1960 – present (58 years)
The Bronx, New York, New York, United States
The Chiffons are an all girl group originating from New York, New York in 1960, best known for their hit pop singles such as "One Fine Day" and "Sweet Talkin' Guy" that are staples of oldies radio. Foreshadowing the later success of many African-American pop and soul artists of the period, the Chiffons' sassy flair made them one of the top girl groups of the early 60s.
This all got started when the girls met at James Monroe High School in the Bronx, New York. Lead singer Judy Craig was a mere 14-year-old while Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee were both only 13, all of them facing a lot of challenges if they wanted to be stars. Yet they felt enough determination to hook up with writer/manager Ronnie Mack and sign with Big Deal Records. Though still an embryonic group, their version of "Tonight's the Night" went up to #76 in September 1960, showing the group's potential. Soon their trademark tight harmonies, coupled with their high-stepping confidence and the production duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King writing for them, earned the Chiffons had popular success in song after song.
Made up of the aforementioned Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett, and Barbara Lee at first, Sylvia Peterson of Little Jimmie And The Tops came into the group in 1963. That year, their song "He's So Fine" was the #1 record on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. The Chiffons' seemed to have completely 'made it', appearing on programs such as 'American Bandstand'.
British singer-songwriter George Harrison's 1971 song "My Sweet Lord" was musically almost identical, prompting a copyright infringement claim. A judge later found that the ex-Beatle had unintentionally plagiarized the earlier song. The Chiffons went on to record a competing version of "My Sweet Lord" in 1975. The case is often cited as one of the most famous and influential legal cases in the music industry.
The Chiffons' initial run at success was followed by other notable tunes such as the aforementioned "One Fine Day" as well as the songs "Sweet Talkin' Guy", "A Love So Fine", and "I Have a Boyfriend". Although many of their recordings were derivative of the period, fans appreciated their take on the contemporary pop sound. Their Top 40 single "I Have A Boyfriend" was notably playing on Dallas station KLIF on November 22, 1963 and was interrupted by the first radio bulletins of the JFK assassination.
The group also released material under the title 'The Four Pennies' that explored different musical styles. Though finding some fans, the phantom artist failed to break through commercially. The Chiffons themselves faced changing musical tides with the British invasion and the rise of many different trends, and their run of popular success appeared to have pretty much come to an end when the 70s began.
Though Craig left the Chiffons, they continued on as a trio. As the years passed, the group toured in the 'oldies circuit'. In 1992, Lee died from a heart attack the day before her 45th birthday. While that seemed to have put an end to the group, Craig decided to return. Peterson retired shortly thereafter and was replaced by Connie Harvey. Harvey has since left to pursue a solo career with Bennett also retiring. Craig continued on with replacement backup singers. After the turn of the millennium, Craig has still been touring as the Chiffons with her daughter and her niece by her side, performing at select shows throughout the U.S. and internationally.
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