One of the earliest and most consistently successful Girl Groups, the Shirelles were a quartet of teenagers from Passaic, N.J., who in the late 1950s and early 1960s scored a run of classic hits whose romantic innocence was sweet as the group's harmonies.
Originally known as the Poquellos, the girls — originally Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie "Micki" Harris, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston Reeves) and Beverly Lee — were schoolmates of the daughter of Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg. Greenberg auditioned them and was impressed enough to sign the group and become their manager, renaming them the Shirelles. She teamed them with producer Luther Dixon, who recorded the group with lush string arrangements and matched them with songs written by such Brill Building pros as Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Van McCoy.
The early Shirelles singles "I Met Him on a Sunday," "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Tonight's the Night" were all R&B hits that made little impression on the Pop charts. But 1960's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" became a crossover smash, making the Shirelles the first all-female group of the Rock era to top the Pop chart. More Pop hits — "Mama Said," "Soldier Boy," "Baby It's You," "Foolish Little Girl" — followed. The Shirelles also gave some early exposure to Scepter labelmate Dionne Warwick, who subbed with the group when Owens and Coley took leaves of absence to get married.
By the mid-'60s, business disputes with Scepter and the growing dominance of the British Invasion combined to break the Shirelles' hitmaking streak; the latter fact contained some irony, since their songs were covered by the Beatles, Manfred Mann and other admiring English acts.
The Shirelles continued to record through the early '70s, sticking around long enough to take advantage of the “oldies” circuit that sprang up in that decade. Shirley Alston Reeves has been a solo act since the mid-70s, while Beverly Lee continues to lead a modern-day incarnation of the Shirelles. The group's rise was portrayed in the Broadway musical Baby It's You, which debuted in 2011.