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The Struggle of All-Girl Rock Groups of the 60’s

Music | February 5, 2018

Photo of SHANGRI-LASUNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: SHANGRI-LAS performing in the street (Photo by Roberta Bayley/Redferns)

Often, as Americans, we take the simple things for granted. For example, most of us enjoy some type of music and listen to it daily without giving it a second thought. That being the case, music is an inherent part of our "collective being" as people. Without music, the world would be a very different place, for sure.

People who love music are not all inclusive of any one specific demographic. Women can love music every bit as much as men. The challenge is, though, that female groups are less likely to stand on their own, without male group members. Over the years, bands and/or music groups consisting of only women have come and gone. The same can be also be said of male groups, but the fact remains that the “girl groups”, as they were billed early on, seem to have a much shorter lifespan.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not proposing that life is unfair and that there isn’t a legitimate reason for the imbalance. Nevertheless, this remains a fact.

All female groups have been around for years. In the 20s, for example, The Hamilton Sisters made a name for themselves. They even went as far as to tour overseas. In the 30s The Boswell Sisters (above) also entertained early audiences. A large number of the female groups were comprised of sisters who harmonized well together.

The concept of the all-female act was born of the Vaudeville entertainment era.

Fast forward to the 60s and we had iconic all-female groups like The Supremes. The trio took the country by storm. Their voices were sweet music to our ears. They were hot for a long time, making the Billboard Music Charts. The Supremes were quite possibly one of the most successful female groups of their time.

The Supremes were responsible for paving the way for future all female acts.

Following The Supremes, we saw other female groups coming up through the ranks. At this time, however, the women were largely the “front” people with musicians backing them up. Often, those musicians were men.

When America was transitioning from early rock music and the “British Invasion” by The Beatles, we began to see an upcropping of new-wave rock and roll bands. Music was changing, and it seemed like a perfect time for women to show the world what they were made of.

The Ladybugs were a girl group that attempted to capitalize on the success of the Fab Four. The four women formed a group with a similar image, complete with female guitarists. They were somewhat of a phenomenon at the time.

Until this point, women were known to, mostly, supply the vocals to their acts. Occasionally, you would see one of them play the piano, possibly a wind instrument or a percussion instrument, such as a tambourine. The Ladybugs made it necessary for people to consider that girl bands were capable of delivering quality pop music performing as both vocalists and instrumentalists.

Before long, female pop music as well as rock n’ roll groups were on stage, not only singing, but also playing their own instruments; by that, I mean all of the instruments. For some reason, this was widely seen as somewhat of a spectacle. Was America ready to see a feminine figure rocking out on stage with drums and guitars? Well at that time, the answer was a solid… "maybe".

And for some reason, people weren’t sure how they felt about women playing electric guitars, drums or other band instruments. Typically, those instruments were considered to be more masculine. As time went on, girl bands persevered and paved the way for the many popular all-female groups that followed.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.