Hal Kalin

Elder of the Kalin Twins, singers of 'When'
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The Independent Online

The finger-snapping introduction leading into melodious saxophones and then the sprightly vocals of the Kalin Twins puts "When" among the most distinctive hits of the rock'n'roll era. The 1958 single owed as much to middle-of-the-road pop as rock'n'roll and, although the brothers were likened to the Everly Brothers, their work was more orchestral. "When" made the US Top Ten in 1958 and topped the UK charts for five weeks.

Hal and Herbie Kalin were identical twins from Port Jervis, New York, with Hal being the elder. They were born in 1934, although the publicity at the time stated 1939. They were singing together from an early age and were only separated when Hal went to Japan for his military service. In the mid-Fifties, they formed a duo to sing hits from the pre-rock'n'roll era, especially Johnnie Ray's, but the crowds went wild when they added some Everly Brothers numbers. Their manager, Clint Ballard Jnr, who was to write "You're No Good", wrote their first single, "Jumpin' Jack", for the US Decca label.

The Brill Building songwriter Paul Evans submitted "When" to the Kalin Twins' record producer, Jack Pleis, but he did not care for it. He placed it in a pile of rejects, but he wasn't around when the twins went to his office and they started playing the discarded songs by mistake. Evans recalled,

They pulled it out and loved it and their producer was too embarrassed to tell them that he had rejected it. He let them cut it and it had a thrilling arrangement, which really helped the record.

The single was originally promoted with a teenage song about a drugstore romance, "Three O'Clock Thrill", but the radio disc-jockeys soon discovered "When" and it soared up the charts. In view of its success, the twins came to the UK on tour. At first they played in variety in London, bizarrely supporting Paul Robeson at the Palladium. They toured the UK with the trumpeter Eddie Calvert and a new rock'n'roll sensation, Cliff Richard.

Because of a dispute over publishing rights, Paul Evans was not allowed to pass any more songs to the Kalin Twins, but they made the US Top Twenty with "Forget Me Not" and did well with "It's Only the Beginning". One of their best records, "Chicken Thief" (1960), was written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant who often wrote for the Everly Brothers. They recorded "Loneliness" by a little-known songwriter, Gene Pitney, and covered Joe Brown's UK hit, "A Picture of You", for the US market. They wrote some good songs themselves including "One More Time", but they were asking for trouble when they recorded a song called "It's Just Terrible".

In 1977 "When" was revived by Showaddywaddy and went to No 3, but the original was not reissued. In 1989, Cliff Richard invited them to join him on stage for a recreation of the ITV show Oh Boy! for concerts at Wembley Stadium.

Spencer Leigh