I Promise To Remember part two : Frankie Lymon©2003JCMarion


In April of 1957, Gee Records #1036 is released. "Out In The Cold Again" by The Teenagers is a splendid ballad side by the group. The flip side however is the future as it is a solo performance done without the knowledge of the rest of the group Sherman Garnes, Joe Negroni, Jimmy Merchant, or Herman Satiago. There had been rumors of trouble between Frankie and the rest of the group as people started getting it into Frankie's head that the group was rolling along on his coat tails and that he would be better off by himself. During the group's tour of Britain in 1957, Frankie had some stage time as a solo artist much to the dismay of the rest of the group. A further attempt to put Frankie out on stage alone using a recorded back up made the split imminent. When the solo version of "Miracle" appeared these problems came out in the open. By July the rumor became fact and Frankie was now a solo act. His first open release was Gee #1039 of "Goody Goody" even though the print ads stated as by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. The group had in fact recorded the tune together but the released version had Frankie vocalizing with the Ray Charles Singers (not the Atlantic R & B singer), but a big studio chorus. Frankie goes out solo on "The Biggest Show of Stars For 1957 for six weeks. In September Roulette Records announces Frankie Lymon will record for that label moving from Gee which it acquired recently, although a quick release of "Goody Good Girl" and "I'm Not Too Young To Dream" was issued on Gee #1052. Roulette will issue an LP "Frankie Lymon At The London Palladium". In September Roulette releases #4026 by Frankie - "So Goes My Love" and "My Girl", and Frankie does shows on the West Coast throughout the month. At year's end "It's Christmas Once Again" and the pop oldie "Little Girl" are released on Roulette #4035.

In January of 1958 Roulette Records releases "Thumb Thumb" and "Footsteps" on #4044. Frankie signs on with Alan Freed for the "Big Beat Show" which will tour the East and Midwest on a series of one nighters that will last six weeks. In April Roulette tries again with "Portable On My Shoulder" and "Mama Don't Allow It" on #4068 this time picturing Frankie as a sophisticated entertainer even though he's just sixteen years old. In July Frankie does a turn on Alan Freed's television program called "The Big Beat" for Dumont Channel Five in New York. Roulette returns again in August with "The Only Way To Love" and "Melinda" released on #4093. The last five solo efforts were all failures as Frankie and Roulette search for an answer. In early 1959 Frankie tours the West and Southwest in support of his latest recording "Up Jumped A Rabbit" and "No Matter What You've Done" on Roulette #4128. Lymon signs on for Irvin Feld's "Biggest Show of Stars For 1959" for a four week excursion across the South and Midwest with Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, The Coasters, Crests, Imperials, Lloyd Price and others. In April "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Before I Fall Asleep" on #4150 continues the trend of having Frankie do one side of each recording with an up tempo pop standard. This has not hit a top seller since the first attempt of "Goody Goody" almost two years ago. By the end of the year Roulette activates the Gee label and reveals that its LP by the original Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers continues to sell two and a half years after its debut.

Frankie continues to record for Roulette without any degree of success. He now tries his hand at becoming a cover artist, doing other people's hits. "Creation Of Love" is brought back this time coupled with a cover of "Little Bitty Pretty One" (Bobby Day and Thurston Harris & The Sharps) on #4257that actually does better than anything else Lymon has done in the last two years. The next cover is "Buzz Buzz Buzz (Hollywood Flames) coupled with "Waiting In School" on #4283. Elvis "Jailhouse Rock" and The Rays "Silhouettes" are the tunes on Roulette #4310, and "Change Partners" and "So Young" are released by Roulette in 1960 on #4348, and the final single for the label was "I Put The Bomp" and "Young" on #4391. There was also one release for the Columbia label that also went nowhere - "Sweet And Lovely" and "Somewhere" on #43094. By 1961 the dark side of the life of Frankie Lymon took hold. Supposedly in 1962 for one day, Frankie and his brother Louie appeared together at the Apollo Theater - but only for one day. With his voice now changed and the music going in a new direction, he was a half forgotten curio from the fifties. He began to deal with his problems with that scourge of the community, heroin. A time in the military served to straighten him out some, but soon he was back on the street and back in trouble. There was one last recording session that resulted in "Sea Breeze" and "I'm Sorry" for Apple Records on #100 in 1965 which did not see the light of day, and there were the marriages. Who could keep track ? Zola Taylor of The Platters was the one wife everybody heard of. In the mid sixties Frankie showed up on the syndicated TV show "Hollywood A Go Go" and lip synched the original version of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", a most pathetic sight. Then he was gone from sight, until word of his death from an overdose of heroin in 1968. He was once again momentarily famous as drug dealers in Harlem claimed their "stuff" was so good that "my bag killed Frankie Lymon" incredibly became a top sales pitch on the mean streets.

A PBS documentary on the life and times of Lymon was produced. It was called "I Promise To Remember" and featured Herman Santiago and Richard Barrett remembering the performer that lit up our lives for a too brief time in the mid nineteen fifties. A melancholy scene of Pearl McKinnion leading a reconstituted version of The Teenagers in a show at Stitt Junior High School is shown. At that time Diana Ross recorded a best selling remake of "Why Do Fools" and the kids in the neighborhood refused to believe that Herman Santiago was in on the writing of the song. Soon after, the sales of the Ross version resulted in a small treasure for royalties and the circus really began. All the real (and supposed) wives of Frankie showed up looking for their share of the loot. The whole sordid scene was captured in a motion picture that did nothing for the memory of the thirteen year old tenor singer that changed rock 'n' roll forever. He deserved better than that. He deserved much better.

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