The Shirelles - From The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Shirelles - From The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


Few performers can truly be called trendsetters. Fewer still can sustain a high-visibility presence in the pop culture consciousness for over 40 years. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members, The Shirelles have done these things and more. They have earned their exalted place in modern musical history.


The Shirelles were an American girl group in the early 1960s, and the first to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. The members of the quartet were Shirley Owens (the main lead singer; later known as Shirley Alston, then Shirley Alston Reeves), Doris Coley (later known as Doris Coley Kenner, then Doris Kenner Jackson; she sang lead on "Dedicated to the One I Love", "Welcome Home Baby", "Blue Holiday" and a number of 'b' sides and album cuts), Beverly Lee, and Addie 'Micki' Harris. The quartet formed in New Jersey in 1958, and went on to release a string of hits including "Baby It's You" (written by Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Barney Williams), "Mama Said", "Foolish Little Girl", and the #1 Pop hits "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) and "Soldier Boy" (Florence Greenburg/Luther Dixon). Their "Sha La La" became an international hit when covered by the UK/British group Manfred Mann, giving them a Top 5 hit in 1965, and the song "Boys" was covered by The Beatles. The Beatles also covered "Baby It's You" on their album "Please, Please Me" in 1963. A year later, this same Burt Bacharach/ Hal David song was also a Top 30 hit in the UK for Sheffield-born singer Dave Berry.

The Shirelles were the first major female vocal group of the rock and roll era, defining the so-called girl group sound with their soft, sweet harmonies and yearning innocence. Their music was a blend of pop and R&B, especially Doo-wop and smooth uptown soul that appealed to listeners across the board, before Motown became a crossover phenomenon with white audiences. Though The Chantels preceded them by several years, their international success was unprecedented, as they hit in England, too; their inviting musical blueprint had an enduring influence not just on their immediate followers, but on future generations of female pop singers, who often updated their songs without losing their initial appeal. In addition, they provided some of the earliest hits for important Brill Building songwriters like Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, and Van McCoy.

The Shirelles were originally formed in 1958 in Passaic, New Jersey by four friends: Shirley Owens Alston Reeves, Doris Coley Kenner Jackson, Addie "Micki" Harris McPherson, and Beverly Lee. Students at Passaic High School, they christened themselves 'the Poquellos', wrote a song called "I Met Him on a Sunday," and entered their school talent show with it, singing it a cappella. A school friend had them audition for her mother, Florence Greenberg, who ran a small record label; she was impressed enough to become the group's manager, and changed their name to The Shirelles by combining frequent lead singer Shirley's first name with doo-woppers the Chantels. The Shirelles' recording of "I Met Him on a Sunday" was licensed by Decca and climbed into the national Top 50 in 1958. Two more singles flopped, however, and Decca passed on further releases. Greenberg instead signed them to her new label, Scepter Records, and brought in producer Luther Dixon, whose imaginative, sometimes string heavy arrangements would help shape the group's signature sound.

"Dedicated to the One I Love" (1959), a song they learned by heart after seeing The Five Royales perform in a show they did together and "Tonight's the Night" (1960) both failed to make much of an impact on the pop charts, although the latter was a Top 20 R&B hit and Top 40 Pop hit. However, they broke big time with the Goffin-King composition "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"; released in late 1960, it went all the way to number one pop, making them the first all-female group of the rock era to accomplish this feat; it also peaked at number two R&B. In the UK, this same song reached the Top 5 pop chart in 1961. Its success helped send a re-release of "Dedicated to the One I Love" into the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1961 [US], and "Mama Said" did the same. A more R&B flavored outing, "Big John," also went to #2 that year. 1962 continued their run of success, most notably with "Soldier Boy," a Luther Dixon/Florence Greenberg tune that became their second pop #1; they also had a Top 10 pop and R&B hit with "Baby It's You". Dixon subsequently left the label; the Shirelles managed to score one more pop/R&B Top Ten with 1963's "Foolish Little Girl", which reached #4 on the pop chart and #9 R&B, but found it difficult to maintain their previous level of success. "Soldier Boy" also reached the Top 30 in the UK in 1962.

The group went on to record material for the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, headlined the first integrated concert show in Alabama, and helped a young Dionne Warwick get some of her first exposure (subbing for Reeves and Jackson when each took a leave of absence to get married). A money dispute with Scepter tied up their recording schedule for a while in 1964, and although it was eventually settled, The Shirelles were still bound to a label where their run was essentially over


Studio albums

* 1961: ' Tonight's the Night'
* 1961: 'The Shirelles Sing to Trumpets and Strings'
* 1962: 'Baby It's You" (US #59)
* 1962: 'The Shirelles and King Curtis Give a Twist Party' (duets album with King Curtis)
* 1963: 'Foolish Little Girl' (US #68)
* 1963: 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'
* 1967: 'Spontaneous Combustion' (Live album)
* 1968: 'Eternally, Soul' (duets album with King Curtis)
* 1972: 'Happy in Love' (RCA)
* 1973: 'The Shirelles' (RCA)
* 1975: 'Shirley Alston: With a Little Help From My Friends' (Prodigal)
* 1976: 'The Shirelles: Let's Give Each Other Love' (RCA)
* 1977; 'Lady Rose' (Shirley Alston) (Strawberry)
* 1977; 'Lady Rose Sings The Shirelles' Greatest Hits ' (Shirley Alston) (Strawberry)

[edit] Compilations

* 1963: 'Greatest Hits' (US #19)
* 1964: 'The Shirelles Sing the Golden Oldies'
* 1967: 'Greatest Hits, Vol. 2'
* 1972: 'Remember When'

[edit] Singles

* 1958: "I Met Him on a Sunday (Ronde-Ronde)" (US #49)
* 1959: "Dedicated to the One I Love" (US #83)
* 1960: "Tonight's the Night" (US #39)
* 1961: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) (US #1, UK #3)
* 1961: "Dedicated to the One I Love" (US #3; rerelease of 1959 hit)
* 1961: "Mama Said" (US #4)
* 1961: "What a Sweet Thing That Was" (US #54)
* 1961: "A Thing of the Past" (US #41)
* 1961: "Big John" (US #21)
* 1962: "Baby It's You" (Burt Bacharach/Mack David/Barney Williams) (US #8)
* 1962: "The Things I Want to Hear (Pretty Words)" (US #107)
* 1962: "Soldier Boy" (Luther Dixon/Florence Greenberg) (US #1, UK #23)
* 1962: "Welcome Home, Baby" (US #22)
* 1962: "Stop The Music" (US #36)
* 1962: "It's Love That Really Counts" (US #102)
* 1963: "Everybody Loves a Lover" (US #19)
* 1963: "Foolish Little Girl" (US #4, UK #38)
* 1963: "Don't Say Goodnight and Mean Goodbye" (US #26)
* 1963: "Not for All the Money in the World" (US #100)
* 1963: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (US #92)
* 1963: "31 Flavors" (US #97)
* 1963: "What Does a Girl Do?" (US #53)
* 1964: "Tonight You're Gonna Fall in Love With Me" (US #57)
* 1964: "Sha-La-La" (US #69)
* 1964: "Thank You, Baby" (US #63)
* 1964: "Maybe Tonight" (US #88)
* 1965: "Are You Still My Baby" (US #91)
* 1967: "Last Minute Miracle" (US #99)
* 1969: "Go Away, Find Yourself" (Bell)
* 1970: "Strange, I Still Love You" (UA)
* 1970: "It's Gonna Take a Miracle" (UA)
* 1972: "No Sugar Tonight" (RCA)
* 1972: "Let's Give Each Other Love" (RCA)
* 1974: "I Hear Those Church Bells Ringing"/"Chapel of Love" (Shirley Alston) (Prodigal)