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Herman Santiago

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Birth name
Herman Santiago

Years active

Manhattan, New York


Rock and Roll, doo-wop

Herman Santiago


Record label

Herman Santiago httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons33

February 18, 1941 (age 74)San Juan, Puerto Rico (

The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon

Music group
The Teenagers (Since 1954)

Similar People
Joe Negroni, Frankie Lymon, Jimmy Castor

Vcb vinyl city broadcasting herman santiago interview

Herman Santiago (born February 18, 1941) is a rock and roll pioneer and songwriter who was previously a member of the vocal group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. He (disputedly) wrote the group's iconic hit "Why Do Fools Fall In Love".


Early years

Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and raised in Manhattan, New York. In the early 1950s Santiago and friends, 2nd tenor Jimmy Merchant, fellow Puerto Rican Joe Negroni a baritone, and bassman Sherman Garnes, would meet in front of Santiago's apartment stoop in New York City to sing a cappella versions of hits of the day. They originally called themselves the "Ermines" and Santiago was their lead singer. On one occasion the "Ermines" participated in a talent show at PS 143 (Public School 143), at which another group, "The Cadillacs" were guests. After the show, in honor of the "Cadillacs", they changed their name to the "Coupe de Villes." This name only lasted a short time and they soon changed it to the "Premiers."

In 1954, 12-year-old Frankie Lymon, who sang with his brothers Lewis and Howie, was working in a grocery store as a bag boy. He met the "Premiers" backstage at an amateur show and "jammed" with them. Lymon was quickly invited to join them, initially singing first tenor behind Santiago's lead. That same year Richard Barrett, a talent scout and producer for Rama Records (and also the lead singer of the "Valentines"), heard them singing and introduced them to George Goldner, the record company's owner. Goldner signed them to a contract and changed the group's name once more, this time to The Teenagers.

"Why Do Fools Fall in Love"

The following day the group was supposed to meet with Mr. Goldner in the studio for a recording session. Santiago had a sore throat and could not sing the lead vocal of the song he had written, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," and therefore, gave Negroni the music sheet with the words to the song. Frankie Lymon filled in for Santiago, however according to Jimmy Merchant, once the precocious Lymon became an established member of the group, his vocal talent and instinctive stage presence made him the obvious choice to be the group's lead vocalist, and Santiago graciously stepped aside.

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Goldner released the record, with "Please Be Mine" on the "B" side, under the name "Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers", on his new "Gee Records" subsidiary, in January 1956. The record became an instant hit in the U.S and the U.K. It also became the first top British hit by an American rock & roll vocal group. Single releases followed at 3 month intervals, the next three, "I Want You to Be My Girl", "I Promise to Remember"—written by Jimmy Castor—and "The ABC's of Love" all making the charts, but at progressively lower positions. "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent" b/w "Share", and "Out in the Cold Again", released in early 1957, did not chart. In London the group played at the Palladium. Alan Freed, a former American disc-jockey who became internationally known for promoting African-American rhythm and blues music, signed them for two movies, Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock and Roll.

The Teenagers go "solo"

In 1957, Lymon left "the Teenagers" and went solo, turning in a pop direction with the hit "Goody Goody." He made several comeback attempts, and died of a heroin overdose in February 1968 at age 25. Lymon admitted to Ebony magazine in 1967, the year before his death, that he was first introduced to heroin by a woman twice his age, when he was 15. The rest of the group continued without him, recruiting various lead singers, making records of varying quality, and having no commercial success. The group broke up in 1961, with the members taking regular jobs.

The surviving members of the group reunited in the 1970s, with Pearl McKinnon of the Kodaks (who sounds remarkably like Lymon) singing lead for a time. But by 1978, Garnes had died from a heart attack and Negroni from a cerebral hemorrhage on September 5, 1978. Santiago and Merchant continued on with various new members including most notably Jimmy Castor, Lewis Lymon (Frankie's brother), and Timothy Wilson of Tiny Tim & the Hits, their most recent lead singer. As of 2005, Jimmy Merchant has retired.


In 1981, Diana Ross recorded a new version of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", which again became a hit and the royalties on the song passed over a million dollars.

In 1986, three women claiming to be Lymon's widow filed a lawsuit in New York's Superior Court claiming the rights to the song. It was revealed that Goldner conned "the Teenagers" into signing a contract which was not valid by law and that the song was in fact written by Herman Santiago and that he (Goldner) had received all of the royalties and that Santiago never received a cent as author of the song; the Court then ruled that none of the widows were entitled to the rights of the song.

In December 1992, the U.S. federal court ruled that the rights to the song belonged to Herman Santiago and that Jimmy Merchant and Emira Lymon (the true widow) were also entitled to receive royalties dating back to 1969. Herman Santiago was by now homeless and living in a car when he received the news and soon went from being homeless to becoming a millionaire.

However, in 1996 the ruling was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (on the basis of the statute of limitations), and authorship of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" currently remains solely in the names of Frankie Lymon and music publisher Morris Levy. The song is currently owned by EMI Music Publishing.

Hall of Fame

In 1993, the original members of "the Teenagers"—Herman Santiago, Frankie Lymon, Sherman Garnes, Joe Negroni and Jimmy Merchant—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2000 into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall In Love, the role of Santiago was played by actor Alexis Cruz.


Herman Santiago Wikipedia