Before “The Boy In The Bubble” and “Graceland”…before “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” and “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”…and before “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Sound Of Silence,” there was “Hey Schoolgirl” and a multitude of early recordings by the likes of Tom & Jerry, Jerry Landis, Tommy Graph, Artie Garr, True Taylor, The Mystics and Tico And The Triumphs. No matter what name they recorded under they were still two teenagers named Art and Paul, and when their voices blended, they were undeniably Simon & Garfunkel.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were childhood friends who grew up living three blocks from each other in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. They met in elementary school in 1953 and attended Parsons Junior High School and Forest Hills High School together.
Inspired by their heroes, The Everly Brothers, they began recording as Tom & Jerry in 1957, when they were 16 years old. Paul changed his name to Jerry Landis (taking the last name from a girl he’d been dating) and Art became Tommy Graph (taking his last name from his propensity to graph the hits on the weekly pop charts.)
Their first professional recording was the Paul Simon original, “Hey Schoolgirl,” backed with today’s Song Of The Day, “Dancin’ Wild,” which they recorded for Sid Prosen’s Big Record label. The single climbed up to #49 on the charts on the strength of its A-side, and sold 100,000 copies. Despite an appearance on American Bandstand, subsequent recordings for MGM, Warwick and Laurie Records, under various names, failed to chart. After high school, Simon attended Queens College and Garfunkel went to Columbia University.
Between 1957 and 1963, Simon and Garfunkel continued to write and record songs around The Brill Building. In early 1964 they were signed to Columbia records by Clive Davis, and recorded their debut album Wednesday Morning 3AM. The record didn’t sell well, so Simon took off to England to try his luck at a solo career. He recorded his first album, The Paul Simon Story, which was a UK only release that wouldn’t see a U.S. release until 2004.
While Simon was in England playing cafes and writing songs like “Cathy’s Song” and “Homeward Bound” for his girlfriend, Garfunkel continued with his studies. Meanwhile radio stations began to get requests for the Simon & Garfunkel album track, “The Sound Of Silence,” from their debut album. Producer, Tom Wilson was having success with early folk-rock recordings by The Byrds, so he overdubbed the track with electric guitar, bass, and drums and released it as a single. The recording became Simon & Garfunkel’s first number one hit, and the rest, as they say, is history.
My first came contact with the early Tom & Jerry recordings was from a “Simon & Garfunkel” album released by Pickwick Records back in the mid-1960s. My parents purchased it for me thinking it was one of their real releases, only for us to all be disappointed by the early rock ‘n’ roll recordings we heard on the record. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the innocence of these recordings and their unique place in music history.
Last year, Jasmine Records in England released the compilation Two Teenagers featuring the duo’s complete recordings from 1957 through 1961.