It’s a tale as old as … tales. The spotlight shines on the lead singer, and the audience sees the rest of the group as silhouettes on the periphery, out of focus shadows moving about the stage while the glow of adulation and the laurels of fame warm the brow of the vocalist. It is to him that the fans give their hearts. It is his name they remember.
Some bands come to grips with this, others come to blows. Let’s see what happens with these guys!
The Teenagers met at school in Manhattan in the early 50’s and formed a vocal group. In 1954, they added 12-year old Frankie Lymon to the mix due to his ability to hit the high harmonies with ease. In the studio the following year for their first recording session, working on a song called “Why Do Birds Sing So Gay,” Lymon’s voice stood out from the rest, and producer (slash record label owner) George Goldner asked Frankie to try taking the lead.
Lymon improvised with the melody and words enough to put his own imprint on the song (and enough to gain a writing credit). When released as a single in December of 1955, the newly titled “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” shot into the Top 10, and teens across the nation fell in love with Frankie Lymon.
Originally, the singles were billed as just The Teenagers, which quickly changed to The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon, and finally ended up as Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. The group had a couple more hits over the next year, but resentment festered until it became necessary for The Teenagers to go one way, and Frankie another. Neither entity would make it onto the charts again.
But let’s go back to when everyone was young and happy, and listen to The Teenagers, with little Frankie Lymon, posing the unanswerable questions. Why, indeed?