The Skyliners are one of the best known doo-wop groups. Their million selling hit song "Since I Don't Have You" is pop standard and a landmark song in pop music history. With that hit the Skyliners became the first group to feature a string arrangement in a rock and roll song. Phil Spector sites “Since I Don’t Have You” as an influence on his "wall of sound" style of the 1960s. A tale of young heart-break the song is noted for its climax, where Jimmy Beaumont repeats "you" thirteen times while Janet Vogel sings high wailing backup vocals. Beaumont ends the song stretching the final “you” to eight syllables. Popular for five decades “Since I Don’t Have You” has been recorded by over 150 other artists and has been featured in the movie soundtracks of “American Graffiti”, “Lethal Weapon2” and other movies. It has been back in the top 100 several times with recordings by Guns 'N Roses, Don McClean, Barbra Streisand, Patti LaBelle, and Art Garfunkel.
The same recording session that produced “Since I Don’t Have You” also netted two other top 40 singles "This I Swear" that reached number 26 in 1959 and "Pennies From Heaven" that climbed to number 24 in 1960. Other notable songs from the Skyliners include "It Happened Today" which reach number 59 in 1959, and “Where Have They Gone” that made the top 100 in 1975, "Close Your Eyes" (1961), and "Comes Love" (1962). The original members of the Skyliners were Jimmy Beaumont, Wally Lester, Jack Taylor, Joe Verscharen, and Janet Vogel. The Skyliners were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
Joe Rock Forms the Skyliners
Joe Rock at age 21 formed the Skyliners in 1958 when a group of teen singers that he managed called the Cresents lost two members. He recruited Joe Versharen and Janet Vogel from The Eirios to join Jimmy Beaumont, Wally Lester and Jack Taylor. All of the members were teenagers who attended Carrick High School. Joe penned the lyrics to "Since I Don't Have You" when a secretary he was seeing said that she didn't want to date him anymore. Joe took the words to Jimmy Beaumont who wrote the melody. Rock sent a demo recording of the song to 13 labels. They all rejected it. The Pittsburgh label Calico Records, based in the old Carlton House Hotel, saw potential. Beamont suggested the idea of a string arrangement. Lennie Martin, owner of Calico, wrote the string arrangement that Jimmy Beaumont suggested. “Since I Don’t Have You” was recorded in Capitol Studios in New York with 18 musicians. Wanting a new name to replace “The Cresents” Joe Rock took the name "The Skyliners" from Charlie Barnett’s hit song "Skyliner."
Since I Don't Have You Hits the Charts
"Since I Don't Have You" was released in December 1958. Art Pallan of KDKA radio broke the record and it quickly went to No 1 in Pittsburgh. The Skyliners made their national debut on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in February 1959 and the song “went through the roof”. By March it reached No. 12 on the Billboard Pop chart. It was one of the top ten songs of 1959 reaching no 3 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. It was the first single by a Caucasian group to hit #1 on the Cashbox R&B charts. The Skyliners became the first teen group to place a single in the top 40.
With their smash hit the Skyliners appeared on national TV and toured the country. Dick Clark put the Skyliners on his "Caravan of Stars" a 66-city concert tour that also featured Paul Anka, the Coasters, the Drifters, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Clark also featured the Skyliners several times on his afternoon American Bandstand show and his Saturday night broadcast. They performed at the Apollo Theater seven times. They appeared on the Alan Freed show on Easter 1959 with Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, and Bobby Darin. Turntable Magazine’s gave the Skyliners the “Best Group Award” in 1959 and 1960. They were on top of the world.
The Skyliner’s first album "The Skyliners" released on Calico Records in 1960 with twelve tracks reached the top 50. Calico released three more singles "Lonely Way" B/W "It Happened Today" and "How Much" B/W "Lorraine From Spain" and "Believe Me" B/W "Happy Time". After a falling out with Calico, the Skyliners released singles on several different labels. They released three singles on the Colpix label in 1961. “Come Love” was released on the Viscount Label. In 1963 they signed with Atco Records releasing “Since I Fell For You". Worn out from years of touring and having little recent chart success in the face of the British invasion, the Skyliners broke up in the 1964.
Winning with the "Loser"
Original member Jack Taylor, with Joe Rock’s permission, re-launched the Skyliners in 1965 with a new group of singers. They release a song written by Taylor and Rock called the "The Loser" on Jubilee Records. It reached number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. That version of the Skyliners included Jackie Taylor, Elaine Sofolcle, Jack O'Neil, Robert Peckman. and Thom Davies.
In 1970, Jimmy Beaumont, Janet Vogel Rapp, Lester, and VerScharen re-formed tour and record. The recorded the album “Once Upon A Time” on Buddah The Skyliners Featuring Jimmy Beaumont. They appeared at Richard Nader’s Madison Square Garden oldies revival launching their tours on Doo Wop revival circuit for several years. They released the single "Where Have They Gone" on Capital Records became a number 1 hit in the Pittsburgh market in 1974.
The original Skyliners broke up for good on New Years Day, 1976, when Wally Lester and Joe Verscharen permanently retired from the group. Taylor went off to war in Vietnam as an Army captain and later worked in computers. Lester became VP for Clairol. Joe Verscharen, who worked for Prudential Insurance Co. before he bought a motel in Kitty Hawk, N.C, died in 2007. Janet Vogel-Rapp suffering from manic-depression took her own life 1980 at the age of 37. A movie about her life entitled "Since I Don't Have You" has been filmed.
Jimmy Beaumont formed Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners in the 1990s with Nick Pociask, Dick Muse, and Donna Groom. They appear nationally on Doo-Wop tours and on PBS television specials.