed the course of American music in the mid nineteen fifties. From time to time in the seventies and early eighties some of the original members got together with Pearl McKinnion (formerly of The Kodoks) to recreate the sound of the original group. The Teenagers were the vocal group that exerted the biggest influence on the vocal group scene in the nineteen fifties and we now know that we would never see the likes of them again.

to next page . . . . . . . .

back to title page . . . . . .