Frank Hopkins

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The Hopkins family represents one of the great doo wop dynasties in the city of New Haven, perhaps a family of big fish in a small pond considering the city's wimpy music scene. It would be better to…
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The Hopkins family represents one of the great doo wop dynasties in the city of New Haven, perhaps a family of big fish in a small pond considering the city's wimpy music scene. It would be better to look to the trees rather than the water for related imagery, however, considering that Frank Hopkins, his brothers, and even his father were all part of the harmonizing in a group called the Chestnuts. Frank Hopkins and Lymon Hopkins represented the family in the first edition of the group, maintaining a 50 percent Hopkins ratio in the lineup until the addition of female lead singer Ruby Whitaker.

Whitaker was a positive, one of the main reasons the group attracted a record company and producer during a highly competitive cycle in sha-la-la land. The brothers Hopkins' first recordings took place in the summer of 1956 and included the whimsical assumption that "Love Is True." By the time of this recording daddy-o Lymon Hopkins, Sr. had joined the group. The Standord label picked up the Chestnuts the following year, roasting up versions of "Who Knows Better Than I" and "Mary Hear Those Love Bells," among others. The late-'50s membership of the group no longer featured Whitaker and an additional brother had joined, Arthur Hopkins. Frank Hopkins garnered a credit for writing a flip side, his own comment on brotherhood, the bouncy "Brother Ben."

The group continued recording on several regional labels, adding two singers who literally bayed like the hounds of the Baskervilles: Marvin Baskerville and Hayes Baskerville, naturally. The Hopkins contingent held firm throughout a series of name changes and management fudge-ups which seem both remarkable and perplexing even by doo wop standards. Frank Hopkins is still featured on these later recordings including "Chapel in the Moonlight," "Tell Me Little Darling," and the final Chestnuts documentation on Coral, the profound "Wobble Shank." The Chestnuts broke up in 1961.