1962 Ikettes – I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)
Arthur Lassiter began singing in gospel groups in the fifties and started singing in Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm and began fronting that group in 1960. Ike wrote a song he wanted Arthur to record, A Fool In Love. He had three women singers backing him up: Robbie Montgomery, Frances Hodges, and Sandra Harding, aka the Arkettes.
When Art failed to show up for a recording session, Ike had Tina Turner sing the song backed up by the Arkettes. The single peaked at #27 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart in 1960.
The first group of singers to officially be called the Ikettes comprised Delores Johnson, Eloise Hester, and Jo Armstead. Delores sang lead on another single written and produced by Ike, I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song).
Ike released the single in late 1961, and it peaked at #19 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart in early 1962.
The lineup of the Ikettes changed frequently, with some of their recordings credited to Robbie Montgomery & the Ikettes.
Robbie, Venetta Fields, and Jessie Smith became the most popular lineup, and they recorded several singles, including Peaches ‘N Cream. That single reached #36 on the Hot 100 in early 1965.
Ike recruited three more Ikettes and sent them on the road with The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars while Robbie, Venetta, and Jessie continued to appear with the Ike and Tina Turner show. It upset the three that they did not receive any extra money for their group’s hit records, and they left Ike’s revue. When efforts to use the name “The Ikettes” failed, the trio renamed themselves the Mirettes.
The group signed with Revue Records in 1966 and then with Mint Records in 1968. They failed to chart with any of their singles for either label.
Their cover of In The Midnight Hour reached #45 on the Hot 100 and #18 on the R&B chart in 1968. It was their only charting single.
Another former Ikette, Pat Cowdrill, replaced Venneta before the group finally disbanded in 1971.
Robbie became one of Dr. John’s Night Trippers and later sang backup vocals for Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, and Stevie Wonder.
Venetta sang backup vocals for Humble Pie, Neil Diamond, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, and Barbra Streisand. She then moved to Australia, became a citizen, and sang with several groups there.
Jessie sang with Robbie on some Dr. John albums and also sang backup vocals for Jose Feliciano, Brian Ferry, and Al Kooper.
Don’t feel left out if you can’t completely follow the membership of the Ikettes: over time, 57 different singers have been members of the group!
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