The odds against being “discovered” at a high school talent show are astronomical. But it really did happen, at least once.
The Shirelles — Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Addie “Micki” Harris and Beverly Lee — sang a song they co-wrote, “I Met Him on a Sunday (Ronde-Ronde),” at a Passaic High School talent show in 1957. Luckily for them, one of their classmates, Mary Jane Greenberg, was the daughter of a woman, Florence Greenberg, who had her own record label, Tiara. Tiara released a recording of the song, which sums up a romance in a few lines (“I met him on a Sunday … and I missed him on Monday … I found him on Tuesday … I dated him on Wednesday … I kissed him on Thursday … and he didn’t come Friday … when he showed up Saturday … I said, “Bye, bye baby”). And the Shirelles had a hit.
Greenberg sold Tiara, and the Shirelles’ contract, to Decca, but when more Shirelles hits weren’t immediately forthcoming, Decca lost interest, and the Shirelles ended up back with Greenberg on Scepter, a new label she formed with the money she earned from selling Tiara. The Shirelles had many more hits on Scepter, including “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Tonight’s the Night” and “Mama Said,” and Scepter also had much success with other artists, including Dionne Warwick, Chuck Jackson and B.J. Thomas.
The Shirelles’ story was told in the 2011 Broadway musical, “Baby It’s You!” Harris and Coley died in 1982 and 2000, respectively, and Owens and Lee are still performing, with their own groups.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.