The Teenagers had their origins in the Earth Angels, a group founded at Edward W. Stitt Junior High School in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan by second tenor Jimmy Merchant and bass Sherman Garnes. Eventually, Garnes and Merchant had added lead singer Herman Santiago and baritone Joe Negroni to their lineup and evolved into The Coupe De Villes. In 1954, 12-year-old Frankie Lymon joined the Coupe De Villes, who changed their name to first the Ermines and later the Premiers.
The same year Lymon joined the group, he helped Santiago and Merchant rewrite a song they had composed to create "Why Do Fools Fall In Love". The song got the Teenagers an audition with George Goldner's Gee Records, but Santiago was too sick to sing lead on the day of the audition. Lymon sang the lead on "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" instead, and the group was signed to Gee as The Teenagers, with Lymon as lead singer.
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" was the Teenagers' first and biggest hit. The group, known for both their harmony and choreography, also had hits with "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent" and "The ABC's of Love".
By 1957, the group was being billed as "Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers". This caused in-fighting, and by September, Goldner had pulled Lymon out of the group to record solo. Lymon had little success as a solo artist. He became a heroin addict at the age of 15 and his sales dropped quickly in the early 1960s. In 1966, he stopped using heroin after being forced to go to the army, but on February 27, 1968, he decided to celebrate his good fortune by taking heroin (he was planning to launch a comeback) and died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25 on the floor of his grandmother’s bathroom. He had been clean since entering the army two years earlier. The Teenagers continued recording, bringing in a new lead. Billy Lobrano, as the group's first white member, made them more racially mixed, now with two black, one white, and two Hispanic members. The group had little success with Lobrano, and he left. Sherman Garnes died of a heart attack in 1977, while Joe Negroni died a year later due to a cerebral hemorrhage. Their replacements were Bobby Jay and Frankie's brother Lewis Lymon, respectively.
The group, which made its most popular recordings with young Frankie Lymon as lead singer, is also noted for being rock's first all-teenaged act. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.