The group was formed by friends from a high school based in the Bronx, New York, United States. The initial members were the brothers Carl and Claude Feaster, plus Jimmy Keyes, Floyd McRae, William Edwards, with support from the pianist Rupert Branker. The Chords were one of the first acts to be signed to the Atlantic Records subsidiary label, Cat Records.
Their debut single was a doo-wop version of a Patti Page song, "Cross Over the Bridge", whilst the record label reluctantly allowed a number penned by the Chords on the B-side. That track was "Sh-Boom", which quickly turned out to be the more popular side. The record reached the top 10 of the US pop chart, which was then a unique occurrence for a R&B number. The track was covered by the Crew-Cuts who took the song to the top of the charts, to arguably register the first US rock and roll number one hit record.
The Chords initial euphoria was diluted when Gem Records claimed that one of the groups on its roster was called the Chords, and therefore the singers of the big hit quickly changed their name to the Chordcats. The success was a one-off, as subsequent releases including, "Zippety-Zum", all failed to chart. A round of personnel changes and recordings on a variety of labels all failed to ignite the public's interest.
Floyd McRae, the last surviving original member, died on March 19, 2013, at a nursing home in the Bronx, at the age of 86.