I LOVE TO PLAY SIX DEGREES.
It's the brainbuster game in which you
find ways to connect one recording act
to another and that one to another and
so on until the chain inevitably leads,
in six steps or less, back to the creation,
the big bang, if you will... the point of
origin from which all great music has
flowed since the dawn of rock 'n' roll.
Yep, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Dell Rat Ron is back
and he and I are going
to play six degrees with
The Paris Sisters, the
early 60s girl group from
San Francisco. Theirs is
a fascinating story so
Ron, let's get started!
THE PARIS SISTERS
Shady, the Ronettes were
not the only previously
recorded group which
achieved success under
legendary producer Phil
Spector's tutelage. With
Spector's guidance the
Paris Sisters fashioned a
marketable sound and
achieved their first and
biggest hit. The sisters,
Albeth, Sherrell and the
youngest, Priscilla, got
their vocal training in
the early 50s when
three part harmony was
a popular sound. The Paris Sisters started out performing
in the traditional style of sister groups like the Andrews
Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and the Fontane Sisters as
well as the Chordettes of "Mr. Sandman" fame.
That old style sound can be heard on the Paris Sisters'
earliest recordings. "Christmas in My Hometown" along
with the whimsical ditty "The Man With the Mistletoe
Mustache" were released back-to-back on a single at
Christmas time 1953.
"The Man With the Mistletoe Mustache" - Paris Sisters
The Paris Sisters had a built in stage name. They also had
a built in and quite tenacious stage mom. With the help of
falsified birth certificates the girls landed gigs in Las Vegas
and were already performing midnight till dawn shows when
Priscilla was age nine. The girls wore heavy makeup, wigs
and padded bras to pass for legal age as they performed in
the style of WWII era sister acts.
"I Love You Dear (Year-Round Love)" - Paris Sisters
That 1956 recording "Year-Round Love" was followed
a few months later by another uncharted Decca 45
entitled "Daughter, Daughter."
"Daughter, Daughter!" - Paris Sisters (1956, uncharted)
Jump to the 1:40 point of this clip to enjoy the Paris Sisters
singing and dancing old school style on the popular comedy,
music, variety show The Red Skelton Hour.
"Muskrat Ramble" - Paris Sisters (January 29, 1963
appearance on The Red Skelton Hour)
Ron, let me
Red Skelton, a radio and movie star of the 1930s and 40s who, like many of his contemporaries, later made the transition to television, belonged to my parents' generation. In the early 60s many older people were still clinging to big band sounds, Broadway show tunes and Tin Pan Alley standards, the type of music they knew and loved when they were young. Can't blame them for that because every generation does it. However, the pop culture landscape was changing rapidly. The Beatles were mounting an invasion and once they landed on our shores most old school American entertainers were faced with a tough choice: follow or get out of the way.
By the start of the 60s The Paris Sisters realized that the times were changing and their singing style was fading in popularity. Young record buyers craved rock 'n' roll and the teen sound pop ballads that went along with it. Enter the Tycoon of Teen, producer Phil Spector.
PHIL SPECTOR AND
THE TEDDY BEARS
Before he became famous as the recording studio production wizard who patented the Wall of Sound, Phil Spector was a member of a trio called The Teddy Bears. Inspired by an inscription on his father's tombstone, Spector wrote the song "To Know Him, is to Love Him" and got it recorded by the group. The Teddy Bears' single became a huge hit, reaching #1 and remaining on the pop chart for nearly half a year!
Look for Phil Spector on the right in this vintage clip.
"To Know Him, is to Love Him" - Teddy Bears
(December 1958, highest chart position #1)
Producing for the Paris Sisters, Phil Spector revamped the act to bring them up the speed with other emerging 60s girl groups. Boy Wonder changed the formation, placing Priscilla out front on lead with the other two sisters behind her singing background.