The Shirelles Biography
With their gentle, sweet harmonies and longing innocence, the Shirelles were the first major female vocal group of the rock era, creating the so-called girl group sound. Before Motown became a crossover hit phenomenon, their music was a blend of pop/rock and R&B — especially doo wop and smooth uptown soul — that appealed to a wide range of listeners. Even though the Shirelles were not the first of their kind, their success was unprecedented, paving the way for legions of imitators; their inviting musical blueprint had an enduring influence not only on their immediate fans, but on future generations of female pop singers, who frequently updated the style with a more modern sensibility. They also gave prominent Brill Building songwriters like Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Van McCoy some of their first singles.
Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie “Micki” Harris, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston), and Beverly Lee established the Shirelles in 1958 in Passaic, New Jersey, with four high school classmates. The girls, who dubbed themselves the Poquellos, created a song called “I Met Him on a Sunday” and entered it in their school talent show.
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 they changed their name to the Shirelles by combining frequent lead singer Owens’ first name with the Chantels, who were doo woppers at the time. Decca licensed The Shirelles’ recording of “I Met Him on a Sunday,” which reached the national Top 50 in 1958. However, two more singles were a disappointment, and Decca decided not to release any more. Instead, Greenberg signed them to her new company, Scepter Records, and enlisted the services of producer Luther Dixon, whose inventive, sometimes string-heavy arrangements would help establish the band’s characteristic sound.
“Dedicated to the One I Love” (1959) and “Tonight’s the Night” (1960), despite the latter being a Top 20 R&B hit, both failed to appear on the pop charts. With the Goffin-King tune “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” they broke into big time. It was released in late 1960 and soared all the way to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making them the first all-female rock band to do so; it also reached number two on the R&B chart. Its popularity helped propel “Dedicated to the One I Love” back into the Top Five on both the pop and R&B charts in 1961, as did “Mama Said.” “Big John,” a more R&B-influenced album, also reached number two that year.
The group’s popularity continued in 1962, with “Soldier Boy,” a Luther Dixon/Florence Greenberg song that became their second pop number one. “Baby It’s You” was also a Top Ten pop and R&B hit for them. Dixon, however, quit the label after that. With 1963’s “Foolish Little Girl,” the Shirelles had another pop/R&B Top Ten hit, but they struggled to maintain their prior level of success.
The trio went on to record music for the film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, headlined Alabama’s first integrated concert, and assisted a young Dionne Warwick in gaining some early recognition (subbing for Owens and Coley when each took a leave of absence to get married). In 1964, a money issue with Scepter halted their recording schedule for a time, and while the dispute was eventually resolved, the Shirelles were still tethered to a label where their career was effectively gone. Of course, the British Invasion’s bands were among the first to cover their songs, not just their hits, but also lesser-known tunes like “Boys” (the Beatles) and “Sha La La” (the Rolling Stones) (a hit for Manfred Mann). The Shirelles scraped the bottom of the charts a couple more times before making their final appearance in 1967 with “Last Minute Miracle,” unfortunately. Doris Kenner departed the group the next year to focus on her family, and the surviving Shirelles worked as a trio until 1971, recording songs for Bell, United Artists, and RCA.
However, the band continued to perform on the oldies circuit and was included in the 1973 documentary Let the Good Times Roll.
Doris Kenner-Jackson rejoined after Shirley Alston left for a solo career in 1975. On June 10, 1982, Micki Harris died of a heart attack after a concert in Atlanta, and the group went into what turned out to be a brief hiatus. On a Dionne Warwick record in 1983, the three remaining original members recorded together for the final time. Throughout the 1990s, many Shirelles lineups toured the oldies circuit, but Beverly Lee eventually earned the legal trademark. In 1996, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Doris Kenner-Jackson died in Sacramento on February 4, 2000, following a battle with breast cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Shirelles Was The First Singing Girl Group?
The Shirelles were the first all-girl group to have a chart-topping single with their song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. They continued to have success with several other hits including “Dedicated to the One I Love”, “Mama Said”, and “Soldier Boy”. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Who Was The Shirelles Lead Singer?
The Shirelles were an African-American girl group who rose to fame in the early 1960s. They were one of the first groups to be signed to a major record label, and their first hit single, “Tonight’s the Night”, went on to become a million-selling record. The Shirelles’ lead singer was Shirley Owens.
Who Were The Original Members Of The Shirelles?
The original members of the Shirelles were Shirley Owens, Addie “Micki” Harris, Doris Coley, and Beverly Lee. They formed the group in 1957 while attending high school together in Passaic, New Jersey. The Shirelles went on to become one of the most successful girl groups of the early 1960s, with hits like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Are The Shirelles In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
Yes, the Shirelles are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were inducted in 1996.
What Genre Are The Shirelles?
The Shirelles are an African American girl group from the early 1960s. They are considered one of the most commercially successful and influential girl groups of all time. The group’s first hit single, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, marked the beginning of a string of major hits for the group, including “Boys” (1960), “Baby It’s You” (1961), and “Soldier Boy” (1962). The Shirelles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.