Barbara Harris, Barbara Parritt (both originally from North Carolina), and June Montiero attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Jamaica, NY; they decided to form a group one day at Parritt's sister's house. The trio got together after school, sang on corners, and entered talent shows. After graduation, they were eager for more, and made trips to 1619 Broadway, more commonly known as the Brill Building, seeking work as background vocalists. Vince Marc discovered the warblers at a talent show and introduced them to Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, who signed them to their Genius Incorporated label and brought them to the attention of record producer Bob Crew. The Toys came on like gangbusters, scoring with an adaptation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Minuet in G, a five-finger piano exercise titled "A Lover's Concerto," written and produced by Linzer and Randell. The song scorched the R&B (number four) and pop (number two) charts, and went to number five in the U.K., selling over a million copies in 1965. Sadly, it was all over by 1968; the girls had differences and went their separate ways.
They initially recorded four songs, with "Concerto" being the last of the four and the only one that was done in one take. The other three were rehearsed by the girls for weeks and labored over in the studio, while their shining star was a throw in. Little did they know the throw in would become the monster hit. The success overwhelmed the girls. Vince Marc whisked them off on a world tour, putting his wife's (Barbara Chandler) career on hold while he and the girls traveled all over Europe and were mobbed by crowds of admirers. Dyno Voice was not pleased with the events; they wanted the Toys back in New York to record more tracks. They eventually returned to the States and recorded the remaining sides for The Toys Sing a Lover's Concerto and Attack!, a truly marvelous compilation and one of the best pairings of artist and producer in rock & roll's history. Harris handled most of the leads but Parritt and Montiero were hardly slouches -- both excelled when thrust into the spotlight: Montiero on "Yesterday" and Parritt on "Hallelujah." It remains a mystery why this great album only peaked at number 92 pop in 1966.
The Toys appeared on many musical television programs, including [RoviLink="VW"]Shindig, [RoviLink="VW"]Hullabaloo, [RoviLink="VW"]American Bandstand, [RoviLink="VW"]Hy Lit, [RoviLink="VW"]Where the Action Is, [RoviLink="VW"]Clay Cole, and [RoviLink="VW"]Upbeat. Dyno Voice released "Attack" as the follow-up and watched it soar to number 18 pop. They even had a cameo spot in the film [RoviLink="VW"]It's a Bikini World, which also featured the Castaways, the Animals, and the Gentrys. Two more releases charted in 1966, they switched to Philips Records for several singles in 1967, and then moved to Musicor where they had their last chart hit in 1968 ("Sealed With a Kiss," number 112 pop); the group split shortly afterward. Parritt and Montiero joined fake Marvelettes groups (there were about five fake Marvelette groups doing gigs at the time). Harris married a musician (Kenneth Wiltshire) and sung with bands doing the N.Y. bar scene. Harris reformed the Toys in the '90s for oldies reunion gigs, and with her husband's help, cut a solo CD titled Barbara Now. Her two enterprising sons financed her CD from their computer business' profits. Parritt and Montiero live in Queens and both still perform. Sundazed Records compiled an excellent CD of the Toys' recordings that includes the gems from the first LP as well as many of their later singles. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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