The Monotones formed in 1955 when the seven original singers — all residents of the Baxter Terrace housing project in Newark, New Jersey — began performing covers of popular songs. The members of the Monotones were:
lead singer Charles Patrick (born September 11, 1938)
second tenor George Malone (January 5, 1940 - October 5, 2007)
bass singer John Smith (b. May 13, 1938)
second bass singer John Ryanes (November 16, 1940 - May 30, 1972)
his brother, baritoneWarren Ryanes (December 14, 1937 - June 16, 1982)
They all began singing with the New Hope Baptist Choir, directed by Cissy Houston, who was related to the Patrick brothers. The group launched their career with a 1956 appearance on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour television program, winning first prize for their rendition of The Cadillacs' "Zoom".Soon afterwards, Charles Patrick was listening to the radio and heard a Pepsodenttoothpaste commercial with the line "wonder where the yellow went." From there he got the idea for the line, "I wonder, wonder, wonder who!, who wrote the book of love", later working it up into a song with Davis and Malone. In September 1957, they recorded "Book Of Love", which was released on the Mascot label in December that year. The small record company could not cope with its popularity, and it was reissued on Chess Records' subsidiary Argo label in February 1958. It became a hit, eventually reaching #3 on the Billboard R&B chart and #5 on the pop charts. It also reached #5 in Australia; in the UK, the hit version was a cover by The Mudlarks.
The Monotones recorded a series of novelty follow-ups including "Zombi", and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", but they were not successful.
The Monotones disbanded in 1962. Surviving members met to revive "Book of Love" several times after the break-up. John Ryanes died in 1972, aged 31, and his brother Warren died in 1982. By 1994, the Monotones consisted of Frankie Smith, George Malone, Carl Foushee, Bernard Ransom, Bernard Brown, and Victor Hartsfield. Frankie Smith died in 2000, and George Malone in 2007
Don McLean, in his 1971 song "American Pie", made reference to "The Book of Love" as a symbol of the innocence of 1950s rock 'n' roll culture.