SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In September 1965, the international classic song, “A Lover’s Concerto,” reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, with only “Yesterday,” by The Beatles, and “Get Off My Cloud,” by The Rolling Stones, stopping it from hitting the peak position. It did, however, hit No. 1 on the U.S. Cash Box Top 100, the main competitor of U.S. Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the Canada RPM Top Singles. The song was performed by an all-girl band, known as The Toys, featuring the angelic lead vocals of Barbara Harris. The band toured the world and were on all the top shows such as “American Bandstand,” “Hullabaloo” and “Shindig.”
Harris will be performing with the current Toys line up on Tuesday, July 4, at 8 p.m., at Meisel Avenue Park. There will also be a DJ, food trucks, a petting zoo and fireworks. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the event is free.
Growing up in Elizabeth, N.C., Harris began singing in churches when she was 8 years old. Her 20-year-old cousin formed a singing group and put young Barbara out in front to sing.
When Harris was 11, she moved with her family to Queens. In high school, she teamed up with four other girls: Barbara Parritt, June Montiero, Betty Stokes, and Betty Blocker. Eventually, Stokes and Blocker left the group and the remaining trio formed The Charlettes.
The Charlettes performed at talent shows. What happened next is something of which many young talents only dream. A man in the audience asked them, “Would you like to sing professionally?”
Naturally, they said “yes” and met with songwriter/recording executive Bob Crewe. They changed their name to The Toys and landed their first recording contract on Crewe’s DynoVoice Records.
Songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell gave them four songs to record. Harris remembered, “They sounded like school songs. We wanted to be hip.” Nevertheless, the young women recorded the songs. While three of the tunes took forever, “A Lover’s Concerto” was finished after just one try. Without skipping a beat, The Toys had their photos on the covers of music magazines.
The Toys followed up with another hit, “Attack!,” which was also written by Linzer and Randell and reached the Top 20. They also had a cameo role performing “Attack!” in the 1967 beach movie, “It’s a Bikini World.”
“I’ve had a beautiful career,” Harris said. “We traveled the islands, Europe, England, Germany, and Australia.” Harris said she didn’t expect the success at all, but attributes the song’s success to the fact that the concerto piece with a Motown beat was “real different.”
After the massive success of The Toys, Harris married and raised a family. In 1998, she returned to the scene and put out the album, “Barbara Now,” which is available on CD. Harris co-produced and arranged the entire project. She also wrote all but two of the songs.
She plans to put out another compact disc when she gets time, but currently performs so often she said it seems she doesn’t get a day off. But she has no complaints. “God has been good to me,” she said.
When Harris isn’t working, she said she cooks a lot and spends most of her time with her family. She has seven children, 16 grandchildren and a mom who is 93 years old. “My youngest just bought a big house in the Poconos,” she said. “She’s always having parties.”
For more information on Barbara Harris, visit: http://www.barbarastoys.net/.
Photo Courtesy of Barbara Harris