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Profile: The Shangri-Las

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The Shangri-Las

The Shangri-Las

source: icce.rug.nl

Formed:

1963 (Queens, NY)

Genres:

Girl group, Pop

Principal Members:

  • Mary Weiss (born January 1, 1948, in Queens, NY): lead vocals
  • Betty Weiss (born Elizabeth Weiss, 1946, in Queens, NY): vocals
  • Marge Ganser (born Marguerite Ganser, February 8, 1947, in Queens, NY; died July 28, 1996, in Valley Stream, NY): vocals
  • Mary Anne Ganser (born February 8, 1947, in Queens, NY; died March 14, 1970, in Queens, NY): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • One of the most successful girl groups of all time
  • Their 1964 hit "Leader Of The Pack" remains a classic in the teen tragedy genre
  • Considered the toughest and most dramatic of the girl groups
  • A major inspiration on every female rock band to follow
  • The rare white girl group to make significant inroads into R&B radio
  • Produced by Shadow Morton, one of rock's great cult geniuses

Early years:

The story of the Shangri-Las revolves around two pairs of sisters, the Gansers and the Weisses, all four of whom grew up in the Queens borough of New York and attended Andrew Jackson High School there. Inspired by the Four Seasons and Little Anthony and the Imperials, they formed a vocal group named after a local restaurant and began to play several local gigs. They were soon signed to Artie Ripp's production company. Meanwhile, in another borough, Long Island, local musician George "Shadow" Morton was finding out that a girl he'd met at a party, Ellie Greenwich, was now a successful Brill Building songwriter.

Success:

Meeting Greenwich and her husband/partner Jeff Barry, Morton boasted that he, too, was a songwriter, and challenged by Barry to demo a ballad, Morton did just that, recruiting the Shangri-Las, whom he'd seen around town, and a young piano player named Billy Joel to record a song for him. Realizing on the drive to the studio that he'd forgotten to get a song, Morton pulled his car over and wrote a song in 20 minutes' time. The result, "(Remember) Walkin' In The Sand," went over so well that both the song and the group were picked up by Lieber and Stoller's Red Bird label. It was an instant success.

Later years:

The Shangs rode the end of the girl group era for several years, but the mismanaged Red Bird label soon fell apart, and though they were picked up by Mercury, the group was never high on the label's radar. The girls soon decided to pursue their earlier career choices, some white-collar and some blue. Mary Anne died in 1970 under mysterious circumstances that have been portrayed as epileptic seizure or drug overdose; the remaining trio enjoyed a career renaissance of sorts in the late Seventies. Marge died of breast cancer in 1994; in 2007, lead singer Mary engineered a surprising solo comeback.

Other facts:

  • Many photos of group show only three girls due to the fact that Betty, who disliked the stage, never joined the group on tour
  • Though the seagulls on "Remember" were stock sound effects, the engine sounds on "Leader Of The Pack" came courtesy of a real motorcycle, driven right into the studio
  • A young Harry Nilsson wrote the Shangs' 1965 b-side "Paradise"
  • Mary was called in to sing backup on Aerosmith's 1979 version of "Remember"
  • Kenny Laguna, the group's keyboard player, later went on to found the Blackhearts with Joan Jett
  • Fake "Shangri-Las" have been performing with no original members since 1989

Awards/Honors:

  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:

"Leader Of The Pack" (1964)

R&B:

"Leader Of The Pack" (1964)

Top 10 hits:
Pop:

"Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" (1964)
"I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (1965)

R&B:

"Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" (1964)

Other important recordings: "It's Easier To Cry," "What Is Love?" "Give Him A Great Big Kiss," "Out In The Streets," "The Boy," "Give Us Your Blessings," "Heaven Only Knows," "Right Now And Not Later," "Train From Kansas City," "Never Again," "I'm Blue," "What's A Girl Supposed To Do?" "Long Live Our Love," "Bull Dog," "Sophisticated Boom Boom," "He Cried," "Dressed In Black," "Past, Present, And Future," "Paradise," "Wishing Well," "Hate To Say I Told You So"
Covered by: Aerosmith, Blondie, Johnny Thunders, Bette Midler, Hilary Duff, Belle and Sebastian, Twisted Sister, Louise Goffin, Mouth and MacNeal, The Nylons, The Beach Boys, The Go-Gos, Agnetha Faltskog, Redd Kross, Superchunk, Neko Case

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