Look At The Stars : The Bobbettes©2005JCMarion


It began, like so many of our stories, in the halls of school - this time it is P.S. # 109 in Harlem, New York City. A group of young girls after vocalizing in the school's chorus, decide to kick around a few vocal riffs and develop into a good sing-a-long ensemble of voices. They originally call themselves the Queens, and soon The Harlem Queens and feel they are good enough to take the normal course of events - making the rounds of the area's many and varied amateur contests. Soon they were good enough for that pinnacle of entertainment for the Black community of New York in the forties and fifties - amateur night at The Apollo. It was showtime for the girls, and although they were not the top votegetters, the experience paid off immediate dividends. The five members of the group - Reather Dixon, Emma and Janice Pought, Helen Gathers, and Laura Webb, were approached by James Dailey with a management offer. They went along and the first thing Dailey did was institute a name change for the group. They would now be known as The Bobbettes.

Dailey got the girls a shot at recording for the top R & B independent of them all, Atlantic Records right in New York City. The label announces their signing in June of 1957. Shortly after that the girls went into the studio to record for the first time. Despite their young ages at the time (12 and 13), they had wrote the songs themselves that they now were to put to wax. The first of their songs had the sound of success written all over it. It was a jump tune about one of their teachers at P.S.109, and originally it was not all a positive tune. But some reworking to put a positive spin on the song to make it better "hit material" did just that. The song on Atlantic # 1144 (with "Look At The Stars" on the flip side) was an immediate smash. By mid summer of 1957 "Mr. Lee" was a number one R & B seller and made it into the top ten pop music sellers in the country. Riding out the hit status of the record gave the girls many opportunities to perform at many venues in the Northeast as would allow due to their young age. In September The group signs on for a big travelling rock 'n roll show called "The Biggest Show Of Stars of 1957" for six weeks. On November 1, The Bobbettes appeared on stage with d.j.'s Hal Jackson and Jack Walker at the Hunt's Point Palace in the Bronx. Later in the month the group appeared in Hartford, Connecticut with George "Hound Dog" Lorenz. The Bobbettes won the Cash Box award for most promising new vocal group for 1957. Following up their huge hit record however, was not as easy or rapid as they would have thought.

"Speedy" / "Coma-A-Come-A" on # 1159 in late 1957 did not do well, and neither did "Zoomy" / "Rock And Ree-Ah-Zole" on # 1181 released in April the following year. Later in 1958 The Bobbettes recorded "The Dream" and "Um Bow Wow" on # 1194, and followed that up in June of 1959 with "Don't Say Goodnight" and "You Are My Sunshine" on # 2027 which also failed to chart. In 1959 The Bobbettes recorded "I Shot Mr. Lee" a caustic answer to their original version for Atlantic, but the label left it in the can and dropped the group from their label. The girls then signed with Triple X Records and did another version of "I Shot Mr. Lee" backed with "Billy" on Triple X # 104. That single sold well and forced Atlantic to release the original version on # 2069 ("Untrue Love" on the flip). Another release for Triple X in 1960 contained two cover versions - "Have Mercy Baby" (from the Dominos original) and "Dance With Me Georgie" (Henry) on # 106. Surprisingly, both sides charted on the pop music lists briefly. Also in the year 1060, there was one release on the Gallant label of "Oh My Papa" and "I Cried" on # 1006. The following year saw The Bobbettes now signed to George Goldner's End label. They recorded "Mr. Johnny Q" and "Teach Me Tonight" on # 1093, and an answer record to Chris Kenner on "I Don't Like It Like That" parts one and two on End # 1095, and then released on Gone # 5112.

Through the nineteen sixties The Bobbettes recorded for King and Jubilee without much success. Their biggest claim to fame guring these years is the backup work (uncredited) on Johnny Thunder's "Loop-De-Loop". They also recorded a tune called "Love That Bomb" for Stanley Kubrick's motion picture "Dr. Strangelove". At this time Helen Gathers left the group and The Bobbettes continued on as a quartet. They continued recording for Diamond, RCA, and Mayhew Records into the seventies, all without the success of their one big hit. But their one big hit was such a persuasive and likeable tune that it will remain in people's hearts as long as the music is available.

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