This post courtesy of Explore Brooklyn, an all-inclusive guide to the businesses, neighborhoods, and attractions that make Brooklyn great.
For many, doo-wop music was and is the soundtrack of the city. Born in the African-American neighborhoods of mostly northeastern cities in the 40s and 50s, doo-wop features close harmonies with soaring lead vocals, often sung a capella or accompanied by a low-key rhythm section. Doo-wop songs are usually about love, whether it’s gained, lost, or dreamed about. The moon is a favorite subject, along with the occasional sleeping lion.
As a popular music form, doo-wop peaked in the early 60s, just before the British invasion. Brooklyn, along with its sister borough The Bronx, competed with Philadelphia as the home turf of this song style. Below are some notable Brooklyn doo-wop bands, along with the neighborhoods that helped shape their sounds, with a big assist from examiner.com oldies writer Bill Herald.
The Tokens are best known for their huge 1961 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” They were first called the Linc-Tones during their days at Coney Island’s Abraham Lincoln High School, where they met in the mid-50s. The group originally included Neal Sedaka, although he left by the time “The Lion” was recorded. The group also recorded the songs “Tonight I Fell in Love,” “I Hear Trumpets Blow,” and “Portrait of My Love,” as well as producing other groups’ records.
The Tokens courtesy of Warner Bros. Records via Wikipedia.
Starting life as the Capris in 1957, the Chimes later became Lenny Cocco and the Chimes after its founder and guiding spirit (who passed away earlier this year) realized friends from Rockaway Beach were using the same name. Their big 1961 hit was the Tommy Dorsey song, “Once in a While,” followed by the 30s song, “I’m in the Mood for Love.”
Started by Eugene Pitt, born in Kings County Hospital in 1937, Jive Five had their biggest hit with “My True Story.” The song rose to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the R&B Sides chart. The group stayed relevant in the 60s and 70s by making the transition from doo-wop to soul music. From 1985 to 1995, they appealed to a much younger audience, providing the a capella signature music for Nickelodeon, with the catch phrase, “Nic-Nic-Nic,” performed doo-wop style.
This group is actually a hybrid between The Passions and a rival Brooklyn group known as the Sinceres. Comprised of lead singer Jimmy Gallagher along with Albie Gallone, Vinnie Acierno, and Tony Armato, the group recorded from 1958 until 1963, performing such songs as “Tango of Love,” “I Only Want You,” “I Gotta Know,” and “Sixteen Candles.”
True to the genre, The Classics got their start singing on the street corners of Brooklyn. They had a minor hit with “Cinderella” in 1959, following up in 1961 with “Life is But a Dream” and “Blue Moon.” In 1963, the group had their biggest hit with The Mills Brothers Standard, “Till Then.” The group continues to perform to this day as Emil Stucchio and The Classics.
These days, doo-wop is enjoying a revival. Coney Island’s MCU Park hosted a concert this past August that featured Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, Jay Seigel and The Tokens, John Kuse and The Excellents, and Emil Stucchio and The Classics.