Did the recording history of the Chiffons begin with "He's So Fine" in 1963, or three years earlier, with "Tonight's the Night"? The experts do not seem to agree. What they do agree on is that the group was formed in 1960 at James Monroe High School in the Bronx. Originally they were a trio. The lead singer was Judy Craig (born August 6, 1946) and she sang along with Patricia Bennett (born April 7, 1947) and Babara Lee (born February 6, 1944). A fourth member, Sylvia Peterson (born September 30, 1946), was added in 1962.

John Clemente, author of the book "Girl Groups : Fabulous Females That Rocked the World" (2000), claims "He's So Fine" to be the first Chiffons record. "There was another group, possibly out of LA, named The Chiffons, who had brief chart action in 1960 with a version of The Shirelles' "Tonight's the Night", on Big Deal Records. Reissue LP's, some as early as 1964, feature the other group's songs, but the pictures are of the New York Chiffons. They are not the same group." (Clemente, p. 52.) However, many others, including Jay Warner, in his authoritative "Billboard book of American singing groups" (1992), consider this to be one and the same group. Two other pre-"He's So Fine" singles were released in 1962 : "Never Never" on Wildcat Records and "After Last Night" on Reprise. These are ignored by Clemente, but not by Warner.

>From 1963 onwards, there is no controversy. "He's So Fine", with its classic "doo-lang doo-lang" riff, became one of the biggest hits of 1963. The record was produced by The Tokens (Hank Medress, Jay Siegel, Phil Margo and Mitch Margo), of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame. They had already offered the master to 14 record labels before Laurie Records agreed to release the disc, in December 1962. On March 30, 1963, the song hit # 1 in Billboard (both pop and R&B), where it stayed for four weeks. The song has been the subject of a prolonged lawsuit ("He's So Fine" vs "My Sweet Lord"). The loser was George Harrison, who was told by a judge in 1976 that his number one song "My Sweet Lord" had been subconsciously copied from "He's So Fine". The winner was the estate of Ronnie Mack, the young composer who died shortly after his song "He's So Fine" was awarded a gold record. Harrison sardonically commented on the affair in his composition "This Song". The second Laurie release, "Lucky Me" was a complete flop, but the Tokens quickly rushed out another single, "One Fine Day", written by Carole King (who also plays the pounding piano intro) and her husband Gerry Goffin. This was originally a demo by Little Eva, whose vocal was wiped off, though the backing vocals by the Cookies were left intact. It peaked at # 5 in the summer of 1963 and also made the Top 30 in the UK. ("He's So Fine" went to # 16 there.)

The Tokens decided to create a multiple personality for the group. The Chiffons also recorded as the Four Pennies for Laurie's Rust subsidiary. As such, they had two chart entries: "My Block" (# 67) and "When the Boy's Happy" (# 95), both in 1963. With further hits (as the Chiffons) in the shape of "A Love So Fine" (# 40) and "I Have A Boyfriend" (# 36), 1963 was an extremely good year for the female quartet. But with eight singles and two LP's in one year, there was the danger of overexposure. Several strong Chiffons recordings followed in 1964, but the charts now seemed to belong more to the British than to the Bronx. Only "Sailor Boy" did any chart business (# 81) and 1965 was no better with only one chart entry. A legal dispute with the Tokens didn't help, although it was ruled in the girls' favour. But the foursome made a strong comeback in 1966 with what is perhaps their finest recording, "Sweet Talking Guy", which went to # 10. In the UK it stalled at # 31, but when it was reissued on London in 1972, it went all the way to # 4.

In the US, there were no more hits after 1966. Tired of the business hustle, Judy Craig called it quits in 1969. By then the Tokens had decided to release all the old sessions of the Chiffons that they had in the vault, on their own B.T. Puppy label and later on Buddah, when they (the Tokens) began a production deal with that label. Current recordings by the Chiffons became more and more sporadic and for several years they were without a record deal. In 1975 they were back on Laurie. In an act of sarcastic retribution Laurie Records and producer Bill Frenz recorded the Chiffons singing "My Sweet Lord" and released it in 1975. "Dream, Dream, Dream" was the group's final single, in 1976.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Chiffons continued to make personal appearances, both in the US and Europe. Judy Craig returned to the group after Barbara Lee died in 1992. Sylvia Peterson was replaced by Connie Harvey and the trio of Judy, Patricia and Connie continues to perform today. Along with the Shirelles and the Crystals, the Chiffons are one of the most important and influential girl groups of the 1960s.

More info:

CD: One Fine Day (Import, 2001). Poor packaging, but the sound quality is good and with 26 tracks, this is the most complete overview.


Additional info:

Hello, I was surfing the net for information on Carmen Taylor and came across your site, which is very informative. I happened to look at the Chiffons entry, which I so often do because the question still arises. Are the "He's So Fine" Chiffons the same group who recorded a version (same backing tracks) of "Tonight's The Night" in 1960, "No More Tomorrows" for Wildcat in 1961 and "After Last Night" on Reprise in 1962. With all due respect to Jay Warner, the answer is a resounding "NO"! How do I know this? Judy Craig and Pat Bennett of the Chiffons told me IN PERSON that this was not them when I spoke with them before my a cappella group, The Echelons, opened for them on a Rock & Roll show in New Jersey in 1992. Further clarification came in 2001 when Steve Propes and Galen Gart spoke with vocalist Oma Heard who fronted The Sweethearts on Hi III Records (LA R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965, p. 164). Before working with Heard, Carlotta "Cookie" Robertson, Marie Love and Joyce Chapel were The Chiffons on Big Deal and The Unforgettables on Colpix ("Was It Alright/And It Hurts"). As in the true California vocal group tradition, they recorded under other names as well.

John Clemente
Girl Groups -- Fabulous Females
That Rocked The World

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