Janet Vogel was the soprano vocalist of the Skyliners. Her voice is heard by millions around the world on the timeless hits of the Skyliners. She sang the signature series of "you-oo's" at the end of their biggest hit “Since I Don’t Have You”. Janet sang lead on the song "I Can Dream Can't I" and was a songwriter of the tunes "This I swear" and "It Happened Today". The Skyliners sold million records and performed at concerts around the world. As she was one of the few females singers in the world of all male Doo-Wop groups, she was one of the world's first female rock stars. Janet released a solo single under the name of Janet Deane "Another Night Alone/I'm Glad I" Waited on Gateway Records in 1963. A movie about Janet's music career and her struggle with depression entitled "Since I Don't Have You" was filmed in Pittsburgh in 2011.
Beginnings at Carrick High School
Janet Francis Vogel was born June 10, 1942 in Pittsburgh. She grew up in the Carrick section of Pittsburgh South Hills where she attended Carrick High School. At age 15 she met singer Jimmy Beaumont who was dating one of her friends. Beaumont, who was 17, sang with a vocal group called the Crescents and Janet sang in the group Eirios with Joe Versharen. Beaumont and the Cresent's manager Joe Rock asked Janet and Joe Versharen to join the Crescents when two members quit. Beaumont wanted Janet as she had a very mature singing voice and he wanted a girl singer who could hit the top high soprano notes. Janet became a member of the the Cresents at age 16 in 1958 joining Jimmy Beaumont, Wally Lester, Jack Taylor, and Joe Versharen.
The Cresents sound was a combination of doo-wop, rock, and pop. The Crescents were one of the few Doo Wop groups to have a female member. With Janet singing background harmony they had a Modemaires type sound. In interviews Beaumont said of Vogel "She was great on stage, a good dancer and a wonderful girl. She was a sweetheart for sure."
Manager Joe Rock booked the Crescents at at record hops around Pittsburgh. oe Rock and Beaumont co-write a song about lost love titled "Since I Don't Have You". The Crescent recorded demo tapes of their original songs in hopes of putting out a single.
Janet's Tears win Calico Record Audition
In 1958 musician Lennie Martin and promoter Lou Guarino founded the Calico Records label to record and promote the music of Pittsburgh musicians. They began a talent search on a Saturday holding auditions for groups on the third floor of Carlton House Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. Exhausted after listening to groups all day from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening and not hearing anything good they decided to close the auditions and go home. Lou and Lennie were at the elevator waiting to leave when the door opened. Out bounced five guys and a girl asking, “Where’s the audition?” Lennie told them it was over and to look for the next audition announcement. Pleading in tears singer Janet Vogal convinced Lennie and Lou to hear the group sing. They sang the first few notes of the song “Since I Don’t Have You” and wowed Lennie and Lou.
Lou scheduled a recording session with 18 back up musicians in New York for the group. Lennie wrote the string arrangement for “Since I Don’t Have You”. Lou and Lennie produced the sessions that netted three hit singles. The series of "you-oo's" at the end of "Since I Don't Have You" was an accident. Janet did not know the tape was still running and kept singing. Lennie Martin let the tape roll on for 13 repetitions of "you-oo" and kept them in the final mix.
Before the release of the single the Crescent changed their name Joe Rock took the name "The Skyliners" from Charlie Barnett’s hit song "Skyliner."
Since I Don't Have Becomes a Smash Hit
Calico Records was launched December of 1959 with the release of the Skyliners’ single “Since I Don’t Have You”. Lou flew from New York to Pittsburgh with the master copy of the single and took it straight to KDKA radio’s music director Art Pallen. Impressed Pallen aired the record within an hour and put the song in heavy rotation. It quickly went to No 1 in Pittsburgh. Calico then distributed the record nationally.
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. The Skyliners became the first teen group to place a single in the top 40.
Janet Vogel and the rest of the Skyliners dropped out of high school to tour. 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. 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. Turntable Magazine’s gave the Skyliners the “Best Group Award” in 1959 and 1960. They were on top of the world.
Three other singles and the Skyliners first album also hit the charts. “This I Swear" written by Janet reached number 26 in 1959. "Pennies From Heaven" climbed to number 24 in 1960. The Skyliner’s album "The Skyliners" released on Calico Records in 1960 reached the top 50.
After a falling out with Calico, the Skyliners released singles on several different labels. They released three singles on the Colpix label in 1961. Within a two year period the Skyliners had 6 chart hits and sold more than sold more than 11 million singles and albums.
Janet's Solo Release
Tired from touring Janet Vogel left the Skyliners in 1961 and returned to life in Pittsburgh. The Skyliners continued on. 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.
In 1963 Janet launched a solo career changing her stage name of Janet Deane. She released the single "Another Night Alone/I'm Glad I" Waited on Pittsburgh's Gateway Records.
Settling down to civilian life Janet married Pittsburgh police office Kerry Rapp and had three children Gavin, Marlo and Kip. The Rapp family lived in Bethal Park and Brentwood.
In 1968 concert promoter Richard Nader called the Skyliners He asked them to reunite for a one night only performance at a rock 'n' roll revival show in Madison Square Garden. They agreed and Janet Vogel appeared with the Skyliners at the show headlined by Ricky Nelson. Capitol Records, impressed with the Skyliners performance, signed the group to a singles deal. Capitol released the song “Where Have They Gone” that reached the Billboard Top 100. The Skyliners went back on the road performing a Doo Wop revival concerts for several years.In 1977 Janet recorded with the Skyliners on the Tortoise International Records album release titled “The Skyliner”s. Two singles were released: “Oh How Happy” (a cover the Edwin Starr song) and “The Love Bug”. The Skyliners roster on that release was Jimmy Beaumont, Janet Vogel, Bobby Sholes, and former Jaggerz member Jimmie Ross.
Tragic EndingUnbeknownst to her band mates Janet life at home was unhappy. She was trapped in a tumultuous marriage and suffered from depression. Janet and her husband Kerry Rapp clashed over her career. Kerry, an ex-Marine and tough street-wise Pittsburgh cop, was described by his son Garvin as selfish, overbearing, and controlling. Janet was emotionally fragile and may have suffered from bipolar disorder. She sunk into a deep depression that worsened over the years. Deeply in despair she wrote notes on the insides of dresser drawers such as 'Help me. I can't live like this. I can't take this" according to her son Gavin Rapp.
On February 21, 1980 Janet was to receive an award recognizing her achievements with the Skyliners. She packed up her car with Skyliners memorabilia to take to the awards ceremony. But she never made it out the garage. Depression overtook her. She committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Janet was 37 years old. She left behind three young children.
Memorialized in Film
Gavin Rapp, who was 13 years old at the time of his mother’s death, wrote and produced a film about the bitter sweet life of Janet Vogel Rapp. Titled “Since I Don't Have You", the biopic film is told from the prespective of a boy coping with his parents' troubled marriage and the suicide of his mother. Janet Vogel Rapp’s personal story is set within the story of the Skyliners 1950s rise to fame and 1970’s comeback.
IMDB describes the movie as: "Since I Don't Have You" is a feature-length backstage drama set in the years between 1975 and 1990, as seen through the eyes of the son of the beloved female vocalist in the popular doo-wop group, The Skyliners. As the child grows, the world of rock'n'roll takes a heavy toll on his family, turning him into a tough but unhappy youth. His life changes forever as the picture climaxes in a dramatic confrontation with his estranged father, where details of the events leading up to his mother's suicide."
Garvin’s goal for the film was to illustrate the challenges of depression on families. At the time of Janet’s death depression was not well understood and treatments for bipolar disorder were just being developed. He said the seriousness of his mother’s depression was not recognized nor understood. “People didn't know how to deal with it then." Gavin’s film seeks to help people recognize the effects of deep depression and to the need for understanding of family members who suffer from its ravages. In interviews about the film Gavin said “Depression is a real thing and afflicts a lot of people. You need to be very understanding.”
“Since I Don’t Have You” was made in Pittsburgh in 2011. It was shot by the award winning Winter Morning Pictures with a $275,000 budget. Scenes were filmed with digital cameras by small crews in Aspinwall, Greenfield and Central Catholic High School. The cast reenacted Skyliners concerts lip-syncing to Skyliners records. Gavin Rapp co-directed the film with Ron Hankison.