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They’re Good-Bad, But They’re Not Evil

The True Story of the Shangri Las

The early sixties saw the rise of what are now called “the girl groups.” These were usually trios or quartets of female singers, usually working in a R&B vein. The Shirelles are perhaps the prototype, but they were joined by groups like the Blossoms, the Crystals and the Ronettes.

But there was one girl group whose public image was a little more dangerous. They were the Shangri Las.

The girls were all students at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens when they started performing together at school dances and other functions. The act consisted of two pairs of sisters: Mary & Betty Weiss and Margie & Mary Ann Ganser (who were identical twins).

The girls caught the attention of recording entrepreneur Artie Ripp who signed them to the fledgling Kama Sutra label. It was only after being signed that the girls decided to name themselves the Shangri Las (reportedly after their favorite Queens restaurant). There first few recording sessions produced nothing memorable and their first attempt at a single was a flop.

At this point a gentleman named Shadow Morton enters the picture. Morton has once been the boyfriend of Ellie Greenwich, who by 1964, had become a hit songwriter with her new boyfriend, Jeff Barry. When Morton dropped in to Barry & Greenwich’s office on day, a rivalry between Barry and Morton was created in an instant. Morton told Barry that he, too, was a songwriter. Barry called his bluff and asked him to come back in a week with a song.

Read more: They’re Good-Bad, But They’re Not Evil

5 Fun Facts About the Rolling Stones

  1. The drummer at their very first gig was Mick Avory, who went on to become the drummer for the Kinks.
  1. Mick Jagger studied to become a ballet dancer.
  1. Bill Wyman was only invited to join the band because he owned an amplifier.
  1. The Stones played in front 1.5 million people at Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach in 2006, making it the largest rock concert ever.
  1. Mick Jagger contributed backing vocals and Brian Jones played the oboe on the Beatles song “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” Paul & John returned the favor, singing back-up on the Stones’ “We Love You.”

Now It Can Be Told!

Sadly, still waiting for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...

 

Somebdy want to card that kid on the left. I don't think he's ol enough to be in the nightclub.

Marty Balin (1942-2018)

Marty Balin’s influence on rock & roll both in front of the mike and behind the scenes was enormous. He soared to fame during the summer of love as one of the main singer-songwriters for Jefferson Airplane. He passed away over the weekend in Tampa, FL, where had had made his home. The cause of death is, at this time, unknown

Born Martyn Buchwald in Cincinnati, Balin got interested in music at an early age. He recorded two singles in 1962 for the small Challenge Records label. It was that label that changed his name to Marty Balin.

Relocating to San Francisco, Balin hooked up with musicians Paul Kantner, Skip Spence, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Signe Anderson in 1965. That same year, he and some partners also opened the hugely influential Matrix nightclub that was a launch pad for many Bay Area groups including the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Steppenwolf.

Jefferson Airplane became the first of those San Francisco groups to land a contract with a major label, recording their first album for RCA in 1966. Ms. Anderson, one of the Airplane’s lead singers became pregnant and left the band. She was replaced by Grace Slick. Drummer Spence also left and was replaced by Spencer Dryden.

It was the Airplane’s second album, “Surrealistic Pillow,” that catapulted them to superstardom. While Balin was sharing most of the lead vocal duties with Slick, it was Slick’s songs that became the group’s first hits. From then on, the media tended to focus their attention on Slick and who could blame them? In addition to her powerhouse vocals, she was also an extremely good-looking young woman. Tensions within the band escalated until Balin left in 1971.

The band then renamed themselves Jefferson Starship and continued along. By 1975, Balin had rejoined his old group; and this time, it was his songs that led to their biggest chart successes – “Miracles” “Count on Me,” “Runaway” and “With Your Love.”

Balin left the group again in 1978 avoiding the band’s slide into corporate rock as simply Starship in the 80s.

Balin recorded some solo albums and appeared with his former bandmates in various aggregations, including a full-fledged Jefferson Airplane reunion tour in 1989 and with a reincarnation of Jefferson Starship in the 90’s.

He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 and was still writing and singing right into this year.

Whatever Happened to David Gates?

Back in the 70’s, David Gates was the key member of a group named Bread. Between 1970 and 1976, Bread placed 11 records on Billboard’s Hot 100 (10 of them landing in the Top 20), all of them written and sung by Gates. He scored his last success in 1977 by singing the title song to the film The Goodbye Girl. Then, he just seemed to vanish.

What happened?

Well, like a lot of bands, declining success on the single charts and internal tensions (particularly between Gates and band mate Jimmy Griffin, who also wrote and sang with Bread, just never on their singles) caused the band to break-up in 1976.

Gates tried a solo career, but outside of “Goodbye Girl,” never found much success. Instead, he took the money he had made and bought a cattle ranch (no kidding) in Northern California in the early 1980s.

Since then, he has recorded sporadically and even patched up his differences with Griffin for a Bread reunion tour in 1996-97, but for the most part, has been content to remain a cattle rancher. He has been happily married to his high school sweetheart, Jo, since 1958.

BTW, Gates was heavily involved in the music scene before forming Bread. He wrote “Popsicles & Icicles” for the Murmaids in 1964 and was the arranger on Glen Yarbrough’s 1965 hit “Baby, the Rain Must Fall.” He worked in the studio with such music heavies as Elvis PresleyBobby DarinMerle HaggardDuane Eddy and Brian Wilson.

How about that, a rock star who lived happily ever after!

What Beatles song was partially inspired by the Who's "I Can See for Miles?"

"Helter Skelter"
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