Sometimes you can pretty clearly identify transitional events in music history, or at least a moment when an old favorite becomes something newer. A good example occurred in 1960, when a doo-wop singing group known as the Chimes had a big hit with an updated version of an old standard, one that had been a number-one record for Tommy Dorsey years earlier.
Written in 1937, “Once In a While” was a song that was a perfect choice for any orchestra that wanted to appeal to the ‘sweet’ side of the big band era’s music lovers. It proved to be a popular entry in a lot of bands’ songbooks, but Tommy Dorsey’s record was the biggest seller, hitting the top of the charts in the pre-war years.
By the 1950s the song had pretty much become a standard, and had been recorded by everyone from Patti Page to Zoot Sims. But late in the decade a Brooklyn doo-wop group that called itself the Chimes had started to make some progress in attracting an audience, and within a couple of years had earned a chance to make a record. The group’s reworked version of “Once In a While” turned out to be a hit, nearly breaking into the Top Ten.
Changing the group’s name to Lenny and the Chimes to recognize lead singer Lenny Cocco, the combo made a number of well-received records over the next few years, including another update of an old standard, “I’m in the Mood for Love.” But like many performers of the era, the guys would soon go their separate ways. On the other hand — again, like many from those days — some of the originals have come together in later years to work the ‘oldies’ circuit.