Singin’ In The Streets In Philly

Although I can’t really say that I’ve followed the team, the Phillies getting into the World Series would seem to be a good time to reminisce about one of the city’s best singing combos, Lee Andrews and the Hearts. It was a group that was capable of doo-wop harmonizing with the best of the era, but also had the talents of a strong lead soloist in Andrews himself.

Lee Andrews – whose real name was Arthur Lee Andrew Thompson – was actually born in North Carolina but his family relocated to Philadelphia when he was a toddler. His father was a member of the popular gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds, and as young Lee grew into his teens he soon found himself immersed in the city’s vibrant musical scene.

Like so many others in that time and place, he joined with several friends and began singing in the neighborhood. He and his group, which consisted of Butch Curry, Jimmy McCalister, John Young, and Roy Calhoun, started off by calling themselves the Dreams, then the Dreamers. Working their way up from street-corners to local radio, they began to get noticed — and along the way became Lee Andrews and the Hearts (after learning that another group was called the Dreamers).

By the mid 1950’s they’d made some records but sales numbers were disappointing. They’d also had misunderstandings with some of the people they were dealing with, and on top of that some personnel changes, including Ted Weems replacing McAlister, who’d entered the service.  John Young also eventually left, replaced by Roy Calhoun’s brother Wendell.

It was a distressing period, but in 1957 the group hit the charts with “Long Lonely Nights,” a song that was also a hit for Clyde McPhatter — but their version did better. They quickly followed up with another success, “Teardrops,” which ended up being their biggest hit. They had another good-seller with their next, “Try The Impossible,” but it was to be their last big success.

Running into more disputes with recording companies and facing diminished record sales, the group began spiraling down, eventually going their separate ways. As with many groups of the era, the members found varying levels of performing success in subsequent decades, including occasionally reviving various editions of the Hearts or similar groups for the oldies circuit.

Most of the group’s members are gone or retired now, but we can still remember Lee Andrews and the Hearts for their music.


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