Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 6: The Decisions

On October 31, 1988, the judge in the hearing to determine which of Frankie Lymon’s three marriages was legally binding finally reached a decision. It came nearly seven months after final briefs were filed in the case and a little over eight months after Ronnie Italiano and the UGHA had dedicated their Frankie Lymon memorial tombstone.

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Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 5: The Wives

When Frankie Lymon died from a heroin overdose in 1968, he was broke and trying again for a comeback that he never achieved. He left no fortune, but his name was listed as one of the songwriters of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. It was the hit that made him and the Teenagers famous back in 1956, and the one song that he recorded that has remained both popular and valuable over the years. 

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Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 4: The Reunions

The four surviving Teenagers, Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago, Joe Negroni, and Sherman Garnes, reunited in 1973. In an attempt to recapture the sound that had made them famous back in 1956, they recruited Pearl McKinnon to recreate the adolescent lead vocals of Frankie Lymon.

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Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 3: The Revival

At the time of Frankie Lymon’s death, classic doo wop music had been replaced on the charts for over four years. The arrival of the Beatles and the other British Invasion artists had shifted the music dynamic not only on radio stations and in record stores, but also in the performance arena. It was now much more fashionable and lucrative for young people to buy instruments and form bands to play the hits of the day rather than joining vocal harmony groups and sing songs that appeared to be part of the past.

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Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 2: The Downslide

When Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers returned to the United States from their overseas tour, they were together in name only. Frankie would begin his solo career in earnest with high hopes while the Teenagers were faced with the prospect of trying to carry on without the lead singer who had become the face of the group.

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Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues 1: The Teenagers

He was the first teenage rock and roll star, and many believe that 13 year-old Frankie Lymon, along with his group The Teenagers, were very important factors in helping to change the music business in the 1950’s. The Teenagers featured a unique group harmony style that matched perfectly with their lead singer’s stellar voice and stage presence. Their youth and exuberance enabled them to headline shows across the country and help break the color barrier for minority rock and roll acts to appear on national television.

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Best Albums Of 2020: Two Views

My good friend Larry Van Cleve and I share our annual lists of what we considered to be the best albums of the past year.

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