MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Jimmy Beaumont, the lead singer of the doo-wop group the Skyliners and a co-writer of the iconic ballad “Since I Don’t Have You,” has died at age 76.
Beaumont died in his sleep Saturday at his home in McKeesport, about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, his hometown, his family said.
Joe Rock, who would eventually manage the Skyliners, was helping to promote Beaumont’s former group, the Crescents, when Rock wrote some lyrics lamenting his girlfriend’s impending departure for flight attendants’ school out of state. That was 1958, and Beaumont was 18.
Beaumont set the lyrics to music, and a hit was born.
“I had been listening to all the doo-wop groups from that period — The Platters, the Moonglows. I guess just from listening it came out of me,” Beaumont told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a 2009 interview.
The song has been covered by Barbra Streisand, Patti LaBelle, Art Garfunkel, Don McLean and even Guns N’ Roses.
The song was released in December 1958 but hit No. 1 on the Cashbox R&B chart and No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1959.
The Skyliners were the first white group to top the Cashbox R&B charts, and Beaumont said when American Bandstand’s Dick Clark signed the group to his Caravan of Stars tour people expected a black act.
“At the Apollo Theater in New York, everyone was laughing and pointing to each other when we came out,” Beaumont told the newspaper. “They couldn’t believe we were a white group. They got real quiet during the song, then when we went into the ‘yous’ the women in the audience were all singing along.”
The group had two lesser hits, “This I Swear” and “Pennies from Heaven,” before disbanding in 1963. It regrouped and scored a Top 100 hit in 1975 with “Where Have They Gone.” That gave the group, with Beaumont as the only original member, enough traction to keep performing through last month.
Beaumont is survived by his wife, two daughters and five grandchildren.