The Heartbeats were formed in 1954 at a time when Rock N Roll was in its infancy. The group came together while all four members were attending New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, NY. The Heartbeats were comprised of Frankie Stropoli (Lead), Al Rosenberg (First Tenor), Tony Grochowski (Second Tenor) and Joe Sucamele (Bass) . The Group cut one single for for Jubilee in 1955.
After the records release, the Heartbeats went through some personnel changes and Joe Villa was recruited in to their ranks. Before the end of 1955 a record called "Crazy For You" was getting a lot of New York City action thanks to deejay Alan Freed. Well this record was also by another Heartbeats group, the one that is familiar to most doo-wop lovers.
To avoid confusion, our guys decided that they needed a new name for their group. About this time, they had begun to collaborate with Teddy Randazzo of the Three Chuckles. Joe Villa credits Randazzo as the one who suggested the group's new name, the Three Friends.
"Blanche" was an original song penned by the group, and inspired by a young lady who had attended their High School. The group came to the attention of Leo Rogers, who had them record the tune on his newly formed Lido label. The dreamy teen ballad was released in September of 1956.
The record was reviewed in Billboard the week of October 27 and received a three stars or "very good" rating. Alan Freed liked the record, which meant it got excellent exposure on his New York City radio show, and almost immediately put the Three Friends on the map. Riding high on the success of "Blanche" the Three Friends took almost a year to release some follow up discs. Although the group were fine singers, they could not recapture their initial success with "Blanche".
The Three Friends also used their polished harmonies to back up other artists. They can be heard (although un-credited) behind Eddie Robbins on his 1958 Power release of "Dear Parents" backed with "A Girl Like You". They also provided back-up vocals to Eddie Reardon on his 1958 Brunswick recording of "Who Is Eddie" and "Just Trying".
Following his tenure with the Three Friends, Joe Villa would go on to front a combo called the Royal Teens, who had a big success in 1958 with the novelty rocker "Short Shorts" originally released on Power and later picked up by ABC Paramount. And on some of the Royal Teens later recordings such as "Believe Me", it's none other than the Three Friends providing the vocal harmonies.