One of the early ‘girl groups’ of Rock and Roll was honored with a street co-naming near where they first launched their career.
The Chantels, famous for their 1958 hit ‘Maybe’, had a street corner co-named in their honor in Morrisania on Friday, April 5.
One of the first girl groups to gain national attention, the Chantels met while singing in the St. Anthony of Padua Church choir and attending the parish’s high school in the 1950s, said Lois Powell, a Chantel who attended the ceremonial sign unveiling.
Prospect Avenue between East 165th and East 166th streets, near the church, was named in their honor.
The unveiling of the sign with band members was followed by a program inside St. Anthony of Padua’s where members of Toys and Cookies, R&B girl groups from the same era, serenaded the Chantels with renditions of some of their top songs. Powell said the group found hearing their songs performed by others especially moving.
“It was totally overwhelming,” said Powell. “It was amazing that we ended up when we started, that was by the grace of God.”
Powell said that the Chantels were thankful and grateful for anyone who had been a part in making the day happen.
The sign unveiling and program honored the group: Powell, Arlene Smith, Jacqueline Landry Jackson (who passed away in 1997), Renee Minus White, and Sonia Goring Wilson, as well as the band’s newest member Neomi Ortiz Brink.
Beverly Lindsay-Johnson from Kendall Research, Clyde Fraser Sr. of the Frederick Samuel Foundation, and Hal Keshner organized the program, and the church was glad to welcome the group home.
“I am very excited and feel that the parish community is privileged to host such a special event for the south Bronx,” stated Fr. Joseph Espaillat of St. Anthony of Padua Church, adding “Welcome home Chantels.” Approximately 400 people attended the tribute.
Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who got the street co-naming passed in the NYC City Council in 2018, said that in 1958, when Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were making their names, it was remarkable that five teenage girls from St. Anthony of Padua High School caught the attention of America.
“An inspiration to other girl groups of the time, it was only fitting that we permanently honored The Chantels contribution to music in United States and in the south Bronx,” said Salamanca.
Their first hit, ‘Maybe’ went to 15 on the Billboard 100 charts and reached number one in Canada and number two on the U.S. R&B chart. The song title and the year are featured prominently on the sign.
Fraser was recognized as one of the key people who spearheaded the street co-naming effort.
John Dudley, district manager of Community Board 3, said that Fraser brought to his attention the fact that the Chantels got their start at the church, and that they had already honored another early Rock and Roll group from the area, The Chords.