The Chimes – “Once in a While”

Who are the Chimes?

The Chimes were a 1950s-1960s New York all-white doo-wop group hailing from Brooklyn. They were formed by lead vocalist Lenny Cocco, and so they were alternately known as Lenny & The Chimes. Their first single was “Once In A While,” which just fell short of making it to the Top 10 singles chart in 1961. Their follow-up single was “I’m In The Mood For Love,” which went to #38 also in the same year. Subsequent singles failed to chart and the band soon broke up in 1964, in the midst of start of the British Invasion. In the later years Cocco reformed the group as Lenny Coco and the Chimes to perform for nostalgic audiences.

A different “Chimes”

There are a hundreds of acts that carry the name “The Chimes,” including a Scottish dance trio or an American band where Smokey Robinson had been a member. But here in this hub, we are focusing on another American band with the same name. The Chimes were a doo-wop vocal group hailed from Brooklyn, New York. The group was led by Lenny Cocco, the son of a professional accordion player. Other members consist of Pat DePrisco (lead tenor), Richard Mercado (second tenor), Joseph Croce (baritone) at Pat McGuire (bass). These guys came together and formed a band in the mid-1950s and initially named themselves The Capris.

The Chimes’ first and biggest hit with “Once in a While”

The Chimes’ first single was a cover of Tommy Dorsey’s “Once in a While” (written by Michael Edwards and Bud Green). It was said that Lenny Cocco’s father recommended him and his band to focus on Dorsey’s 1937 #1 hit and a popular standard. In 1960 the group went to the famous Brill Building in nearby Manhattan to record a demo of their own version of “Once in a While.” Released on Tag Records in 1961, it just fell one shy away of making to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (at #11). The single occupied this position for eighteen straight weeks.

The success brought about by “Once in a While” opened more touring opportunities to the Chimes. They performed at New York’s Apollo Theater, Chicago’s The Regal and Washington, D.C.’s The Howard.

Another hit with “I’m in the Mood for Love”

As the Chimes loved standards, they covered another one, this time being Little Jack Little’s 1935 number “I’m in the Mood for Love.” The single made it to the Top 40 at #38 in 1961. They also went on to cover another standard, Eddy Duchin’s “Let’s Fall in Love.” It wasn’t long before the Chimes came up with their highly original song “Paradise,” which was penned and arranged by Cocco.

Tragedy struck the band in 1962 as their Pat McGuire was fatally struck by a car, whose driver was heavily drunk. Despite this, the group vowed themselves to keep on performing.

The Chimes: moving on

In 1963 the group left Tag Records, and recorded later for Metro, Laurie and Vee Jay labels. They released one final single on Vee-Jay called “Two Times.” Vee-Jay’s collapse as well as the British Invasion that took over America contributed to the Chimes’ breakup. However, in the years that followed the Chimes was revived with several different configurations, and played to nostalgia audiences under the name Lenny Cocco and the Chimes.