The Shirelles: selected early charting and top ten singles, 1958-1963
- allmusic.com (Steve Huey)
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
From history-of-rock.com (excerpts):
The 1960s yielded one of pop music’s most enjoyable trends, the “girl group” phenomenon. Starting in the 1950s as a trickle represented by the Hearts, the Blossoms, the Joytones, the Clickettes, the Deltairs, the Quintones, the Chantels, and the Bobbettes, it became a flood of groups in the 1960s, including the Shirelles, the Chiffons, the Shangri-Las, the Crystals, the Ronettes, the Angels, Reparata and the Delrons, the Exciters, the Cookies, the Supremes, the Marvelettes, and Patti Labelle and the Blue Belles.
After hearing them sing I Met Him on a Sunday, a song they had written for [a talent show at Passaic High School], their classmate Mary Jane Greenberg convinced the reluctant Poquellos to meet with her mother, Florence, the owner of Tiara Records; After several months of avoiding Greenberg and telling her that they were not interested in singing professionally, they were booked to Tiara. By the end of the year they had changed their name to The Shirelles, a combination of the first syllable of Owens’ given name and -el, reminiscent of then-popular group The Chantels, after briefly using the name The Honeytunes. That year, they released their first song, I Met Him on a Sunday; after local success, it was licensed to Decca Records for national broadcast and charted at #50 [sic]. [read more]
Selected early singles by the Shirelles, with highest Hot 100 positions:
1958 — I Met Him On a Sunday (Ronde-Ronde) — #49
1959 — Dedicated to the One I Love — #88, #3 (1961 re-issue)
1960 — Tonight’s the Night — #39
1960 — Will You Love Me Tomorrow/Boys — #1
1961 — Mama Said — #4
1961 — Baby It’s You — #8
1962 — Soldier Boy — #1
1963 — Foolish Little Girl — #4
I Met Him on a Sunday (Ronde-Ronde) (Doris Coley, Addie “Micki” Harris, Shirley Owens & Beverly Lee) — Written by the original four members of the Shirelles while they were known as The Poquellos. Recorded on 7 February 1958, it was released as their first single, b/w I Want You to Be My Boyfriend.
Dedicated to the One I Love (Lowman Pauling, Ralph Bass)
From Wikipedia’s song profile (excerpts):
Pauling was the guitarist of The 5 Royales , the group that recorded the original version of this song, [and] Bass was the producer. A version by The Shirelles was a minor hit for them in 1959. The 5 Royales saw a re-release of their own version chart at #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Later that year, The Shirelles re-released their version and watched it rocket up the chart to #3.
A subsequent and more famous cover by The Mamas & the Papas released on the Dunhill label went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. Lead singer on the Mamas & the Papas version was Michelle Phillips. It was the first time Phillips was given the lead over Mama Cass Elliott in any of their songs.
The 5 Royales – 1957
The Shirelles – issued in May 1963 on Scepter 1203, b/w “Look a Here Baby” — chart performance: #83 Hot 100 in 1959, #3 on 1961 re-release
From The Scepter/Wand Story by Mike Callahan and David Edwards:
The Shirelles performed at the Howard Theater in Washington, DC, in the spring of 1959, and really liked a song done by the Five Royales, a group also on the bill. It was a record called “Dedicated to the One I Love,” but the Royales’ version on King from the year before hadn’t been a hit. The girls stayed backstage and sang along until they learned the song. Back in New York, when Florence heard them sing it, she thought it would be a wonderful next single, their first for the fledgling Scepter label. It was recorded in Beltone Studios in Manhattan, with Doris Coley singing the unforgettable opening line, and Florence and her son Stanley co-producing. It was released in June, 1959, as Scepter 1203.
Look a Here Baby — written by Shirelles members Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Beverly Lee, and Addie Harris (McPherson) — B-side of “Dedicated to the One I Love” on Scepter 1203, issued in May 1963
Tonight’s the Night (Luther Dixon, Shirley Owens)
Tonight’s the Night followed Dedicated to the One I Love as the third single by The Shirelles. It was their first top 40 hit on the Billboard pop chart: #39 Hot 100, #14 R&B.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow (m. Gerry Goffin, w. Carole King) credited as “Carol King-Jerry Goffin”
The Shirelles –issued in November 1960 on Scepter 1211, b/w “Boys” — single chart success: US #1 Hot 100, #2 R&B; UK #4 pop
At least one early pressing of the single bore the title “Tomorrow” (see label above left). Wikipedia says:
The single’s first pressing was labelled simply “Tomorrow”, then lengthened later. When first presented with the song, lead singer Shirley Owens (later known as Shirley Alston-Reeves) did not want to record it, because she thought it was “too country.” She relented after a string arrangement was added.
Goffin and King were a husband and wife songwriting team who worked were signed to Don Kirshner’s Aldon music, which along with the Brill building, was the center of the songwriting universe in the early ’60s. Kirshner assigned them to write a song for the Shirelles as a follow-up song to “Tonight’s The Night.” King came up with the music, and Goffin, excited about writing for The Shirelles, quickly came up with the lyrics. Kirshner loved the song, and recognizing that he had something new and different, decided to use it to get in the door at Columbia Records, so he offered it to Columbia for Johnny Mathis, but their label head Mitch Miller politely declined, which Kirshner later said was “The best thing he ever did for me.”
Back at Aldon Music, Tony Orlando wanted to record the song, but Kirshner, taking a cue from what he learned when he offered it to Mathis, explained that it was a girl’s lyric, and that no teenage boy would say these words. So finally, the song went to The Shirelles, where it was intended all along. Orlando did record an answer song called “Not Just Tomorrow But Always” using the name Bertell Dache.
A 1968 version by the Four Seasons hit #24 and was that group’s last Top 40 hit of the ’60s – they didn’t have another for 7 years. Dave Mason brought it back to the charts in 1978, hitting #39. Some of the other artists to record this song include Cher, Laura Nyro, Roberta Flack, Millie Jackson, Bryan Ferry and Neil Diamond.
(below) audio track of the 1960 single combined with video of a 1964 live performance
Boys (Luther Dixon/Wes Farrell) — B-side of Will You Love Me Tomorrow (Scepter 1211)
Boys is perhaps best known for the cover by The Beatles. Wikipedia says,
The Beatles covered “Boys” on their first album released in the United Kingdom, Please Please Me. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on 11 February 1963 in a single take, and is Ringo Starr’s first recorded lead vocal with The Beatles. 11 February was a marathon day for The Beatles as they recorded 10 of the 14 tracks they needed for Please Please Me. The Beatles included two songs by the Shirelles on their first album: “Boys” and “Baby It’s You”.
Mama Said (Luther Dixon, Willie Denson) – Scepter 1217, b/w Blue Holiday (Dixon, Denson); peaked at #4 in April 1961 and remained on the Hot 100 chart for 11 weeks
Mama Said went number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the R&B chart. It has been covered by American Spring, Dusty Springfield, and The Stereos as well as a young Dionne Bromfield. It was also the inspiration for Days Like This by Van Morrison.
Baby It’s You (m. Burt Bacharach, w. Luther Dixon*, Mack David) *credited under the pseudonym Barney Williams.
According to Songfacts.com:
- The title “was originally I’ll Cherish You, but was re-written at the request of Dixon, who produced the track.”
- “The Shirelles’ vocals were added directly to Bacharach’s demo recording.” This may explain why Burt Bacharach’s voice is heard, loudly, near the beginning, on a “Sha la la la la” part of the back vocals.
Wikipedia notes that
The vocal arrangements on this version proved influential in subsequent versions, including that by The Beatles, who used the same one. [Well, sort of.] One notable feature of the song is its minor-to-major key chord changes on the verses.
The Shirelles — #8 Hot 100 December 1961 (14 weeks on the chart) and #3 R&B — Scepter 1227 b/w Things I Want to Hear (Pretty Words); produced by Luther Dixon
The Beatles – The third track on the Beatles’ debut album Please Please Me, released in 1963
Founding member of The Shirelles, Beverly Lee, was interviewed by Steve Marinucci for an article published at examiner.com on 19 October 2011. In regards to the Beatles cover of Baby It’s You, Lee said (by email), “It was fantastic! It was quite an honor as the Beatles were taking America by storm at the time.” She also admitted, “I had a secret crush on John Lennon.”
Soldier Boy (Luther Dixon, Florence Green) — #1 Hot 100 single, #3 R&B — Scepter 1228 b/w Love is a Swingin’ Thing
(below) with lyrics
Foolish Little Girl (Helen Miller & Howard Greenfield) – Scepter 1248 b/w Not For All the Money in the World;
#4 Hot 100 (14 weeks on the chart), #9 R&B, and #38 UK (their third and last top 40 hit in the UK)
Suggested girl group links:
- Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks
- Spectropop Girl Group Page
- The Girl Groups (history-of-rock.com) & Girl Groups – A Short History
- Girl Group — Wikipedia
- doo-wop: Biography, Groups & Discography: (doo-wop.blogg.org) — comprehensive, great info and photos, slow loading site
- jeffosretromusic.com — short history of the “girl group sound” phenomenon, and list of principle artists and their hit recordings (beginning at 1960)
- 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs (digitaldreamdoor.com)
- Top 40 Girl Group Tracks of the 1950s (rateyourmusic.com) – The list includes also the flip side of each single selected by rateyourmusic.com users