Introduction to the Cleftones
American R&B and doo-wop group the Cleftones were known for their 1961 hit “Heart and Soul.” They came from Queens, New York. After a long time in showbusiness and a few minor hits, the Cleftones to the charts with “Heart And Soul,” their most successful single ever in their career. They also followed this with other singles such as “For Sentimental Reasons” and “Lover Come Back To Me” which failed to garner further national interest. The band broke up in 1964 just as the British Invasion had swept the US.
How did the Cleftones form?
The Cleftones were an R&B and doo-wop vocal group originating from Queens, New York. Formed in 1955, the original members were lead singer Herbie Cox, Charles McGhee (first tenor), Berman Patterson (second tenor), Warren Corbin (bass), and William “Buzzy” McClane (baritone), all of whom were classmates at Jamaica High School in Queens. They got together and created their own act, called themselves initially as the Silvertones before settling to their current name the Cleftones.
The band’s first charting singles, and personnel changes
The Cleftones were first signed to Gee Records, where they released their first single “You Baby You” (written by Corbin and Patterson), which became a regional hit. Their second single, 1956’s “Little Girl Of Mine” broke into the national circuit, climbing to the higher ranks of the Hot 100 chart (at #57); the single also gave the Cleftones its first Top 10 R&B hit at #8.
Their following singles (“Can’t We Be Sweethearts” and “String Around My Heart”) failed to chart. During this time personnel changes occurred within the band: In 1959 McClane was replaced by Gene Pearson (formerly of the Rivileers). Patricia Spann joined the Cleftones, becoming the group’s only female member. Her addition to to the group helped the Cleftones in breaking the conventions of a group-oriented doo-wop singing and. Instead, the Cleftones made an attempt in moving towards a more lead-vocalist sound.
Most successful single with “Heart and Soul”
In 1961 this newly-reformed Cleftones finally scored a hit with their rendition of “Heart and Soul.” It reached the Billboard top 20 at #18, and #10 on the R&B singles chart. “Heart and Soul” is a popular standard, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser and first published in 1938. The song has been covered a lot of times, but the Cleftone’s version is the most commercially successful yet.
Later that year the Cleftones had a minor hit with “For Sentimental Reasons” (#60 on the Hot 100) but it was clear that they had reached their pinnacle with “Heart and Soul.” Their last charting single was “Lover Come Back to Me” in 1962.
Three years after “Heart and Soul”‘s success, the Cleftones disbanded in 1964 just as the British Invasion groups had taken their audience.