The Chantels were the second African-American girl group to have nationwide success in the United States, preceded by The Bobbettes. The group was established in the early 1950s and attended St. Anthony of Padua school in The Bronx. The original five members consisted of Arlene Smith (lead), Sonia Goring, Rene Minus, Jackie Landry Jackson and Lois Harris. They derived their name from that of a rival school, St. Frances de Chantal.

The Chantels by 1957, then in high school, had been a group for seven years. Unlike some black groups of their time, the quintet was under the influences of classical music and Latin hymns. The lead singer, Arlene Smith, had received classical training and performed at Carnegie Hall at age twelve. Smith provided the group with both lyrics and music.

The girls were discovered by Richard Barrett, lead singer of The Valentines and by summer 1957 signed to End Records, owned by George Goldner. Their first single was "He's Gone" (Pop #71) in August 1957, written by Arlene Smith. In January 1958, The Chantels had a hit with their second single, "Maybe" (#15 Billboard Hot 100; #2 R & B chart). "Maybe" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Following releases were less successful but End did release an album originally titled We Are The Chantels.

The original cover had a picture of the group. The album was soon withdrawn and repackaged with a picture of two white teenagers picking out a song; the title was shortened to The Chantels.

The group was dropped by End in 1959, and Arlene Smith decided to embark upon a solo career. Harris left to pursue a college education. That year, Chantels singles led by Richard Barrett were released on the End subsidiary of Gone.

In 1960, Annette Smith (no relation) replaced Arlene Smith. Narrowed down to a quartet, the group moved on to Carlton Records where they had their second huge hit with "Look in My Eyes" (#14 pop, #6 R&B). Other releases on Carlton didn't do as well.

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