Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Female vocal quartet of the early '60s, one of the most successful of the girl groups, yet allied neither to Phil Spector nor Motown. The original lineup was formed in Passaic NJ in 1958: lead singer Shirley Owens (b 10 June 1941), Addie 'Micki' Harris (b 22 January 1940; d 10 June 1982), Beverley Lee (b 3 August 1941), Doris Kenner (b 2 August 1941; d 4 February 2000). Schoolmate Mary Jane Greenberg's mother Florence signed the group (then known as the Pequellos or the Honeytones) to her little Tiara label and recorded their self-penned 'I Met Him On A Sunday'; it sold so well it was picked up for distribution by Decca and reached the USA top 50 in 1958, regarded by many as the first hit in the 'girl group' genre.
Florence Greenberg (d 1 November 1995, Hackensack, aged 82) formed the Sceptor label and an update of 'Dedicated To The One I Love' (written '57 by Lowman Pauling of the '5' Royales, with Ralph Bass also getting a credit; revived '67 by the Mamas and the Papas) made the Hot 100 '59 without major label distribution, a feat unheard-of then, especially by a black group. They made the top 40 with 'Tonight's The Night', then no. 1 with the definitive version of Gerry Goffin/ Carole King's 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?' '60 (their biggest UK hit at no. 4); Sceptor reissued 'Dedicated' which this time made no. 3. 'Mama Said' '61 was their third top five hit in a row; then they recorded 'Baby It's You', a song by Burt Bacharach and lyricist Mack David (d 30 December 1993 aged 81: he'd been nominated eight times for Oscars; his brother Hal teamed with Bacharach); it was a top ten late '61, and the somewhat over-sentimental 'Soldier Boy' was no. 1 early '62. Luther Dixon, who wrote 'Mama Said' and 'Soldier Boy', left Sceptor for another label; 'Foolish Little Girl' (by Howard Greenfield/Helen Miller) reached the top five '63, the same year the Beatles covered both 'Baby It's You' and 'Boys' (a Dixon song that flopped) on their first album, acknowledging the Shirelles as influences. They had another top 40 that year and a few more lesser hits, but faded from the charts by late '67. They re-formed '70s for oldies shows; Kenner married, becoming Doris Coley; Owens became Shirley Alston and had a successful solo career: her album With A Little Help From My Friends '75 featured the Flamingos, the Drifters, Shep and the Limelights, the Five Satins, Danny and the Juniors and Lala Brooks of the Crystals, helping her re-create some of their best moments. When Harris she was replaced by Louis Bethune; they re-formed in the '80s to sing backup on a Dionne Warwick record.