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:
The word “Chantels” never ended up in the U.S. baby name data, but the non-plural form Chantel started popping up in 1957:
- 1959: 5 baby girls named Chantel
- 1958: unlisted
- 1957: 5 baby girls named Chantel [debut]
- 1956: unlisted
- 1955: unlisted
The spelling Chantell debuted in 1958.
And look what happened in the early ’60s:
|Chantel||5 baby girls||12 baby girls||56 baby girls||45 baby girls|
|Chantell||.||.||7 baby girls||20 baby girls|
|Chantelle||.||.||31 baby girls*||30 baby girls|
|Shantel||.||.||11 baby girls*||19 baby girls|
|Chantele||.||.||9 baby girls*||7 baby girls|
|Shantell||.||.||6 baby girls*||12 baby girls|
|Shantelle||.||.||.||9 baby girls*|
*Debut in the data
I’m not sure what caused that explosion of variants in 1963. The Chantels’ next-biggest hit, “Look In My Eyes” (1961), is probably 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?