1965 Shangri-Las – Give Him A Great Big Kiss
In the early sixties, two sets of sisters at Andrew Jackson High School joined forces and became a singing group. Mary and Betty Weiss were the lead singers, and identical twins Marge and Mary Ann Ganser sang backup vocals. After singing in school and a few talent shows, Kama Sutra signed the group to a recording contract. The young women hadn’t named their group before signing the contract. They chose the name of a local restaurant, the Shangri-Las.
The group’s first two singles in late 1963 and early 1964 featured Betty’s lead vocals but did not chart. In April 1964, the group signed with Red Bird Records and recorded a demo for a song written by George Morton, Remember (Walking In The Sand). The demo featured Mary on lead vocals and Billy Joel on piano and ran over seven minutes. The group re-recorded the song (without Billy), and the label cut the song down to just a little over two minutes. The single reached #5 on the Hot 100 and #14 in the UK.
Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich joined George to write the group’s next single, the chart-topping Leader Of The Pack. The success of that song allowed the group to open for the Beatles and tour with the Rolling Stones, the Drifters, and James Brown.
Betty dropped out of the group for a few months, so in late 1964 and early 1965 the remaining members toured as a trio. They appeared on numerous television shows during that time.
George, now using the name Shadow Morton, also wrote their next single, Give Him A Great Big Kiss. The record got released in late 1964 and peaked at #18 on the Hot 100 in January 1965.
The group had a few more hit records, but then several singles in a row failed to reach the top forty. Red Bird Records fell apart in 1966, and the group had little success once they moved to Mercury Records. The group disbanded in 1968.
George went on to produce Janis Ian, Vanilla Fudge, and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
While some of the original members reunited a few times (especially when Northern Soul became popular in the UK in the seventies), they never really toured much again. They even had to sue to stop another group that toured as the Shangri-Las from using their name and claiming to be the original Shangri-Las.
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