Twin brothers Hal and Herbie Kalin were a pop music duo called (what else?) The Kalin Twins. They surfaced fleetingly on the 1950s music scene. Nearly akin in style and spirit to another 50s sibling duo The Everly Brothers, they were known for their top 10 hit charter, “When” in 1958 after a string of previous recording flops. The song also topped the UK charts as well, and because of the single’s momentary success, it enabled the twins to tour and perform in the UK where they were supported by star (Sir) Cliff Richard. They also scored a Top 40 hit, “Forget Me Not” later that same year. But after a couple of subsequent singles that performed weakly on the charts, they never performed again and went out of the spotlight. That is until in 1977 and then in 1989, they performed as a nostalgia act, sometimes along with their other sibling Jack (making them the Kalin Brothers). Hal passed away in 2005; Herbie died less than a year later.
Twins Herbert Harry “Herbie” and Harold “Hal” Kalin were born in Port Jervis, New York on February 16, 1934. When they were just five years old the twins got a taste of publicity when they first performed at their town’s Christmas party. Their knack for performing had stuck with them ever since.
The twins listened to a lot of music, which ranged from pop standards to R&B. Their earliest influences were Tony Bennett, Johnny Ray, and Nat King Cole.
In 1952, Hal was drafted into the US Army (some sources cite that Hal was drafted into the US Air Force), therefore temporarily stalling their musical partnership. The twins kept in touch with each other, discussing their future plans on making it into the music business. They also sent the songs they had written and recorded on tape.
When Hal returned from his service four years later, he and Herbie were set on reviving their double act. After shipping their demos to various labels, they were finally signed to Decca, with the help of songwriter Clint Ballard Jr. (who wrote hits such as “Good Timin,” and “I’m Alive.”)
The Kalin Twins went for their first recording session in December 1957, and result of that session was a trio of singles that failed to chart. Their initial claim to fame was their first appearance on the TV musical variety program The Milt Grant Show as well as through package tours at that time. Due to their close-harmony singing, the twins were often compared to the more popular counterparts the Everly Brothers.
Biggest hit single with “When”
The twins were searching through a pile of writers’ demo tapes, looking for a potential hit. Finally, they found a song they liked — “When,” which was written by Paul Evans and Jack Reardon. However, Decca chose to release “Three O’Clock Thrill” as a single instead, with “When” as its B-side. Thankfully, the radio disc jockeys preferred to play the B-side much more than the A-side, and that’s where “When” took off. In the summer of 1958, “When” finally made it to the Hot 100. It eventually peaked at #5. It also went to #1 on the US R&B and UK singles chart, and #13 on the country charts.
Although the Kalin Twins are seen as the archetypal one-hit wonders, they otherwise managed more than just one national smash. The follow-up single to “When,” “Forget Me Not” (written by Larry Kolber and Larry Martin) reached #12 on the Hot 100. Another single “It’s Only the Beginning” (written by Aaron Schroeder and Sid Wayne) just missed the Top 40, settling at #42. “Sweet Sugar Lips” was to be the twins’ last Hot 100 single, charting at #97 in 1959. It was written by the husband-and-wife duo Bordeaux and Felice Bryant, who also penned many of the Everly Brothers’ hits.
The twins in later life
Their remaining Decca singles didn’t chart. Disillusioned, the twins mutually decided to go back to their day jobs, effectively ceasing their recording career in 1962. They also continued their studies in college where they pursued their own degrees.
The Kalin Twins returned to performing again in 1977 when a mutual friend invited them to perform weekly at his newly opened venue, the River Boat Club. Since then the twins had been performing for the oldies circuit. They were sometimes joined by their younger sibling Jack, making the act the Kalin Brothers. In 1989, the Kalin Twins were invited by Sir Cliff Richard to perform in a series of shows to celebrate his 30th anniversary in show business.
In August 2005, Hal Kalin died from injuries he suffered in an automobile accident, aged 71. Almost a year later, Herbie Kalin succumbed to a heart attack, aged 72.