Morton had never written a song in his life. But he went right to work and soon had come up with a tune he liked. Somehow, he convinced the Shangri Las to record a demo version of the song with Morton himself serving as producer. A then-unknown Billy Joel was also recruited to play piano on that demo. When Morton played the demo for Barry, the rivalry was forgotten. Barry liked the song and agreed to put it out on his Red Bird record label. But Morton would have to re-record it with a better group of studio musicians. Morton agreed and soon “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” was rocketing up the charts in both America and the UK.
The follow-up, “Leader of the Pack” was an even bigger smash, going all the way to #1.
At this point, one of the Shangri Las, Betty Weiss, dropped out of the group temporarily to raise her daughter. So, the other 3 continued to record and tour. They went on the road with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Drifters and James Brown (who was surprised to find out that the girls were white). It is from these tours and the many photographs of the group taken at this time that the Shangri las are primarily remembered as a trio.
The girls followed up their first two hits with several other records that were also successful – like “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” “Give Us Your Blessing,” “Out in the Streets” and “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.”
While Betty Weiss eventually returned to the group, by 1966, they were a permanent trio as the twins, Margie and Mary Ann took turns replacing each other in the group’s line-up.
The girls’ thick New York accents as well as the themes of many of their songs got them labeled as “bad girls.” The fact that they had grown up in a very tough neighborhood in Queens had made them a little harder than some of their feminine contemporaries. The girls have credited their reputation with helping them avoid come-ons from over-eager male fans and the musician they traveled with.
Most likely because so many of their singles dealt with maudlin subjects and teenage death, the hits stopped coming when music shifted in 1967 to the more complex psychedelic style.
The Shangri Las disbanded in 1968.
Sadly, Mary Ann Ganser died of a heroin overdose just two years later.
The surviving members reunited on a few occasions for oldies concerts and last performed together in 1989. The group’s lead vocalist, Mary Weiss continues to record and perform as a solo act to this day.