Remembering Girl Groups of the 60's
The Shirelles perform onstage at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Remember back when girl groups dominated the radio in the 60’s? Although they were also popular back in the 50’s, the 60’s is the decade that they were most remembered.
With names like The Shirelles, The Ronettes, The Crystals, The Blossoms, Shangri-Las, The Chiffons and The Cookies. Then later came the Motown sound with The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes.
The distinctive sound of the girl groups filled the air during that time. Along with the sound of the cash register and the sales of millions of records! Music critic Greil Marcus, who wrote about the girl groups in 1992 for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, stated: “The music was perhaps the most carefully, beautifully crafted in all of rock and roll – one reason why none of the twenty or so best records in the genre have dated in the years since they were made.”
There were over 1,500 girl groups estimated that recorded music in the 1960’s. Only about two dozen out of that number went on to become famous hit makers. One of the groups to make it was The Shirelles. Their first popular hit to enter the charts was “Tonight’s The Night,” co-written by lead singer, Shirley Owens and it entered the Top 40 back in 1960. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was a #1 hit that remained in the Top 40 for 15 weeks. More Top 10 hits followed for The Shirelles with “Dedicated to The One I Love,” a #3 hit; “Mama Said,” a #4 hit; “Baby It’s You,” and “Soldier Boy,” hit #1 in 1962. So over a two-year span, The Shirelles had 11 hits in the Top 40 and 5 in the Top 10!
In 1961, when he was just starting out with his own record label, Phil Spector signed a girl group called The Crystals. The Crystals came on strong in 1961-1963 with a series of hits, including: “There’s No Other Like My Baby” ; “Uptown” ; “He’s A Rebel”; “Da Doo Ron Ron”; “Then He Kissed Me” ; and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love”. The Crystals made Spector a millionaire when he was just 21 years old. After hearing the final playback of “Da Doo Ron Ron” in the studio, Spector reportedly told Sonny Bono (who was a production assistant back then): “That’s gold. That’s solid gold coming out of that speaker.”
But the girl group Phil Spector became especially attached to was a new group from New York’s Spanish Harlem, named The Ronettes. They were one of the main girl groups of the 1963-1964 period, turning out a series of hit songs that helped define that era. Two of those to make the charts were “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You”.
The Chiffons were another group of teenage girls who began singing together in high school. Their first hit, “He’s So Fine,” went to #1 on the Billboard chart in 1963. It sold over one million copies and is known for the signature “doo-lang, doo-lang” throughout the song. The Chiffons would have three other songs that hit the Top 40: “One Fine Day”; “A Love So Fine,” and “I Have a Boyfriend”.
The Marvelettes were the first girl group act for Motown Records, as well as having the first Motown group #1 hit with “Please Mr Postman” in 1961. This stayed on the pop charts for nearly 6 months and was later covered by a British rock group called The Beatles. Other Marvelettes’ Top 40 hits included: “Playboy”; “Beachwood 4-5789” ; “Too Many Fish in the Sea” and “Don’t Mess With Bill”.
One of the most famous of the girl groups that emerged out of Detroit’s Motown music scene in the mid 60’s, at the same time the Beatles and the British invasion were coming on strong in the U.S. and would go toe-to-toe with those groups on the music charts, was The Supremes. Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard recorded “Where Did Our Love Go” in the summer of 1964, that particular song had been rejected earlier on by the Marvelettes. It went to #1 and sold over 2 million copies, so The Supremes were on their way to make music history! They quickly followed this with two more #1 hits: “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me”. The hits kept coming for The Supremes in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Between 1964 and 1967, The Supremes had one of the best all-time female track records in pop music history- they released 15 singles and all but one made the Top 10. Additionally, 10 of those songs were #1 hits!
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