Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Richard Barrett & the Chantels

Richard Barrett is not a name that immediately springs to mind when the history of doowop and girl groups is discussed. Yet he was central to its development, having discovered one of the very earliest girl groups the Chantels and the biggest name of the 70s the Three Degrees (who he discovered in 1963 - pictured below), not to mention in the doowop field Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Little Anthony & the Imperials.
I came across a 45 by Richard Barrett & the Chantels at the weekend - a cover of Come Softly To me, made famous by the Fleetwoods - and not long ago I found Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Dickie Barrett (same man). Now I'm looking for one of the most influential 45s of the 60s British R and B scene - Some Other Guy by Ritchie Barrett (again the same guy) - which was covered by the likes of the Stones and the Big Three.

Barrett started out as lead singer of the Valentines from 1954 to 1957 before becoming right hand man to George Goldner, owner of the Gee and Roulette labels and playing a key role in discovering and promoting the likes of Frankie Lymon, Little Anthony and the Bobbettes. The Chantels, with Arlene Smith singing lead, scored with He's Gone and Maybe and led the way for the girl groups that were to follow in the early 60s. After Arlene left, Richard took over as lead singer himself for Come Softly To Me (and the New Orleans influenced flipside Walking Through Dreamland), before bringing in Annette Smith of the Veneers for a second burst of hits on Carlton including Look In My Eyes and Well I Told You, an answer to Hit The Road Jack. Richard Barrett produced the Chantels final (minor) hit Eternally, issued on Capitol, a copy of which I also came across not long ago.

Barrett died in 2006 and I failed to mention his death on The Vinyl Word at the time. But he was without doubt a major name in the development of doowop and the girl group sound.


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