Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Goody Goody

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers scored one of rock and roll's first teenage anthems (and created a doo-wop classic) when "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" hit the pop Top Ten (and topped Billboard's R & B Chart) back in the early months of 1956.

Lymon was all of 13 years old at the time ... but he was quickly livin' large, dating 25 year old women and building an insatiable drug habit that would ultimately take his life just thirteen years later.

Seems like EVERYBODY wanted a piece of Frankie ... women wanted to mother him, make him a man, or catch a free ride on the Frankie Lymon Express to sex, drugs and rock and roll. When he died, no less than THREE women claimed to be his rightful heirs ... AND his WIFE!!! (If you've never seen the film "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", you NEED to check it out ... it's about as fun-filled a romp through one of the saddest stories of rock and roll as has ever been told.)

Although "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" would be their biggest hit, it was not their ONLY Top 40 Hit on the pop charts. The follow-up single, "I Want You To Be My Girl" went to #17 on Billboard's Top 100 Chart, "I Promise To Remember" hit #33 in Cash Box, "The ABC's of Love" just missed, peaking at #42 in Cash Box and today's featured hit, "Goody Goody", hit #20. (Despite this chart success, the Frankie Lymon clip you're MOST likely to see in any good rock and roll documentary is of The Teenagers performing "I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent", featured in the film "Rock, Rock, Rock". The group also appeared in the film "Mister Rock 'n' Roll" and were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993.)

"Goody Goody" was a remake of a song that first hit #1 for Benny Goodman way back in 1936. It was promoted as Frankie's first solo single but, despite its familiarity and its Top 20 chart status, you'll RARELY hear it featured on oldies radio today.

But here in Forgotten Hits, it's just another one of this week's "Goodies" ... so enjoy!!!

The Frankie Lymon Story: Other than a remake of "Little Bitty Pretty One", released in 1960, Frankie Lymon would never hit the pop charts again. (Once his voice changed ... and the drug use started ... he was no longer the "cute" little teenager whose undeniable appeal helped launch the group's success in the first place. For all intents and purposes, Frankie was the ORIGINAL Michael Jackson!) The group's initial success spurred controversy right from the start ... virtually EVERYBODY connected with the group claimed at least part ownership and writing credit of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" ... variously published accounts credit everyone from a girl named Dolores, who had written a poem called "Why Do Birds Sing So Gay" that the band reportedly reworked into their signature street corner serenade to band members Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago and Frankie Lymon ... to label A & R Man George Goldner (who reportedly changed the title of that poem-set-to-music to "Why Do Fools Fall In Love") to renown Roulette label chief (and infamous con man) Morris Levy, whose name ultimately ended up on the publishing alongside Lymon's. (At various times, ALL of these folks received at least SOME amount of songwriting credit. In fact, it was the release of Diana Ross' 1981 remake of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" ... and the potential royalties thereof ... that promoted THREE of Frankie's "widows" to come out of the woodwork swinging, each looking to stake THEIR claim for the legal share of the new songwriting royalties that Diana's Top Ten hit might generate!)

One has to wonder if The Teenagers ever really had a chance ... as early as their first recording session, the record company powers that be were trying to single Frankie out as the star of the group, immediately starting dissension amongst the band members, who felt that too many people were already whispering in Frankie's ear. (Reportedly, the song was originally sung by Herman Santiago at the group's initial audition. Goldner asked Frankie to give the lead vocal a shot and then signed the group that same day based on what he heard. The record was released as "The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon" with Frankie's name TWICE as large when printed on the label, fueling even MORE friction between his delegated "background singers".) Nevertheless, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" became an immediate hit and the band was soon all over the radio, on TV, touring as part of Alan Freed's road show and then very quickly appearing in the two aforementioned Alan Freed films. Two tours of The U.K. in 1957 helped to solidify the group's popularity there, where "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" had topped the charts the year before. (They even did a special "Command Performance" for Princess Margaret in The Queen's Chambers!) While in England, Frankie went into the studio alone to cut some new tracks ... without The Teenagers. (Reportedly, the band was led to believe that they would add THEIR voices upon their return to The States ... but this never happened.) A live album recorded in London, originally to be titled "Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers At The London Palladium) was later released as simply "Frankie Lymon At The London Palladium". To help soften the blow, Roulette Records (now their new record label) kept The Teenagers on as recording artists but they never had another hit record. (At one point, they were encouraged to find a new lead singer ... Billy Lobrano filled the bill on the single "Flip Flop" ... which is EXACTLY what it did!) By 1959, Frankie's voice had changed so much that the label was rejecting more material than it was releasing ... in fact, his last charted single, "Little Bitty Pretty One", had actually been recorded two years EARLIER for the "Rock 'N' Roll" album ... most likely, Roulette was hoping to capitalize on the "old" Frankie Lymon sound. It worked to a degree ... the single peaked at #45. Meanwhile, The Teenagers continued to try new lead singers (Kenny Bobo, Johnny Houston) in search of new success, but it never happened. By 1964, Frankie was regularly being busted for drug use ... at various times, he claimed that he first smoked marijuana in grade school, started heroin in 1959 (at the age of 17) and was introduced to any variety of drugs during the first major Teenagers tour of 1956. One of his most famous arrests came after he broke into a recording studio and stole the drums, trying to turn them into some quick cash to support his habit. In 1966, it looked like Frankie was trying to turn his life around. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and even entered a rehab program. A brand new manager booked him for an appearance on the hot new television show "Hullabaloo". (Prior to this, Frankie's TV appearances the past several years usually consisted of him lip-synching to recordings of his old hits as he could no longer hit those notes after his voice ... and life-style change.) By all outward appearances, it seemed that Frankie was on the road to recovery ... he had even landed a brand new recording contract. It seems all that much more of a shame that, while home on leave in 1968 ... and on the night before his scheduled "comeback" recording session, Frankie gave himself a celebratory injection ... for the very last time.

DIDJAKNOW?: Back in 1957, while on tour in Canada, a young kid approached Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers backstage with a song he had written that he thought would be PERFECT for them. The band wasn't interested ... so sixteen-year-old Paul Anka went ahead and recorded "Diana" himself instead!!!