Renowned female rhythm and blues group, The Chantels rocked the world and the music industry during the late 1950s with chart topping hits including “Maybe.” Renée Minus White, one of the original members, will read from her autobiography Maybe: My Memoir (One Chantel’s Story). The Back in the Bronx series celebrates the long legacy of talent that has emerged out of the Bronx.
The Chantels began their journey to stardom in 1956 by a chance meeting with Richard Barrett; lead singer of the Valentines, on New York’s famed Broadway. The five young girls, Arlene Smith, Renée Minus, Jacqulyn Landry, Sonia Goring and Lois Harris had attended St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School in the Bronx, New York, and were members of St. Anthony’s church choir.
Their unique sound was rooted in the liturgical music of that church, and the sounds of the boy groups that sang on the street corners of the Bronx. Barrett recorded the Chantels on George Goldner’s End Record label. “He’s Gone” backed by the “Plea” were released in 1957. The next release “Maybe” became a major national hit and made the Chantels stars overnight. The Chantels are also credited with recording the first Extended Play 45 rpm record. The Chantels then began a series of nationwide tours with Alan Freed and “Murray the K” Kaufman. They also appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
In 1959 after George Goldner’s record company folded, original lead singer Arlene Smith struck out on her own. The Chantels continued to perform as a group and in 1962, released what was to become the group’s highest charted record, “Look in My Eyes” on the Carlton label and Annette Smith on lead, under the direction of Richard Barrett. This was followed by the up-tempo “Well I told you” which was a top 20 hit, with Barrett on lead, and was the answer to Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.”
The current members of the The Chantels, Sonia Goring Wilson, Lois Harris Powell, Renée Minus White and Ami Ortiz who joined the group in 1996, are still among the most popular and requested singing groups, performing their numerous great hits both internationally and nationally. They are among the nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2010 induction and the group’s live performance in 1999 for the PBS TV special, “Doo Wop ’50,” which featured the best vocal group stars of the 1950’s and 60’s received rave reviews nationwide.
The Chantels have in recent years appeared at the world famous Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall, The Beacon Theater, The Tarrytown Music Hall, Symphony Space and the Norfolk Music Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, all in New York; Three Rivers Stadium, White Oak American Legion and the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA and numerous other venues on the East and West Coast. The Chantels also appeared in concert at the World Trade Center in July 2001. They are also featured in the celebrated “Doo Wop is Alive” photo unveiled on February 3, 2000 at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC as a salute to the pioneers of the Rhythm & Blues and Doo Wop.
In addition to performing with The Chantels, Renée Minus White is a business owner and writer. White is the founder of RMW Enterprises and Time to Style, Inc. which produces fashion editorials, fashion shows, and presentations, and a fashion-beauty editor/writer with a column in N. Y. Amsterdam News . Currently she is a licensed realtor in New York State and is presently an Associate Broker with Douglas Elliman. She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Her book Maybe: My Memoir (One Chantel’s Story) gives readers a glimpse of what it was like growing up in the Bronx during the 1950s. Her father, Leroy Minus, was a jazz pianist who fell in love and married Thelma Minus, a jazz singer. Both parents retired their show business careers to raise their seven children.
Ms. White attended St. Anthony of Padua's Grammar School. White met four young girls, Arlene Smith, Jackie Landry, Millicent Goring and Lois Harris. The girls became good friends and formed The Chantels. Their memorable tours through America's South in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement were often scary and interesting.