The Shangri-Las Biography
The Shangri-Las were one of the best girl groups, ranking among the Shirelles and the Ronettes; if only evaluated by attitude, they were the best of all. They sang about dying motorcyclists, exuberant high school crushes, teenage runaways, and fatal love affairs while maintaining a charming innocence and a touch of darkness. These could be given in the form of concocted, but utterly powerful, hand-clapping harmonies or passionate, nearly operatic recitatives. Producer Shadow Morton, a mad genius who may have been only Phil Spector’s equal in wacky imagination in the middle of the 1960s, brought everything together in the studio.
The Shangri-Las were originally made up of two sets of sisters from Queens, New York (identical twins Marge and Mary Anne Ganser and siblings Mary and Betty Weiss). When George “Shadow” Morton recruited them to record a demo of the song “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand),” they had already released a couple of obscure singles. The melancholy ballad, which included ominous piano riffs reminiscent of “Moonlight Sonata,” a wailing lead voice, and thunderous backing harmonies before transitioning into an a cappella chorus supported only by handclaps and seagull screams in late 1964, reached the Top Five. The group’s relationship with the Red Bird label, run by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which would represent them for the most of their career, also started at this time.
Given that he had essentially no prior experience in the music industry, Morton’s work with the Shangri-Las on Red Bird (with assistance from Jeff Barry and Artie Butler) was of an exceptionally high caliber. The group’s material, which was so excessively sentimental that it occasionally bordered on camp, was made more approachable by the excellent production, which embellished the songs with powerful brass, crying strings, and a ton of creative sound effects. On “Leader of the Pack,” with its intermittent motorbike roars and crescendo of shattering glass, nowhere was this more obvious. The Shangri-Las’ hallmark song, the death-rock classic, peaked at number one.
In 1965 and 1966, there were a number of lesser-known hits, many of them superb. Their second Top Ten smash, “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” demonstrated their ability to tackle more traditional, cheery girl group fare. Their third and last Top Ten song, “I Can Never Go Home Anymore,” was a runaway story that pushed their trademark pathos to the limit. The moody “Out in the Streets,” the dense orchestral swamp of “He Cried,” which mutilates Jay & the Americans’ original “She Cried,” and another teen death story, “Give Us Your Blessings,” are all included on oldies compilations, but many listeners are unaware of these and other excellent singles in their discography.
The Shangri-Las were dynamic onstage performers, unlike some girl groups, choreographing their dance moves to their lyrics and donning quite provocative skin-tight leather leggings and boots at the time. Nevertheless, there were drama-filled moments in their everyday life as well. The Weiss or Ganser sisters’ frequent personnel changes confound historians; sometimes they are depicted as a trio, and other times one of the members is plainly not one of the sisters. Even worse, the Red Bird record label experienced significant organizational problems in the middle of the 1960s, and it ceased operations in 1966. For a few unsuccessful singles, the group relocated to Mercury, but by the end of the 1960s, they had broken up.After that, Shadow Morton had a fascinating but unstable career that involved collaborations with artists like Janis Ian, the New York Dolls, and Mott the Hoople. Mary Anne Ganser passed away in 1970; the exact cause of death is unknown, but it was probably caused by encephalitis, a barbiturate’s overdose, or a seizure. Marge, her sister, passed away from breast cancer in 1996.
Even today, the Shangri-Las’ past is still a little hazy and enigmatic; the original members have seldom ever been together for oldies gigs or spoken to the media. Discouragingly poor reissues of their Red Bird work made it difficult to gather all of their excellent sides without purchasing many packages, many of which included startlingly poor sound quality. Fortunately, the issue was resolved in the middle of the 1990s with superb, thorough compilations of the Red Bird material in both the U.K. and U.S.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Genre Is Shangri-Las?
The Shangri-Las were an American pop girl group from New York City. They are best known for their hit singles “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”. The group’s musical style combined elements of doo-wop, garage rock, and girl group sounds.
Who Is The Lead Singer Of The Shangri-Las?
The lead singer of the Shangri-Las is Mary Weiss.
Who Were The Members Of The Shangri-Las?
The Shangri-Las were a vocal group from New York City, New York. The group was formed in 1963 and consisted of Mary Weiss, Betty Weiss, and Margie Harrison. The group is best known for their hits “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”.
Are The Shangri-Las In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
The Shangri-Las are not currently in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though they have been eligible since 1989. The group is best known for their hits “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”.