|The Four Pennies|
|Origin||The Bronx, New York, United States|
|Genres||Rock and roll|
The group was originally a trio of schoolmates: Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee; at James Monroe High School in the Bronx in 1960. In 1962, at the suggestion of songwriter Ronald Mack, the group added Sylvia Peterson, who had sung with Little Jimmy & the Tops at age 14, sharing lead vocals with Jimmy on "Say You Love Me," the B-side of the Tops' 1959 local hit "Puppy Love."
The group was named the Chiffons when recording and releasing their first single, "He's So Fine," written by Ronnie Mack, produced by the Tokens of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame, and released on the Laurie Records label. "He's So Fine" hit No. 1 in the United States, selling over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. (This sales figure would have qualified the record for platinum status under the current [as of 2011] RIAA certification standards, effective since 1975, that lowered the "gold" certification threshold to 500,000 copies and set the "platinum" threshold at 1 million.)
Despite numerous references to the contrary, the Chiffons who recorded a version of the Shirelles' "Tonight's The Night" on Big Deal Records in 1960, is a California group, with no relation to the New York Chiffons. The Chiffons immediately released their first LP He's So Fine (which charted at #97) and began a round of touring around the US. Within a few months, the group released their second LP, One Fine Day.
The group also released two singles in 1963 as the Four Pennies (with Sylvia on lead) on the Laurie Records subsidiary Rust, but they abandoned the Four Pennies name as the success of "He's So Fine" became clear. This first hit was followed by other notable tunes such as Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "One Fine Day", "Sweet Talkin' Guy" and "I Have A Boyfriend" (This last song was playing on Dallas, Texas radio station KLIF on November 22, 1963 when the announcement was made that President John F. Kennedy had been shot). As the 1960s progressed, Peterson assumed a more prominent role in the group, singing lead on the Chiffons' "Why Am I So Shy," "Strange, Strange Feeling," "The Real Thing," "Up On The Bridge" and "My Block" (written by Jimmy Radcliffe, Carl Spencer and Bert Berns).
Shortly after the first round of hits, the Chiffons had business problems but still continued to tour the US throughout 1964 (including Murray the K Shows and as part of a package tour headlined by Gene Pitney). In mid-1965, they signed directly to the Laurie label, and had a hit with "Nobody Knows What's Going On In My Mind But Me". To promote the record, Sylvia and Barbara flew to the West Coast to premiere the disc on a July 1965 Shindig episode, with two substitute members as Judy and Pat were on maternity leave.
The next Top 10 hit for the Chiffons was "Sweet-Talking Guy" in mid 1966 which allowed the quartet to tour England and Germany for the first time; on one of their London club dates, members of the Beatles and Stones were in the audience. Several minor hits followed up to 1968. Due to the constant touring and lack of hits, Judy Craig left the group before 1970 and took bank job in Manhattan. The remaining trio continued to do live shows with Sylvia now the permanent lead singer. Eventually, Sylvia, Pat, and Barbara took on regular 9-5 jobs, but continued to do live shows on weekends. Sylvia eventually left, and her spot was taken by alternating friends of the group.
In 1970, George Harrison released the song "My Sweet Lord," whose musical similarities to "He's So Fine" prompted the estate of Ronnie Mack to file a copyright infringement claim. The Chiffons went on to record "My Sweet Lord" in 1975. A judge later found that Harrison had unintentionally plagiarized the earlier song.
Sylvia returned to the Chiffons during the 1980s. On May 15, 1992, Barbara Lee died from a heart attack, and Craig returned to the group. Peterson retired shortly thereafter and was replaced by Connie Harvey. Harvey has since left to pursue a solo career and Bennett has retired from the group.