You've heard of the Jersey Boys, right? Get ready for the Jersey Girls - Sixties Style!
The year is 1959. The place is Linden, New Jersey. Bernadette Carroll auditions to become a member of a new girl group being put together by arranger Tom DeCillis. She gets the job, along with Barbara Allbut, Barbara's sister Jiggs (Phyllis), and Lynda Malzone. The new group is called The Starlets and their first record is PS I Love You released on Astro 202/203 in 1960. The song makes the Billboard Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart at #106. The Starlets went on to make a second record on Astro, without Bernadette. She left the group to launch a solo career. Her first solo record was My Heart Stood Still / Sweet Sugar Sweet on Julia 1106 in 1962, a label owned by Tom DeCillis.
Tom brought in Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi of the Four Seasons to make her next record, Nicky / All The Way Home I Cried, which was sold to Laurie Records and was released, credited to simply Bernadette, on Laurie 3217 in 1963. The backing singers on that record were actually a group from New Jersey who called themselves The Brooks Four, but also recorded as The Four Winds and The Teammates. Bernadette managed to score her first national hit with her next record, Party Girl on Laurie 3238 in 1964, written by Ernie Maresca and Lou Zerato, and featuring her full name on the artist credits. Party Girl went to #47 on the Billboard Hot 100, #55 on CashBox, but did much better in some regions, going to #8 in Chicago on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey. Flip that record over and you get this song, I Don't Wanna Know:
Bernadette had four more releases on Laurie, but none of them ever became chart hits. In 1964, a group called The Rhythm Ramblers recorded a tribute to her called Pretty Bernadette. The flip side of that rare record features another Bernadette track called Heavenly. If you find this one, on Cleopatra 5, it's probably the most collectible Bernadette record of all.
Even while she was trying to launch a solo career, Bernadette would team up with the Allbut sisters to work as union background singers for other artists. She also teamed up with Denise Ferri and Peggy Santiglia to sing background vocals for folks like Kitty Kallen, Patty Duke, Connie Francis, Bobby Hebb. You can even hear Bernadette and her friends singing in the background on some Frankie Valli hits, The Proud One, You're Ready Now, and Cry For Me. You'll also hear them singing background for several Lou Christie songs on MGM, including Lightning Strikes and Rhapsody In The Rain.
In 1968, Bernadette took over as lead singer for The Angels and recorded four songs with them on RCA 9612 and RCA 9681. She also spent that year touring with the group. She also toured with the folk group who called themselves The Serendipity Singers and are best known for their hit, Don't Let The Rain Come Down.
Speaking of the Angels, you all know their big hit, My Boyfriend's Back, right? Bernadette wasn't with the group when they made that record in 1963 on Smash 1834. The lead singer on that record was a former member of The Delicates, Peggy Santiglia, who had sung jingles for WINS Radio in New York and performed on Broadway. The other two girls in the group were none other than Bernadette's former singing partners with the Starlets, the Allbut sisters, Barbara and Phyllis (Jiggy). The Starlets had tried to get record producer Gerry Granahan to sign them with a major label. At first, he didn't go along with the idea. Phyllis went to college to become a teacher, and sister Barbara was accepted into the Julliard School to become an arranger. A short time later, Gerry Granahan had second thoughts. While listening to an audition the girls had sung for him, he realized they had hit potential and called them back into the studio to record. That song was 'Til, and it became the first hit for The Angels on Caprice 107 in 1962.
My Boyfriend's Back came several records later. It was released on Smash 1834 in 1963, with this strange song on the flip side. This is called (Love Me) Now and you may not believe what you're hearing when you play this side of the record! It sounds like someone drops a metal tray on the floor part-way through the song. After that, you start to hear someone throwing stuff all around the studio. It's not happening in time with the music, and it certainly doesn't sound like it belongs there. This is STILL a mystery to me. It's clearly NOT just a mistake they either didn't catch, or chose to ignore. This was clearly intentional! Give it a listen and see what you think.
It makes me wonder if anyone ever bothered to flip over My Boyfriend's Back to play the other side. Aside from the strange noises, it's not a bad example of the Jersey Girl Group Sound! I would have loved to ask producers Robert Feldman, Gerald Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer, or arranger Leroy Glover, what they could tell me about this unique and unusual recording!
I play them ALL on MusicMaster Oldies. Listen long enough and you'll hear everything that ever charted between 1955 and 1973, plus tens of thousands of records that either charted somewhere else in the world, or never charted at all. It's the ultimate oldies mix. If you have any friends who love the music from this era, please turn them on to this!
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