Simon & Garfunkel's Teen Harmony Duo Tom & Jerry
A decade before achieving worldwide fame under their own names, high school friends Paul Simon and Artie Garfunkel scored a minor chart entry in 1957 with a self-penned song called "Hey Schoolgirl." The tune's crippling debt to Everly Brothers was no accident – they inadvertently wrote the song one afternoon while struggling to recall the words to the Everlys' "Hey Doll Baby." The tune was catchy enough to become a favorite at early gigs across their home borough of Queens, and the enterprising Simon soon managed to convince promoter Sid Prosen to sign them to his label, Big Records. Fearing that their given names were "too ethnic-sounding" for showbiz, they took pseudonyms. Garfunkel chose "Tom Graph," in honor of his passion for mathematics, while Simon dubbed himself "Jerry Landis," the surname borrowed from his then-girlfriend. Together their act became known as “Tom & Jerry.”
"Hey Schoolgirl," their debut single, was released in November 1957, backed by another original, "Dancin' Wild." Namedropped in the pages of Variety, played on DJ Alan Freed's influential radio show, and even performed on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the song moved over 100,000 copies, enough to bring it to a respectable Number 49 on the Billboard charts. "You can't imagine what it was like having a hit record at 16," Simon said later. "It made me a neighborhood hero." Garkfunkel, meanwhile, was less confortable with his new role as a burgeoning teen idol. "It was all over my head," he recalled in Marc Eliot's Paul Simon: A Life. "I never would have done it if Paul hadn't pulled me along. I was too fearful of the competitive, adult world of rock 'n' roll." For a time he stepped back from the industry and set his sights on Columbia University. Simon, meanwhile, had other plans. Having quietly signed a solo deal around the same time Tom & Jerry signed to the label, he began recording material under the name True Taylor. The name would prove ironic: Garfunkel took it as the ultimate treachery when he learned of Simon's solo alter ego.
Tom & Jerry ultimately went on to release a handful of pop singles, including "Our Song," "I'm Lonesome" (1959), "I'll Drown in My Tears" (1961) and "Surrender, Please, Surrender" (1962), before deciding to part company for a time. They would eventually reunite in the middle of the decade under their most famous moniker, but the True Taylor incident sewed the seeds of distrust and resentment that would underscore their relationship for the rest of their lives.