Before creating the number one hit “Little Star” in 1958, Vito Picone, Arthur Venosa, Frank Tardogno, Carmen Romano, and James Moschello were just local kids harmonizing in South Beach, Staten Island. Like many street corner groups of the time, this group would perform informally on local street corners and the boardwalk near their homes. One night, while harmonizing, the group was inspired by a Schenley’s Whiskey advertisement that promoted the drink as “The liquor of elegance.” Soon the group was calling themselves the Elegants, and late one night while joking around and singing nursery rhymes, the group sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in harmony and in an up-tempo fashion. In no time, the song was number one in the summer of 1958.
Originally consisting of Emil Stucchio, Tony Victor, Johnny Gambale, and Jamie Troy, this Brooklyn group originally called themselves the Perennials. One night while performing at a local venue, the Master of Ceremonies asked Emil Stucchio, lead singer of the Perennials, what his group’s name was so he could announce them as the next act. Emil said the group was called the Perennials, and then the Master of Ceremonies introduced them as The Classics. Slightly confused, but carrying on with the show, the group performed their set and later asked the MC why he called them by the wrong name. The Master of Ceremony told the group that from the time Emil gave him the name backstage to when he introduced them he had forgotten the name. He gave them the name The Classics because he felt if he could not remember their name, no one else would either. Later under the name The Classics, the group recorded such songs as “Cinderella” and their most famous, “Till Then”, a new rendition of the Mills Brothers 1946 hit. “Till Then” made its debut in May of 1963, and peaked at number 20 on the pop charts.
In the summer of 1962, the Excellents song “Coney Island Baby” became a favorite of many. Before The Excellents ever recorded “Coney Island Baby”, the were singing on the various street corners and subways in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, New York, and originally called themselves the Premiers. It was during this time the group found a new moniker. One night, while harmonizing in the parking lot of a White Castle hamburger restaurant, a passerby heard their rich harmonies and commented to the group they sounded excellent. The lead singer John Kuse, and the other group members Joel Feldman, Denis Kestenbaum, George Kuse, Phil Sanchez, and Chuck Epstein all agreed they would call themselves The Excellents.
In 1961 a new group entered the Rock and Roll scene, they called themselves The Earls and had such hits as “Life Is But A Dream”, “Remember Then”, “Looking For My Baby”, “I Believe”, “Never” and “Eyes” among others. The story behind the group’s name is as unique as their songs. In the Bronx, New York, Larry Figueiredo (known today as Larry Chance), Larry Palumbo, Eddie Harder, Jack Wray, Ronnie Calabrese, Tony Olbert, and Bobby Del Din would harmonize in the bathrooms of Evander Childs High School, and at the local candy stores. After many months of practice, the group planned to call themselves The Hi-Hatters, and intended to purchase top hats and white gloves for all the group members. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funds, the group had decided to abandon The Hi-Hatters name and call themselves something new. After much deliberation, the group decided they would open a dictionary, and whatever word their finger landed on would be their name. Sure enough the book opened and Larry Chance’s finger was firmly pressed on the word earl. The definition stated, “A nobleman of rank”. Larry Chance still remarks, “If my finger was an inch higher the group would have been called the ears.”
The Marcels hit song “Blue Moon”, became a Doo Wop anthem, and their hits that followed, such as “Heartaches”, and their rendition of “Summertime” were often heard on car radios and transistors across the country in 1961. As fate would have it, their iconic name The Marcels was not actually proposed by any of the group members themselves. Formed in 1959 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the group consisted of Cornelius Harp, Fred Johnson, Gene Bricker, Ron Mundy, and Richard Knauss. Like any other group of the decade they would harmonize together and mimic the sounds they heard on the radio. One day while harmonizing, bass singer Fred Johnson’s sister suggested they call themselves the Marcels after the iconic marcel hairdo that Johnson and other members of the group sported. All the group members liked this name, and soon the world would know it as they signed with Colpix Records, and shared their harmonies and famous bass with a generation.
In the late 50’s friends Phil Cracolici, Albee Cracolici, George Galfo, Bob Ferrante, and Al Contrera were harmonizing in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The quintet called themselves the Overons, but soon decided to take manager Jim Gribble’s suggestion to change the name when they were signed to Laurie Records. Each group member wrote down a potential name on a slip of paper, and when Gribble pulled one of the five slips out of the hat, Al Contreras suggestion, “The Mystics” won. The Mystics would be eminently successful, with their most iconic song “Hushabye” reaching number twenty on the charts in 1959, followed by “White Cliffs of Dover” and “Don’t Take the Stars.” Years later, a previously-shelved recording of “Over The Rainbow” was featured in the wildly popular television series The Sopranos.