The Skyliners still soaring after decades of Doo Wop

Published on March 26th, 2021

By Jim Dail

The late 1950s was a fantastic time in rock and roll, from rockabilly, Elvis, doo wop, teen idols, and even hugely successful country crossovers.

Jimmy Beaumont, lead singer of The Skyliners, was right in the heart of it.

“I spent a lot of time in my room listening to doo wop, Nat King Cole, Sinatra,” he said. “Doo wop was rhythm & blues in those days, and I’d hear the Flamingos, Platters, Moon Glows, The Four Freshmen. I had a feel for the R&B and jazz mix and that’s what The Skyliners were about.”

Beaumont and The Skyliners will perform as part of Legends of Doo Wop along with Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, and The Marcels on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Highlander Auditorium in Upland.

The Skyliners came together from several groups, with the famed lineup consisting of Beaumont, Janet Vogel, Wally Lester, Joe VerScharen and Jackie Taylor.

“I’d written ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ with Joe Rock,” he said. “He did the lyrics and I did the music. We did it acapella and we went to New York.”

It was Calico Records that signed the group after 13 other labels came back with rejections. But this session certainly wasn’t anything close to basic.

“We were lucky that Lenny Martin was the artist and repertoire man, and I asked him if he thought violins would work with it and he said ‘Oh my lord yes we’d love to do that,’” he said. “We’d been singing the song in the key of F and he wanted me to do it higher because that key lends itself to the brilliance of violins. It was hard to do it in F sharp, but I was 18, and if anyone asked me to do it, I’d do it.”

There was a definite feeling about the song.

“Even the musicians were commenting on how good we sounded as teenagers, and to have written the songs was impressive,” he said. “Everyone who heard it said it was a smash. I was riding around and heard it on one station and we checked the others and they were all playing it!”

The song has become one of the principal love songs of that era.

Their follow up was “This I Swear,” which was recorded in May of 1959.

“Joe and I wrote ‘This I Swear,’ and for the bridge I put together some jazz harmony sort of like the Four Freshmen, which would make it tough for other groups to do,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be covered before us!”

Part of that was due to Trini Lopez.

“Trini had covered ‘Since I Don’t Have You’ and he’d had some hits and I figured, ‘Oh well, his version will be the big one,’ but it didn’t happen that way,” he said.

Critics were not too warm to the song.

“There was a critic who said it was close to ‘Since I Don’t Have You,’ and others saying that we copied it too closely,” he said.

But they moved away from the tender love ballads with the next record.

“Fortunately, we had a record label with businessmen, doctors and lawyers who spared no expense and they thought we maybe should do a fast song for a third record so we did ‘It Happened Today’ and ‘Lonely Wave,’” he said. “Then Bobby Darin did ‘Mack the Knife’ and all the Big Band stuff, and they thought ‘Pennies from Heaven’ would be good.  I wasn’t sure about that.”

Beaumont so far had trusted his instincts, but the current market at that time didn’t seem tailored to that type of song.

 “Dick Clark loved it,” he said. “Of course they played in on [American] Bandstand, and the record was a hit in New York City and we wound up playing the Apollo and all over.”

The band began to dissipate through the 1960s, re-merging in the early ‘70s.

“We got back together back in 1970,” he said. “People were getting tired of the English groups and the rock revival was close at hand.”

Now, they are going strong, though it is not the exact original lineup.

“People are nostalgic for this music and we can still sing it,” he said.


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