Les Girls

   

Liver BirdsI was interested to read in Spencer Leigh's 'Let's All Go Down The Cavern' a few years ago that: "Mersey Beat was a male-dominated sound. In the early years, there were very few female singers on Merseyside." Yet, as I remember it, Liverpool had quite a large number of girls taking part in the local music scene, and must have boasted one of the earliest all girl rock bands with the Liver Birds.

I remember in May 1962 when Mersey Beat reported on the upsurge of interest in Liverpool bands seeking a girl singer to accompany them to foreign parts. This was as a result of an agent advertising in Mersey Beat that there was work available for bands in the U.S. bases in France. Many groups took on the gigs and thoroughly enjoyed them. Others regarded them as something akin to slave labour - long hours, not much money. Yet this first taste of foreign parts for many Mersey groups was similar to the big demand in Germany, a boom which also produced offers of many hours of playing time for a small amount of money. Yet groups who did take up the offers generally benefited from the experience and returned much tighter in musical togetherness.

Barbara Harrison As far as the mini-French boom was concerned, some groups already had female singers, others took pot luck by taking along girl friends and secretaries. Carol Lane, a vocalist from Birkenhead, traveled with Wayne Calvert & the Cimmarons. Norma Maynard joined the Travellers; Nicolette Moran accompanied the Cruisers; the Hi-Cats already had Barbara Harrison in their line-up. the Tempest Tornadoes took Wendy Harris. Pam Connelly took time off work as a secretary to join Faron & the Flamingos and the Remo Four and the Hurricanes were among the other bands who took girl singers with them to France.

The Flintstones, who already had a vocalist called Joan singing regularly with them, turned down the offer with the comment, "We can make far more money in Liverpool. The offer local groups are getting is for £405 per month to be shared among the group and a girl singer. Out of that amount they have to pay all fares and expenses - and are required to pay the agent his commission in advance."

Cilla Black was the most successful girl singer to emerge from the Mersey scene, although many rated Beryl Marsden as the best female singer - Beryl had a minor chart hit and at one time was a member of Shotgun Express, along with Rod Stewart. The Liverbirds were very successful in Germany and remained there for a number of years, recording albums and singles. Tiffany's Dimensions also made some records and Bob Dylan recorded the Poppies.

Other female artists included The Demoiselles, an all-girl group who comprised Sheila McGlory on lead, Susan Henderson on bass, Linda Turner on drums and Sheila Lewis on rhythm. Lorraine White was a solo vocalist who used the name Polly Pepper and aimed for 1920s nostalgia in a Roaring Twenties style act. Her father Billy White was bandleader on the Royal Iris and her grandfather constructed a violin from 5,600 matches - and Yehudi Menuin played it when he appeared at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool. Jill Martin was a singer with the Darktown Skiffle Group and later joined the Merseysippi Jazz Band.

Shimmy Shimmy Queens In August 1961 Bob Wooler noticed two girls dancing in rhythm at Aintree Institute. He considered them so good he invited them to dance on stage and suggested they form an act. Bob coined the name the Shimmy Shimmy Queens for them and with specially made dresses and the addition of another girl dancer, they made their debut at Litherland Town Hall. Further appearances followed at venues such as Aintree Institute and Hambleton Hall. The girls names were Marie Williams, Joan Pratt and Maureen O'Donnell.

Rita Hughes sang under the name Jeannie. With Jeannie & the Big Guys she recorded for Pye. The group broke up early in 1964 and in August of that year she began a tour of Germany backed by the Delmont Four. On her return she turned solo and recorded 'A Love Like Yours' c/w 'He's Sure The Boy I Love' for Columbia under the name Cindy Cole. Rita Rodgers was a girl who won a talent contest at St John's Hall, Bootle in May 1962 and went on to take up a residency at the Top Hat club. Barbara Grounds guested as singer with a number of bands, including the Black Cats, Faron & the Flamingos and Billy Kramer & the Coasters. The Two Tones were a vocal duo, two ex-members of the Vernons Girls. In September 1962 they changed their name to the De Laine Sisters and recorded for the Piccadilly label. Karina was a girl vocalist who sang with Earl Preston & the T.T's.

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