Lewis Lymon & The Teenchords©2003JCMarion


Frankie Lymon's younger brother Lewis certainly was interested in following the trail blazed by his brother in early 1956. Brought up in the same household with the emphasis on music just made it that more of a natural progression. With a number of vocal groups in and around the Washington Heights area it was only a matter of time before Lewis, known by everybody as Louie, would make a connection and form a group and head for the big time. The original members of the group were baritone Lyndon Harold, tenors Rosilio Rocca and Ralph Vaughn, bass David Little, and high tenor lead Louie Lymon. They soon came into contact with Harlem record producer Bobby Robinson. The meeting was set up as the story goes, backstage at the Apollo Theater where Louie and his boys were to see older brother Frankie and his group. So it was that in December of 1956, Louie and his Teenchords were signed to a two year recording contract with Bobby Robinson and Fury Records.

In early January of 1957 Fury Records is launched on #1000 with The Teenchords featuring Lewis Lymon (as on the label) with the tunes "I'm So Happy" (also known as "Tra La La La") and "Lydia". Both were rapid uptempo songs dominated by Lymon's high tenor lead which was by now becoming the signature sound of rock 'n' roll vocal groups moving into the late fifties. The group's first big in person show takes place in early February at the Empire Theater in Brooklyn on stage with The Heartbeats, Channels, Valentines, and the band of Bull Moose Jackson. In late March The Teenchords are back on #1003 with "Honey Honey" and "Please Tell The Angels" this time listed on the label as by Lewis Lymon & The Teenchords. In June Vanguard Productions announces plans for a motion picture to be called "The Hit Record", and in the cast of performers are The Teenchords. Otis Blackwell will be the musical director for the film. During the summer a third release of Fury Records is out - "I'm Not Too Young To Fall In Love" and "Falling In Love" on #1006. It is the third up tempo tune and like the other two does well in the Northeast, but not good enough nationally to make it into the best seller charts. In September of the year, despite the announced two year contract signed with Bobby Robinson the previous December, George Goldner announces in the trade press that he has signed the Teenchords for his End record label. Later that month Louie and The Teenchords go on a strange two week engagement with Clarence "Frogman" Henry and Bull Moose Jackson & his band to the British West Indies. In October "Too Young" and "Your Last Chance" on End #1003 is released by the group. By the end of the year "Tell Me Love" and "I Found Out Why" on End #1007 is their second and final recording for that label.

"Dance Girl" and "Them There Eyes" on Juanita Records #101 which came out in 1958 is a strange record. The label was another George Goldner enterprise, but "Dance Girl" was from a session with Bobby Robinson which was acquired by Goldner. Lewis Lymon did not record again for about a year and a half. He auditioned for a number of singing gigs around the New York area but nothing became of any of these opportunities. In late 1959 he joined up with a group called The Townsmen and became part of that quartet along with Louis Vasquez, Rafael Ramos, and Mac Swaggart. The Townsmen recorded for a number of labels in the early sixties - "Moonlight Was Made For Lovers" and I'm In The Mood For Love" on Joey #6202, "I Can't Go On" and "That's All I'll Ever Need" on PJ# 1341, "It's All Over" and "Just A Little Bit" on Herald #585, and a final side for Columbia in late 1963 - "Please Don't Say Goodbye" and "Gotta Get Moving" on #43207. In 1965 Louie tried to set up a recording session with The Townsmen with brother Frankie singing lead, but that did not work out for all involved. Louie spent some time in the sixties in military service and did not sing again until the oldies revues of the 1970's. Brother Frankie of course, had passed away in 1968, and in remembering him most people's thoughts turn to the younger of the brothers and his shorter time in the spotlight. He performed in the shadow of his brother, but had a big part in remaking the music of America. I was lucky enough to be there in 1957 at the New York Paramount to witness both brothers and their respective groups each bring down the house in an Alan Freed show. It was quite a time !

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