Jo Ann Campbell started out in show business at a young age with designs on being a dancer. When Campbell reached high school, her parents decided to move their talented teenager from Jacksonville, Florida, to New York City. There, she continued to train and work as a dancer while simultaneously becoming fascinated with Alan Freed’s programming and the emergent genre of rock and roll. “If I wasn’t out dancing somewhere, I was in my bedroom with the door shut, listening to Alan Freed,” she told writer Bruce Pollock.
Wynona Carr was born and raised in Cleveland, where she grew up singing in church. She began singing on the radio at the age of thirteen, and performed with and directed several gospel groups in the region, including the Turner Singers, the Carr Singers, and the Wings Over Jordan Choir. At twenty-one, she led a Detroit-based Baptist chorus that included Aretha Franklin and Della Reese. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she received increasing recognition as a solo singer and was billed as “Sister Wynona Carr.”
Formed in the Bronx, New York in the early 1950s, the Chantels were among the first African-American female vocal groups to gain national attention. The group originally brought together the five voices of Arlene Smith (who typically sang lead), Lois Harris (first soprano), Millicent “Sonia” Goring (second soprano), Jackie Landry (first alto), and Renee Minus (second alto).