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Lewis Lymon and The Teenchords

I'm So Happy (Tra-La-La-La-La-La)

If Frankie Lymon could at least temporarily escape the poverty of the New York ghetto by fronting a vocal group, why not his little brother? Lewis Lymon looked and sounded a lot like his sibling, and he had his own integrated vocal group too.

Born June 20, 1944, Lewis followed in his dad's gospel footsteps, singing in The Harlemaire Juniors at his church at age five (Frankie was there too). In the wake of The Teenagers' success, Lewis joined a Washington Heights group that would be known as The Teenchords. Lymon was joined by Hispanic second tenor Rossilio Rocca, Caucasian baritone Lyndon Harold, and African-American bass David Little. 13-year-old first tenor Ralph Vaughan, a pal of The Velvets' Charles Sampson, joined in June of 1956. The very night the group met Vaughan at the Apollo, Sampson escorted them to Bobby Robinson's 125th Street record shop. They auditioned with The Teenagers' Who Can Explain. Bobby signed them on the spot.

Lymon wrote Lydia, half of the group's rocking debut single, waxed in November of '56 and the first release on Robinson's new Fury label the next month. Robinson and Les Cooper crafted I'm So Happy (Tra-La-La-La-La-La), sporting a Sam 'The Man' Taylor sax solo and sounding a great deal like a Teenagers platter thanks to 12-year-old Lewis' pubescent high tenor (he was front-billed from the outset).

Robinson brought in Richard Barrett, who discovered and honed The Teenagers, to work on The Teenchords' Fury encore Honey Honey (You Don't Know), another jump, and its ballad flip Please Tell The Angels, out in March of '57. After a last Fury outing coupling an upbeat I'm Not Too Young To Fall In Love and a Cooper-penned ballad, Falling In Love, that August, The Teenchords joined Frankie at George Goldner's operation - in their case, End Records. Goldner had acquired rights to the Robinson-produced stormer Your Last Chance and its flip Too Young (the Nat Cole ballad taken at an up-tempo clip); it came out in September. They high-stepped through Your Last Chance in the film musical 'Jamboree,' displaying acrobatic moves while sharing the bill with Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Little and Harold were gone prior to the recording of The Teenchords' encore; Owen Hightower and Eddie Pellegrino were their replacements. I Found Out Why answered Frankie's Why Do Fools Fall In Love in late '57, paired with Tell Me Love. Goldner sent their final platter (Cooper's Dance Girl b/w the pop chestnut Them There Eyes, both old Fury masters) to his Juanita logo in 1958. Jimmy Castor of The Juniors was briefly a Teenchord along with John Pruitt, but by '59 they were no more. During the '80s, Lewis put together a new batch of Teenchords and later sang with the reformed Teenagers.

 

- Bill Dahl -

Various Vol.8, - Street Corner Symphonies 1956

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