The Gypsies was a soul vocal group formed in 1962 in New York City by three sisters from South Carolina (Ernestine Pearce, Shirley Pearce, and Betty Pearce) and their friend Lestine Johnson. Their first single, Hey There, Hey There, was released in 1964 but had little impact. Their next single, Jerk It, was a song written by J. J. Jackson (who later had a hit with It’s Alright). Jerk It reached #33 on the R&B charts but did not get on the pop charts. Lestine Johnson left and was replaced by Viola Billups.
Two more non-performing singles followed, after which the group changed their name to the Flirtations and changed record labels twice more. Betty Pearce decided to leave the group, and the others continued on as a trio.
With so little success in the US, they decided to move to England and signed with the Parrot label. They toured Europe with labelmate Tom Jones and released a single that reached #25 in the Netherlands in 1968.
In late 1968 they moved to Deram Records and released a single that once again had little success, perhaps because the B-side of the record was Christmas Time Is Here Again and disk jockeys were confused on which side to play. The record was re-released in early 1969, and this time Nothing But A Heartache got enough airplay to give the group their only US top forty single. The record reached #34 in the US but did much better than that in some markets in the US. They even returned to Germany and performed the hit record on the Beat Club television show.
In 1972, Viola left the group and pursued a solo career using the name Pearly Gates. She was replaced by several other singers for short periods of time.
The Flirtations released a few more singles over the next decade without much notice in the US. In 1989 the sisters reunited with Viola and recorded a record that was a top ten record in South Africa.
One last single, Roulette, followed in 2009, and they recorded a collection of covers of songs that were hits for other girl groups in their last album, Girls, in 2015.