Len Barry, ‘1-2-3’ and ‘Bristol Stomp’ Singer, Dies

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Len Barry, the original lead singer for the popular doo-wop group the Dovells, including their 1961 hit, “Bristol Stomp,” died November 5, 2020. The news was revealed by Jerry Gross, another original member of the singing group. Barry was 78; no cause of death was revealed. Barry later earned a solo hit with “1-2-3” in 1965.

In his post on the group’s Facebook page, Gross wrote, “We lost one of our original members. Our lead singer from 1960 – 1963… has gone on to Rock ‘n’ Roll heaven. In these trying times that we’re living in, with the politics and the virus, and now one more sad moment.

Gross continued, “Very few people know that we did two reunion shows in 1994 in Syracuse (NY) and Hartford (Conn). We had a fabulous time both on stage, and in the car between the dates. Between Lenny and Mark, the comedy never stopped. It was the best of times.

“Great being with him again after 31 years. RIP old friend. From all the remaining Dovells. Jerry, Arnie, Mike, and Mark.”

Barry was born Leonard Orisoff on June 12, 1942, in Philadelphia, Penn., performing in singing groups with high school friends. After serving with the U.S. Coast Guard, he formed the Dovells with other members, settling on a lineup in 1961 with Gross, Arnie Silver, Jim Mealey, and Mike Freda. Signed to Cameo-Parkway, they recorded “Bristol Stomp” about teenagers’ new dance step in a nearby blue collar town.

The single reached #2 on the Hot 100, blocked from the top spot by Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” and ultimately sold more than a million copies.

Watch the Dovells perform their hit

They returned to the top of the pop charts with “You Can’t Sit Down,” which reached #3 in 1963.

Watch the teenaged audience dance to the song by the local favorites on the then Philadelphia-based American Bandstand.

After several more singles, Barry left the group for a solo career. He returned to the upper reaches of the pop chart in 1965 with the ultra-catchy “1-2-3,” which he co-wrote, earning a Grammy Award nomination for Contemporary Rock & Roll Male Vocal Performance.

The song peaked at #2 on Nov. 20, behind the Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony.”

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2020

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8 Comments so far

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  1. RecordSteve
    #1 RecordSteve 6 November, 2020, 13:29

    1-2-3 we grieve again=another rock n roller joins R & R Heaven….

    Reply this comment
  2. Ronni
    #2 Ronni 6 November, 2020, 21:48

    “My Heart would be a fireball “ I loved to hear him sing that

    Reply this comment
  3. Timflyte
    #3 Timflyte 7 November, 2020, 06:55

    What a voice. An amazing talent. There’s a good interview with him on Youtube.
    May god be with his family & friends.

    Reply this comment
  4. bobbyb5
    #4 bobbyb5 7 November, 2020, 11:22

    All these years I didn’t know the guy who sang 123 was the same guy who sang with the dovells. Of course. Those are two of the greatest oldies of all time. I always knew that much. I just never made the connection.

    Reply this comment
    • joe
      joe 8 November, 2020, 05:22

      Yes I noticed exactly that myself and I love all the old music both were great songs

      Reply this comment
  5. Jukebox Dave
    #5 Jukebox Dave 8 November, 2020, 07:08

    I saw the Dovells without Len Barry in 1980. No comparison to the real deal!

    Reply this comment
  6. Abu Abdullah
    #6 Abu Abdullah 8 November, 2020, 10:46

    This was one of my favorite songs growing up as an African American teenager in Atlanta. Black guys used to wonder why would I buy some white boy music. Truth be told heart and soul, hats off to Larry, 123, and any songs by connie Francis were some of my favorites.

    Reply this comment
  7. DIANE
    #7 DIANE 18 April, 2021, 17:25

    So sad to hear of his passing. I love his video song 123. So many favorites. Prayers go out to all his family and close friends. Didnt know him personally. When I think of a guy with lots of charisma & charm on stage. That would be Len Barry.

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