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Girl Groups, Part Two: The Girl Group Sound

by Glynis Ward

Angels picture from their "My Boyfriend's Back" 2nd LP

As the 50s pushed into the 60s, the sounds of American rock 'n roll became increasingly diverse and localized. The North West embraced R&B show bands, the South was soulful, California basked in the surf and the North East mixed it all up together, and served it through the sweetness of teenaged girls.

By 1962, teenage girls were turning to the voice of their peers, and girls in both Detroit and New York were making smash hits based on the romantic sympathies of Holland, Dozier and Holland; Barry & Greenwich; and Goeffen & King. This sound later became known as "Girl Group" - a combination of hooky pop innocence, edged with the touch of the inner city. Beautiful vocal blends and cute call-response were either accompanied by grandiose production courtesy of Berry Gordy and Phil Spector or the thin, sparse (post doo wop) production of the Dimension Dolls or Brill Building.

Martha and the Vandellas Girl Group Era Records
Price trends for girl group sound era records by Martha and the Vandellas auctioned on eBayTM from February 1, 2000 to mid-July 2000 (137 items). Two items were not included because their high prices distorted the graph: a "Heat Wave" LP had a high bid of $305.89 on June 2, 2000 and a 45 with a picture sleeve had a bid of $100 on March 20, 2000.

Oddly, girl groups were not always "all girl"! Groups such as the Orlons, Jelly Beans and the Exciters featured the more mature bass vocal sounds of a male. This sound lended itself more to the "thinner" East Coast production sound. These girls (and few guys) were like most soul and pop artists of there times, purely vocalists. Some were merely (like the Raindrops) studio groups.

The Dixie Cups first LP, in the first edition. This same LP was released with three different covers in one year.

Between 1962 and 1965 girl groups dominated the popular radio charts, selling thousands of singles. Because of the market flood of these records, many 45s by the best-known groups like the Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, Ronettes, Marvelettes and the Shangri-Las can be quite easily purchased for very nominal amounts
The Blossoms (with Darlene Love) "Things are Changing" 45, released in 1965, was a promotional spot for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. It was written by Brian Wilson. This most sought-after Blossoms 45 in very good condition can be found for $20-$30.

(45s with picture sleeves are priced higher). These girls also recorded multiple albums, many of which are now highly sought after and very expensive since fewer LPs were originally sold.

Although vocal groups went somewhat out of favor when the Beatles hit the charts, some girl groups, like the Shangri-Las and the Marvelettes continued to make records in keeping with the original "sound". Other groups, most notably the Supremes, chose a more sophisticated sound.

Ronettes picture sleeve 7", 1964 which was released at the time of their 2nd LP

Many books have been published on girl groups. Among the best are a chronicle and a discography -- both by Alan Betrock -- have become collectors items in their own right. There is very little information available on obscure girl groups other than a handful of fanzines which have been published on the subject.

Related Web sites:

The Girl Groups

Girl Groups Juke Box

Be My Baby: Girl Groups, A Definitive History

Girl Groups Fan Club: Girl Groups photo gallery

UK all-girl DJ all-girl group club night

The Girl Group Chronicals radio show plus info

The Honeys Web Site

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