Five teenage girls in the Bronx were singing together for a few years in high school in the mid-fifties. Their lead singer, Arlene Smith, was classically trained and talented enough to perform in Carnegie Hall at age 12. Richard Barrett (the lead singer of the Valentines) found the group and got them signed to End Records.
The group’s first single was released in 1957 and reached #71. The next year Richard co-wrote their second single, Maybe. The single sold a million copies and reached #15 on the pop charts and #2 on the R&B charts. The Chantels were the second African-American female group to make the Hot 100 in the early Rock Era. They even appeared on American Bandstand.
The group’s first album was initially released in 1959 with an album cover that showed the five girls. Times being what they were, in order to sell the album in some stores, the record company decided it was necessary to also release the album with a cover that was a picture of two white teenagers standing by a jukebox.
Arlene left the group to begin a solo act in 1960 and a second member left to attend college. Annette Smith joined the group as their new lead singer.
The group signed with a new label and continued to release music into the middle sixties. They scored four more top forty singles before they split up. In 1995 several members of the reformed the Chantels and they proceeded to make appearances at shows and on PBS specials.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame added a new category in 2018 for important records by groups that have not been inducted into the Hall. Maybe was inducted into the Singles Hall in 2019.