Franklin Joseph “Frankie” Lymon (September 30, 1942 – February 27, 1968) was an American rock and roll/rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, best known as the boy soprano lead singer of the New York City-based early rock and roll group The Teenagers. The group was composed of five boys, all in their early to mid-teens. The original lineup of the Teenagers, an integrated group, included three African-American members, Frankie Lymon, Jimmy Merchant, and Sherman Garnes; and two Puerto Rican members, Joe Negroni and Herman Santiago. The Teenagers’ first single, 1956’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” was also its biggest hit. After Lymon went solo in mid-1957, both his career and that of the Teenagers fell into decline. His life was dramatized in the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall In Love.
By 1957, the group was being billed as “Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers”. This caused in-fighting, and by September, Goldner had pulled Lymon out of the group to record solo. The Teenagers continued recording, bringing in a new lead. Billy Lobrano, as the group’s first white member, made them more racially mixed, now with two black, two Hispanic, and one white member. The group had little success with Lobrano, and he left in mid-1958.
Sherman Garnes died of a heart attack in 1977, while Joe Negroni died a year later due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Their replacements were Bobby Jay and Frankie’s brother Lewis Lymon, respectively. In the 1980s, the Teenagers had resorted to using a female singer to imitate Lymon’s prepubescent voice, and Pearl McKinnon joined the band. The members at that time were Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago, Eric Ward, and Pearl McKinnon. By 1983, Ward had been replaced by Derek Ventura, and in 1984 Phil Garrito took over for Ventura. Roz Morehead replaced McKinnon, and Marilyn Byers moved into Morehead’s lead spot. Later in the 1980s the group had settled on a new lead, Jimmy Castor. Castor remained lead until the 1990s, when he was replaced by Timothy Wilson, former lead of Tiny Tim and the Hits. This line-up appeared on the PBS special Doo Wop 51 in 2000.
The group’s current line-up is Herman Santiago, Bobby Jay, Terry King and Terrance Farward. They are often billed as Frankie Lymon’s Legendary Teenagers or The Legendary Teenagers.
On February 27, 1968, Lymon was found dead of a heroin overdose at the age of 25 on the floor of his grandmother’s bathroom with a syringe by his side. Lymon, a Baptist, was buried at Catholic Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Throggs Neck section of The Bronx, New York City, New York. “I’m Sorry” and “Seabreeze”, the two songs Lymon had recorded for Big Apple before his death, were released later in 1968.