Herbie Kalin

Younger of the Kalin Twins


Herbert Harry Kalin, singer: born Port Jervis, New York 16 February 1934; married first Jonnie Kelly (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved), second Charlotte Post (deceased); died Waldorf, Maryland 21 July 2006.

There are numerous examples of brothers who found difficulties in working together in the music business, whether the name be Dorsey, Louvin, Everly, Davies or Gallagher. It is unusual and refreshing to note the Kalin Twins, a rare instance of brothers harmonising both on- and off-stage.

Hal and Herbie Kalin were identical twins from Port Jervis, New York, with Hal being the elder. They were born in 1934 (although their publicity was to state 1939). They were singing together from an early age and were only separated when Hal went to Japan for military service. In the mid-1950s, they formed a duo to sing hits from the pre-rock'n'roll era, especially Johnnie Ray's, but the crowds took particularly to their Everly Brothers numbers. They were signed to the US Decca label and their manager, Clint Ballard Jnr, wrote one side of their first single, "Jumpin' Jack", and they wrote the other, "The Spider and the Fly".

The Brill Building songwriter Paul Evans submitted the bouncy and joyous "When" to their record producer, Jack Pleis, and the twins thought it was perfect. Pleis's orchestral arrangement combined both pop and rock'n'roll elements and showcased their razor-sharp harmonies. "When" made the US Top Ten in 1958 and topped the UK charts for five weeks. It sounds dated now, but it remains the ultimate good-time record.

In view of their UK success, the Kalin Twins came on tour. At first they played in variety in London, unexpectedly supporting Paul Robeson at the London Palladium. They toured the UK with the trumpeter Eddie Calvert, the Most Brothers and a new rock'n'roll sensation, Cliff Richard. It was their misfortune to be on the same bill as Richard as they found it difficult to close the show.

The Kalin Twins 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 they covered Joe Brown's UK hit "A Picture of You" for the US market. They started a mail-order business where they would set poems to music. "I guess we weren't unscrupulous enough to make money," recalled Herb Kalin, "We were inundated with lyrics, most of them so horrible that we sent them back."

In 1977 "When" was revived by Showaddywaddy and went to No 3, but the original was not reissued. Then, in 1989, Cliff Richard invited them to join him on stage for a recreation of the ITV show Oh Boy! at Wembley Stadium. The Kalin Twins performed at oldies concerts and enjoyed working on conventions for their favourite singer, Johnnie Ray.

Hal Kalin died in 2005.

Spencer Leigh

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