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Profile: The Shirelles

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Profile: The Shirelles

Formed:

1958 (Passaic, NJ)

Genres:

Girl group, Pop, R&B

Members:

Shirley Owens (b. June 10, 1941, Passaic, NJ): lead vocals
Doris Coley (b. August 2, 1941, Passaic, NJ; d. February 4, 2000, Sacramento, CA): vocals
Addie "Micki" Harris (b. January 22, 1940, Passaic, NJ): vocals
Beverly Lee (b. August 3, 1942, Passaic, NJ): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The first "girl group" to receive wide acclaim, including th first to go to Number One
  • The first girl group to sell a million records
  • Among the first female performers to write their own material
  • An integral part of New York's "Brill Building" scene
  • A lasting influence on the British Invasion, especially the Beatles

Early years:

The Shirelles are rare in rock history in that their spawning ground was also their ticket to fame -- specifically, Passaic High School in Passaic, NJ, where the four teenage girls met and formed a vocal group. Originally known as the Poquellos (Spanish for "little birds"), they auditioned for a schooltalent show with a song they'd written called "I Met Him On A Sunday." They not only won, they also won the ear of friend Mary Jane Greenberg, whose mother, Florence, owned Tiara records.

Success:

Re-named the Honeytones and then the Shirelles (combining lead singer Shirley Owens with the name of the Chantels, whose 1959 hit "Maybe" was a blueprint for the girl-group sound), the group recorded "Sunday" for Tiara. Just missing the Top 40, the record was picked up by Decca, but the group was dropped after several flop followups. By that time, Greenberg had started Scepter Records, and after several more attempts, the group hit big with Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."

Later years:

Several hits followed (including "Dedicated To The One I Love" and "Tonight's The Night," both of which had flopped previously), but, despite the admiration of British Invasion groups like the Beatles and Manfred Mann, the foreign fad had claimed the Shirelles' thunder by the mid-Sixties. "Micki" Harris died of a heart attack while on tour in 1982. The three remaining members still tour, albeit with three different versions of the group; Beverly Lee owns the official rights to the group's name.

Other facts:

  • A young Dionne Warwick got her start filling in for absent Shirelles on the road
  • Etta James and Ruth Brown chaperoned the teenage members on their first tour
  • The group passed on both "The Shoop Shoop Song" and "He's a Rebel"
  • Recorded several songs for the soundtrack of the 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • The Shirelles originally refused to sing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," feeling it was too pop for their audience

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Vocal Hall of Fame (2002)

Recorded work:


#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1961)
  • "Soldier Boy" (1962)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Mama Said" (1961)
  • "Dedicated To The One I Love" (1961)
  • "Baby It's You" (1962)
  • "Foolish Little Girl" (1963)
R&B:
  • "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1961)
  • "Mama Said" (1961)
  • "Dedicated To The One I Love" (1961)
  • "Big John" (1961)
  • "Soldier Boy" (1962)
  • "Baby It's You" (1962)
  • "Foolish Little Girl" (1963)
Other important recordings: "Tonight's The Night," "A Thing of The Past," "What A Sweet Thing That Was," "Welcome Home Baby," "Stop The Music," "31 Flavors," "Don't Say Goodnight And Mean Goodbye," "Everybody Loves A Lover," "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "What Does A Girl Do?," "Not For All The Money In The World," "Maybe Tonight," "Sha-La-La," "Thank You Baby," "Tonight You're Gonna Fall In Love With Me," "Are You Still My Baby," "Last Minute Miracle"
Covered by: The Beatles, Smith, Cilla Black, The Yardbirds, Carole King, Elvis Costello, Laura Nyro, Bryan Ferry, The Carpenters, Laura Branigan, The Mamas & The Papas, Millie Jackson
Appears in the movies: "Let the Good Times Roll" (1973)
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