The Shirelles were an all-girl group that rocked the early 60s. They were also one of the few girl groups that wrote their own hits. The band consisted of four young girls: Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Addie Harris and Doris Coley.
All of the band members went to the same high school, Passaic High School New Jersey, which is where they met each other. They formed the band in 1957 and during one of their rehearsals in the school gym, one of their teachers suggested that they should enter the school talent show. They were interested in the idea and decided to write their own song for the show. That was how their first single I Met Him on a Sunday was created. Their performance in the talent show was dazzling and they became instant sensations.
One of their ardent fans at the time was Mary Greenberg, daughter of Florence Greenberg. She insisted that the girls should meet her mother who owned her owned music record at the time. At first the group was reluctant, but eventually they agreed to do so. They auditioned in the Greenbergs’ living room and managed to capture the heart of Florence Greenberg who went on to sign them to Tiara Records. This marked the beginning of their journey to fame.
The Shirelles kicked off their career at Tiara Records. Their first single was released by Tiara but licensed by Decca Records. However, The Shirelles were not able to command the fame that they had hoped for with Decca Records. Florence Greenberg was also dissatisfied with the performance of Tiara and Decca Records. As a result, she decided to start up another record studio, Scepter Records.
At Scepter Records, Florence Greenberg approached experienced songwriter Luther Dixon to help out with the girls’ music careers. They released hit after hit. The first song that they released with Scepter was Tonight’s the Night, that was co-written by Shirley Owens, the group’s leader. It went on to reach number 39 in the charts in 1960 and ultimately propelled them to fame. Will You Love Me Tomorrow was their first song to hit the top of the charts and among the seven top 20 hits that The Shirelles managed to produce. These two songs were recently selected by Rolling Stone in its list of the greatest songs of all time.
At Scepter Records, Florence Greenberg approached experienced songwriter Luther Dixon to help out with the girls’ music careers.
In 1964, The Shirelles were told that there was no money left in the Greenberg trust fund.
The Shirelles were famous throughout the United States and even started to tour internationally. In 1963, Dixon left to work at Capitol and his position was taken over by Stan Green. The first song that he produced with the girls was Foolish Little Girl which debuted at number four in the pop charts. However, subsequent recordings were a lot weaker.
In 1964, The Shirelles were told that there was no money left in the Greenberg trust fund. This fund was created to protect the band’s earnings. Given their surge in popularity and sudden lack of money, The Shirelles decided to leave Scepter. However, a court injunction prevented them from doing so. On the other hand, Scepter Records continued to release material from the band’s back catalogue, with no commercial success. When the legal problems concluded, The Shirelles decided to remain at Scepter for another four years.
By 1968, The Shirelles had not produced any song that had made it into the top 20. In 1968, one of the group’s members, Doris, left to raise a family. This left The Shirelles as a trio. The group then signed with United Artists Records in 1970 and later RCA in 1971 – their last record label.
Doris later returned to the group and they continued performing together until June 10, 1982 when Mickey Harris died of a heart attack while they were performing a show at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.
This incident broke the band for good and the girls went their own way. In 1989, the original Shirelles group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Throughout the 1990s, there were at least three ex-Shirelle bands, each with one of the original members.
In 1989, the original Shirelles group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.