The Chantels (not to be confused with the reggae group The Chantells ) were the second African-American girl group to have nationwide success in the United States, preceded by The Bobbettes. The group was established in the early 1950s and attended St. Anthony of Padua school in The Bronx. The original five members consisted of Arlene Smith (lead), Sonia Goring, Rene Minus, Jackie Landry Jackson and Lois Harris. They derived their name from that of a rival school, St. Frances de Chantal.
The Chantels by 1957, then in high school, had been a group for seven years. Unlike some black groups of their time, the quintet was under the influences of classical music and Latin hymns. http://www.history-of-rock.com/chantels.htm The lead singer, Arlene Smith, had received classical training and performed at Carnegie Hall at age twelve. Smith provided the group with both lyrics and music. The girls were discovered by Richard Barrett (musician)|Richard Barrett, lead singer of The Valentines (doo-wop band)|The Valentines, and by summer 1957 signed to End Records, owned by George Goldner. Their first single (music)|single was "He's Gone" (Pop #71) in August 1957, written by Arlene Smith. Released in December 1957, their second single, " Maybe (The Chantels song)|Maybe " was a hit (#15 Billboard Hot 100| Billboard Hot 100 ; #2 Rhythm and blues|R & B record chart|chart ) in January 1958. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a music recording sales certification|gold disc. Following releases were less successful but End did release an album originally titled We Are The Chantels. The original cover had a picture of the group. The album was soon withdrawn and repackaged with a picture of two white teenagers picking out a song; the title was shortend to The Chantels. http://www.bsnpubs.com/roulette/end.html
The group was dropped by End in 1959, and Arlene Smith decided to embark upon a solo (music)|solo career. Harris left to pursue a college education. That year, Chantels singles led by Richard Barrett were released on the End subsidiary of Gone. In 1960, Annette Smith (no relation) replaced Arlene Smith. Narrowed down to a quartet, the group moved on to Carlton Records where they had their second huge chart-topper|hit with "Look in My Eyes" (#14 pop, #6 R&B). Other releases on Carlton didn't do as well. One of them was "Well I Told You," a response to the Ray Charles song " Hit the Road, Jack. A Carlton album was released in 1962 titled The Chantels on Tour but featured no live recordings whatsoever and only seven of the tracks were recorded by the actual group. The other three tracks were by Gus Backus, Chris Montez, and Little Anthony & The Imperials. http://www.bsnpubs.com/nyc/carlton/carltonstory.html http://www.bsnpubs.com/nyc/carlton/carltonlps.html To cash in on "Look in My Eyes", End pulled together an album titled ''There's Our Song Again, a compilation of previously recorded material.
The Chantels switched record label s a few more times. Personnel changed throughout the rest of the 1960s. Arlene Smith fronted a new group of Chantels in the 1970s which featured up and coming disco diva Carol Douglas for oldies shows and continues to perform. The remaining original Chantels reformed as well and hired Noemi (Ami) Ortiz as their new lead singer. On the Public Broadcasting Service|PBS special Doo Wop 50, Smith reunited with the surviving original members of the Chantels and dedicated "Maybe" to Jackie Landry, who died in 1997.
The Chantels were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2001, they made the final ballot for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not get enough votes for induction. Despite continued appearances since then on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballots by 1950s doo-wop groups, the Chantels did not get enough votes to reach any subsequent ballot until September 2009, when it was revealed that they were one of twelve nominees to be inducted to the Hall in 2010.