The group was formed in 1955 at Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School, and was known as the Linc-Tones. Originally featuring members Neil Sedaka, Hank Medress, Eddie Rabkin, and Cynthia Zolotin, Rabkin was replaced by Jay Siegel in 1956, and the band recorded its first single, "While I Dream" that same year. In 1957 Sedaka and Zolotin left the band, leaving only Jay and Hank, who would recruit two additional band members and record the single "Picture in my Wallet" as Darrell & the Oxfords. Finally establishing its most famous name and lineup, the band become known as The Tokens in 1960 after Jay and Hank recruited 13-year-old multi-instrumentalist and first tenor Mitch Margo and his baritone brother Phil Margo and guitarist Joe Venneri.
From 1962 to 1970, the group released nine more songs that made it into the Top 100, including "I Hear Trumpets Blow" (1964) and "Portrait of My Love" (1967). Beginning in 1963, the Tokens also began serving as producers for other artists, such as the Chiffons, Randy & the Rainbows, and the Happenings. In 1973, Medress left the group and Siegel teamed with the Margo Brothers to form the group Cross Country, which would encounter some success with its cover of "In the Midnight Hour." The Tokens would reunite in 1975 for occasional weeks as singing regulars on the Adam Wade hosted game show Musical Chairs and in 1978 recorded a song for ABC's Schoolhouse Rock called "A Victim of Gravity".
Today, brothers Mitch and Philip Margo continue to perform with "new" members Jay Leslie, Mike Johnson and Noah Margo (one of Phil's sons) on drums. Mitch's sons, Damien and Ari Margo also make occasional guest performances with the band, exemplifying Phil Margo's saying that "If you hang around long enough you can grow your own band."
Jay Siegel continues to perform with his own version of the Tokens as well, featuring bass singer Bill Reid and, more recently, John "Jay" Traynor, the original lead singer (before Jay Black) of Jay & the Americans and The Mystics. Siegel's son is also in the group as keyboardist and occasional vocalist.
Jay Siegel's Tokens and the Margo brothers reunited in 2000 to perform on the PBS special, Doo Wop 51. At the time, Siegel's Tokens were Siegel, Reid, and Eddy Rezzonico;Rezzonico had replaced Richie Grassoin the 1990s.
50s, 60s Hits
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
In 1961, it became a number one hit in the U.S. as adapted by the doo-wop group The Tokens. It went on to earn at least US$15 million in royalties from covers and film licensing. Then, in the mid-nineties, it became a pop "supernova"