Arthur Lee Andrew Thompson was born in North Carolina but spent most of his youth in South Philidelphia. He and four schoolmates began singing together in 1952 and within a few years had named themselves The Dreamers. They signed a record deal with a small record company run out of the back of a delicatessen in New York and recorded a few songs in 1954. Because there was already a group called the Dreamers (and yet another brewing in England with Freddie) the group renamed themselves The Hearts. Arthur didn’t like the sound of Arthur Thompson and the Hearts and adopted a stage name based on his two middle names, Lee Andrews.
The group bounced from label to label for a few years, recording singles that simply did not break through to the airwaves. In 1957, the group wrote and recorded their first successful record, Long Lonely Nights. Their single was initially released on the small Main Line record label and at first, seemed to vanish like all their other records.
Clyde McPhatter had left the Drifters in 1954 and released a string of top ten R&B singles, some of which also crossed over to the pop charts. His record company had him record a cover of Long Lonely Nights that was also released in 1957.
The two singles battled for airplay, and perhaps by splitting the sales neither one was a big hit on the pop charts; Lee Andrews and the Hearts only reached #45 and Clyde only got up to #49. Both groups did better on the R&B charts, reaching #11 and #1 respectively.
The song kept coming back and at least three notable covers surfaced over the years:
- The Four Seasons released their very different version on the B-side of Alone in 1964 (even the A-side only got as high as #28; nobody noticed the B-side).
- Bobby Vinton recorded a version that wasn’t very different from the original and his single reached #17 in 1965.
- The Dells completely reworked the song in 1970 but only got as high as #74.
The Hearts recorded a follow-up single that did better. Tear Drops was released without any competing covers and quickly reached #20 on the Hot 100 in November 1957 and #4 on the R&B charts in early 1958.
After switching record labels yet again, in 1958 they recorded Try The Impossible but the single peaked at only #33. The group never hit the charts again.