In 1956 Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers rocked the world with their hit song “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. From 1956-57 they were on fire but that fire quickly burned out when Frankie went solo. Once Lymon left he had success with the songs “Goody Goody” and “Little Bitty Pretty One”, as for the Teenagers, well they didn’t have any success.
Post Lymon Teenagers
Shortly after Frankie’s departure from the group they hired Billy Lobrano, a white teenager. That didn’t turn out to be a wise decision as fans just weren’t interested, in fact during a recent interview with “Mov’em Radio” Jimmy Merchant said “We took a white guy which was not a good idea – what we should’ve done was get somebody just like Frankie.” Here’s the link to the full interview https://youtu.be/QdFkx9Rvapo
So after that didn’t work the original members decided to move forward as a quartet and in 1961 they released perhaps their most popular post Lymon song called “The Draw”. While it was probably their most popular it didn’t bring them much success.
Frankie Lymon’s Solo Career & The Teenagers Reunion
As mentioned earlier, Frankie made noise on the charts with “Goody Goody” and “Little Bitty Pretty One” but by the early 60s his career was on the decline. His voice had changed, Frankie Lymon the child star was now a man and no one wanted to give his new voice a chance. In 1961 he released a version of “Who Put The Bomp” and if you listen to it you’ll hear that he was still a great singer but his voice was completely different from what people had come to know and love. In 1964 The Beach Boys released a cover of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, soon after someone came up with the idea of reuniting Frankie Lymon with the Teenagers so in 1965 they did.
Sherman Garnes said that Frankie sent him a telegram which read “come see me now, money waiting.” Sherman went to visit him and that’s when Frankie told him that a promoter was interested in getting the group back together but wouldn’t record any new material unless all of the original members were there. They got back together but couldn’t stay together long enough to get back into the studio. It’s believed that they performed a show or two and split soon after due to the fact that they could no longer get along. It’s unclear as to what happened during this time but it’s been said that Joe Negroni was still upset with Frankie for leaving the group in 1957. Regardless it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out as they had a chance to be bigger than ever.
Following the the failed reunion each member went his own way and would never perform together again as Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers.
After the Teenagers
In 1966 Lymon was arrested and drafted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for training and while in the area he met a woman by the name of Emira Eagle. The couple got married in June of 1967, later that year Frankie was dishonorably discharged from the Army for going AWOL to perform in small clubs in the south. In February 1968 Frankie would really get the chance to scratch that itch to perform and record or so he thought. Frankie’s manager, Sam Bray called and asked him to come to New York to record new songs, although hesitant Frankie decided to go and was found dead just days later at the age of 25.
The great bass singer went on to cut a few records but his solo career never got off the ground and on February 26, 1977 he passed away of a heart attack.
Once the group split up Joe Negroni made it clear that he no longer wanted to be in the music industry. According to his former bandmate, Jimmy Merchant, Joe wanted to make movies so he became a “pornography movie maker”. He passed away on September 5, 1978 of cerebral hemorrhage.
Jimmy Merchant fell out of the entertainment industry and became a cab driver in NYC after the Teenagers split. Years later he rejoined the group with Herman Santiago and replacements for the deceased members (Frankie, Sherman and Joe). He released a solo album entitled “Jimmy Merchant Sings Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers”. Merchant is now retired from performing and is currently working on a book which he hopes to release by spring of 2022.
Herman Santiago continued to perform with the group after Merchant retired and is still performing with them today, they are now billed as “The Legendary Teenagers”. Herman is also the only group member that has spoken publicly about his last encounter with his former friend and bandmate, Frankie Lymon. In 2016 during an interview Santiago said “At the time, he was in the service. He was in Georgia, he came home from the service and we saw one another. We just talked and things like that. He looked very healthy, very good. He was looking forward to going into the studio. That’s how he was the last time I saw him.” Here’s the link https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2016/11/frankie_lymon_and_the_teenagers.html
Although their time in the spotlight was short, there is no denying the fact that Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers were some of the true pioneers of rock & roll. Frankie was also the first black teen idol, he paved the way for artists like Michael Jackson and Tevin Campbell.
Check out Frankie’s dazzling performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. https://youtu.be/K3VLt_Q5pmA