The Shirelles
American pop/soul group
Formed in: Passaic, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2014: Performing Arts

With their beehive hairdos, wholesome good looks and impeccable harmonies, the Shirelles soared out of Passaic to become one of the most popular vocal groups of the early 1960s, scoring six top-10 hits in less than three years.

The Shirelles took root when Shirley Owens and Addie “Micki” Harris struck up a friendship in grammar school in Passaic. They met Doris Coley and Beverly Lee at Passaic High School, and the four formed a vocal group. Calling themselves the Poquellos (Spanish for little birds), they entered—and won—a talent contest at their school. A classmate brought the group to the attention of her mother, Florence Greenberg, owner of Tiara Records.

Although they initially showed no interest in becoming a professional group, the girls eventually signed with Tiara. Renaming themselves the Shirelles, the foursome cut their first single, “I Met Him on a Sunday,” a song they had written for the talent contest. Marketed by the larger Decca Records, the track went to number 49 on the Billboard pop chart in April 1958—when the girls were still teenagers.

The Shirelles’ next two singles achieved only modest success, but a fourth single, the angst-ridden ballad “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” by the songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was destined to break new ground. On January 30, 1961, it became the first No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart by an all-girl group (and the first No. 1 for Goffin and King).

Almost overnight, their innocent schoolgirl sound turned the Shirelles into radio favorites. Two subsequent singles, “Dedicated to the One I Love” and “Mama Said,” reached No. 3 and 4 on the pop chart, respectively, in the winter and spring of 1961. Later that year, “Baby It’s You,” went to No. 8. In 1962, the Shirelles scored their biggest hit, “Soldier Boy,” which reigned at the top of the Billboard chart for three weeks. Another single, “Foolish Little Girl,” topped out at No. 4 in early 1963.

Unfortunately for the Shirelles, the music landscape was about to change. In 1964, the Beatles led the British Invasion and a musical revolution. At the same time, newer “girl groups” like the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas were crowding radio playlists. Further, the Shirelles were embroiled in a royalty dispute with their label that would not be settled until 1967.

Their hit-making days were behind them, but the Shirelles were not done. In 1968, Doris, by then married, went into retirement. The Shirelles carried on as a trio. Lineup changes became the norm as the group continued to record and tour for decades. By the time of the group’s 2014 induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, only Shirley (now Shirley Alston Reeves) and Beverly Lee survived among the original members, but the history they made and the road they paved for other female groups remains a towering legacy for the girls from Passaic.

Intro/Acceptance Video