“Maybe” Performed by The Chantels (1957)

May 21, 2008


This is the original version of the classic “Maybe” that I love. It was the second single on End records for one of the first nationally know R&B girl groups, composed of pre-teen friends in a school choir in the Bronx, New York — The Chantels. Their expertise in singing those flawlessly beautiful harmonies came from the Gregorian chants they learned and practiced in school choir.

Here’s what transpired next, after they were “discovered” and signed to the End record label, per the well written synopsis at The History of Rock.Com:

“The Chantels’ first single “He’s Gone,” was released in August 1957. From the four part a capella chime harmony intro topped by Arlene’s floating falsetto to its duplicate ending, “He’s Gone” instantly set a new standard of quality for female group recording. By September 30, the record was on the Billboard national Top 100 charts but inexplicably stopped at number 71. This record charted only seven weeks after Bobbettes hit the top 100 with their first release “Mr. Lee.” Ironically, these two trend setting groups of the 50s only lived a few mile apart.

The Chantels first live performance was at a Jocko show at the Apollo Theatre (Jocko was a legendary New York disc jockey at the time) in which the group was not even on the bill. Richard Barrett brought them on stage and waited for Jocko to present them. The Chantels wowed the audience with “He’s Gone.”

The next recording session, on October 16, 1957 was scheduled not at a regular recording studio, but a refurbished church in midtown Manhattan, apparently for its acoustics. Barrett played the piano along with the supportive bass and drums for the Chantels recording of Arlene Smith’s “Maybe.” Released in December; by January 20, 1958, it was climbing the pop charts and a week later the rhythm and blues charts. “Maybe” reached number 15 Pop and number two R&B by late winter. Interestingly, though not unusual for the time, the original records writer credit s read Casey and Goldner. Later issues and reissues had Arlene Smith and Goldner. As recently as 1987 a Chantels compilation on a Murray Hill three LP set with “Maybe” listed as being written by R. Barrett.”

This live version of original lead singer of the Chantels, Arlene Smith performing “Maybe”, is also priceless. I remember watching this on the original airing of the PBS special and I also purchased the CD from this “Doo-Wop 50 Live” Special recorded in Pittsburg, PA in May of 1999.  Ms. Smith still is in great voice, isn’t she?

As always, I appreciate you stopping by.

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Filed under:Arlene Smith & George Goldner,Doo-Wop Dynamite,End,Fifties,Girl Groups,Maybe,R&B/Doo-Wop,The Chantels

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