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Profile: The Crystals


The Crystals

The Crystals

source: streets.nst.com.my

Why they matter:

  • One of the most successful girl groups of all time
  • Part of "Wall of Sound" producer Phil Spector's legendary stable of artists
  • Specialized in gritty and dramatic tales of urban romance atypical for the genre
  • Revolving lead vocalists Barbra Alston, Darlene Love, and La La Brooks are considered among the finest of their era


Girl group, R&B, Pop


1961 (Brooklyn, NY)

Principal Members:

Barbara Ann Alston (born December 29, 1943, in Baltimore, MD): lead vocals
Mary Thomas (born 1946, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Dee Dee Kennibrew (born Dolores Henry, 1945, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Merna Girard (born 1943, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Patsy Wright (born Patricia Wright, 1945, Brooklyn, NY): vocals

Early years:

The Crystals were formed by Brooklyn native and former big-band sideman Benny Wells, who decided to build a female vocal group around his niece, Barbara Alston, after hearing her sing in church. Alston recommended Mary Thomas and Merna Girard from her Brooklyn neighborhood; Dee Dee Kennibrew was brought in thanks to her mother, Kate Henry, who worked at the public school where the group rehearsed; Pat Wright joined after being recommended by her brother-in-law, local songwriter Leroy Bates. Bates also provided the Crystals with a song he'd written, an uptempo number entitled "There's No Other (Like My Baby)."


While rehearsing at the offices of Hill and Range, a very influential music publishing concern, they were overheard by producer Phil Spector, who liked what he heard. Bringing the girls into the studio, he dimmed the lights and recast "There's No Other" as a slow, sultry ballad. It became the group's first hit, followed by "Uptown," written by the Brill Building's Mann-Weil team. Girard, who by then was pregnant, was replaced with "La La" Brooks, a fellow P.S. 73 schoolmate discovered by Dee Dee singing in an afterschool show. Mary left in 1962 to get married and was not replaced.

Later years:

The Crystals enjoyed a number of hits in the early '60s, but their relationship with Spector soured after he forced them to record the bizarre domestic-abuse song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)," which radio rejected, as well as a joke song entitled "(Let's Dance) The Screw" and a number of songs, including the hits "He's A Rebel" and "He's Sure The Boy I Love," that were the Crystals in name only, having actually been recorded with Darlene Love and the Blossoms. Barbara, Dee Dee and Mary reformed in 1971 to tour the oldies revival circuit; Dee Dee heads up a version of the Crystals that still tours today.

Other facts and trivia:

  • The Crystals were named after Leroy Bates' daughter
  • The group recorded "There's No Other" on the night of their Senior Prom, still in their dresses
  • "He Hit Me" was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil after their babysitter, Eva Boyd, told them of a fight with her boyfriend; she would go on to be Little Eva of "Locomotion" fame
  • Darlene Love was brought in for "He's A Rebel" because Spector was in Los Angeles and couldn't wait for the Crystals to fly across the country
  • "La La" Brooks sings lead on "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me"
  • "He's A Rebel" was originally offered to the Shirelles, who turned it down


  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2006)
  • GRAMMY Hall Of Fame (2004)

Recorded work and hits:

#1 hits:

"He's A Rebel" (1962)

Top 10 hits:

"Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" (1963)
"Then He Kissed Me" (1963)


"There's No Other (Like My Baby)" (1961)

Other important recordings: "Uptown," "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)," "He's Sure The Boy I Love," "I Wonder," "Little Boy," "All Grown Up," "Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby," "What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen," "No One Ever Tells You," "I Love You Eddie," "Walkin' Along (La-La-La)," "Another Country - Another World," "Please Hurt Me," "Nothing," "You Can't Tie A Good Girl Down," "My Place," "I Got A Man," "Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me, Baby," "Ring-A-Ting-A-Ling," "Should I Keep On Waiting," "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," "Look In My Eyes," "Heartbreaker," "Girls Can Tell"
Covered by: Shaun Cassidy, The Donnas, The Searchers, Dave Edmunds, Hole, Flying Lizards, Rachel Sweet, The Beach Boys

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