Though The Chantels were technically the second African-American girl-group (after the Bobbettes) to achieve chart success, they missed being first by just a matter of weeks.
The quintet of Catholic choir girls — Arlene, Lois, Renee, Jackie, and Sonia — hit the scene in the latter half of 1957 with two singles: “He’s Gone,” released in August, and “Maybe,” released in December.
“Maybe” ended up becoming a hit in early 1958, reaching #2 on the R&B charts and #15 on the Hot 100. Here are the Chantels singing (well, lip-syncing) “Maybe” on The Dick Clark Show in March:
- 1964: 45 Chantel, 30 Chantelle, 20 Chantell, 19 Shantel, 12 Shantell, 9 Shantelle, 7 Chantele
- 1963: 56 Chantel, 31 Chantelle, 11 Shantel, 9 Chantele, 7 Chantell, 6 Shantell
- 1962: 12 Chantel
- 1961: 5 Chantel
- 1960: 5 Chantell
- 1959: 5 Chantel
- 1958: 6 Chantell
- 1957: 5 Chantel
- 1956: unlisted
I’m not sure what caused that explosion of variants in 1963. The Chantels’ next-biggest hit, “Look In My Eyes” (1961), is too early to account for it. The answer might be the 1962 movie If a Man Answers, which featured a character named Chantal played by Sandra Dee.
So where did the Chantels get their name? From a Catholic parish in Bronx — but not their own, St. Anthony of Padua. Here’s the story:
The girls were performing at a dance at St. Francis [sic] de Chantal parish in Throgs Neck, got a terrific hand from the audience, and had a brainstorm for the name of their group.
They simply altered Chantal — a French place name meaning “stony” — to create Chantel.
Do you like the name Chantel? Do you like it more or less than Chantal?