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  1. #1

    Could have the Ronettes been bigger?

    I always wonder what if the Ronettes wised up to Phil Spector around 1965 and went somewhere else. Could they have been bigger? I always felt like they could have been had Phil not held them back. Nedra said they were begging him to release better material on them but he wouldn't. I guess either way Nedra would have ended up getting replaced anyway as she grew disinterested in being a Ronette after she met her husband. Ronnie should have been a much bigger superstar than she was. I've seen her several times over the years and she is an amazing entertainer. Such great energy.

  2. #2
    I say that with the right producer (and the right set of songs), The Ronettes could've been a bigger group with more hits. One thing to consider is that the 'girl group era' that they represented so well was on it's way out in 1965. Anyone that could work with The Ronettes (other than Spector) would have to be able to move them in a more sophisticated direction (like the way Motown did with The Marvelettes).

  3. #3
    I'm not sure about 'bigger', but my beloved Ronettes should have at least lasted longer. The factor that would/could have held the group back was the same factor that gave them so much character: Ronnie's voice. I love, Love, LOVE Ronnie's voice, but I think she's somewhat limited in the type of material that suits her natural voice.

  4. #4
    I agree, Ronnie's voice was somewhat limited but boy was it special. Estelle had a similar singing voice but not as distinct. The Ronettes probably could have played the Copa if they wanted. Ronnie said the three of them harmonized so well (she attributes this to the fact that they were related so they had a good blend) and you do hear it on some songs like Keep On Dancing. And then I could see them progressing towards a more soulful sophisticated sound as Eddie pointed out.

  5. #5
    My main intro to them was via the 'Phil Spector Greatest Hits' album of the late 70s and I was always surprised they didn't have much more output than the songs on this album.

    I loved Ronnie's voice and remember the thrill of hearing Eddie Money's 'Take Me Home Tonight' for the first time on radio when it was released in the late 80s.

    I'm not sure they would have fitted in to a Copa type environment. They were no Supremes and hadn't had the benefit Maxine Powell schooling. I can remember Ellie Greenwich in a documentary saying they weren't very lady-like.

    But anyway, when Phil pulled the plug, they were done. And not even the help of the E-Street Band, The Ramones and others could help Ronnie's solo career in later years.

    I was very surprised to see in the Aussie charts over Christmas, 'Sleigh Ride' by the Ronettes somehow made it into the top 40.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    I love, Love, LOVE Ronnie's voice, but I think she's somewhat limited in the type of material that suits her natural voice.
    I agree. Her most recent solo album contained a solid selection of material that was well suited to her voice. Other stuff that she's done after the Ronettes has sort of been hit and miss for me, like her "Unfinished Business" album.

    It's funny you started this thread, FloyJoy, as I coincidentally had this very same discussion with my husband yesterday about Ronnie Spector and whether the Ronettes would have had success, had they never met Phil Spector. We both agreed that they wouldn't have. I think they had the right formula, akin to The Pointer Sisters and Richard Perry, and The Supremes and Holland-Dozier-Holland.

    I think few people have truly understood Ronnie's sound, because it is so unique. I have doubts that they would have found success after Phil, even if they had safely made the break from him.
    Last edited by carlo; 01-17-2021 at 10:33 AM.

  7. #7
    It has just been announced that Phil Spector has died at 81

  8. #8
    Ronnie was the one who was going to take them somewhere regardless. On their biggest songs, usually Ronnie was the only Ronette singing on them. And on the songs that Nedra and Estelle were on, you can't pick them out due several other voices in the mix with them.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Levi Stubbs Tears View Post
    I can remember Ellie Greenwich in a documentary saying they weren't very lady-like.
    I think you may be conflating the Ronettes with the Shangri-Las.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by smallworld View Post
    I think you may be conflating the Ronettes with the Shangri-Las.
    Found the quote:

    Ellie: "I guess the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes in a different way were the tough girl groups"

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Levi Stubbs Tears View Post
    Found the quote: Ellie: "I guess the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes in a different way were the tough girl groups"
    Thanks for looking up the quote.
    Last edited by smallworld; 01-18-2021 at 08:10 PM.

  12. #12
    Ronnie Spector had a nice tonal quality but she lacked the range and the power. Her vibrato was always out of control. I don't think any other record company would have been interested in them. The last time I heard Ronnie sing it was obvious that the chain smoking had taken a toll on her voice. She is a legend and deserves that, they worked hard. Phil obviously sabotaged their career to keep Ronnie at home. I read her book, it was a tough life.

  13. #13
    When did you see her Rick? I saw her in NYC with my family in 2014 and it was probably the best show we had ever been to in our lives. Ronnie's voice was in top form that night, it was like we were watching her in 1963. And at that time she was 71 and her onstage energy was unreal. She was just a little fireball. My sister saw her a couple of years back and she said it wasn't as good as when we saw her in 2014. She didn't exactly say why though.

  14. #14
    Nedra came up on stage with Ronnie at one of her shows in recent years. Wish I could have been at that show. Would love to see the two of them perform together. Nice to see blood is thicker than water. I think for years there was some awkwardness between them. Ronnie also did a nice tribute to Estelle when I last saw her.

  15. #15
    I think the Ronettes would have been a much bigger act if Ronnie had not gotten personally involved with Phil.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    I think the Ronettes would have been a much bigger act if Ronnie had not gotten personally involved with Phil.
    That could be, but also Spector's general insanity had lead to a diminishment of airplay of the other Philles acts as well. I don't think there's a definitive answer to why the cycle of Spector-produced hits was so brief - a year and 5 months! - and the last top-20 hit other than the Righteous Brothers was "Be My Baby" in 8/63 ...

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    That could be, but also Spector's general insanity had lead to a diminishment of airplay of the other Philles acts as well. I don't think there's a definitive answer to why the cycle of Spector-produced hits was so brief - a year and 5 months! - and the last top-20 hit other than the Righteous Brothers was "Be My Baby" in 8/63 ...
    Phil did not separate the artists from himself. He saw them as minor contributors to his creations. As Ellie Greenwich once said he could make whoever he wanted to be the Crystals or Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. And because he made a lot of enemies in the music industry, the acts that were signed to him suffered as a result. I always felt songs like Do I Love You and Best Part Of Breaking Up should have charted higher than they did. And Walking In the Rain should have been a number one.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    Phil did not separate the artists from himself. He saw them as minor contributors to his creations. As Ellie Greenwich once said he could make whoever he wanted to be the Crystals or Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. And because he made a lot of enemies in the music industry, the acts that were signed to him suffered as a result. I always felt songs like Do I Love You and Best Part Of Breaking Up should have charted higher than they did. And Walking In the Rain should have been a number one.
    Interesting, and agreed about the songs you mentioned (WITR is my personal favorite) and can add that virtually every single issued by Philles after BMB should have at least top 20'd -

  19. #19
    Phil would not buy chart positions.Alot of those records were really bigger hits then their chart positions would have you think.The business side could be very shady.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    Phil would not buy chart positions.Alot of those records were really bigger hits then their chart positions would have you think.The business side could be very shady.
    That's interesting, and certainly believable. I wonder what slowed the lp output?

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    That's interesting, and certainly believable. I wonder what slowed the lp output?
    They definitely had enough material for a second album. And some real good ones too that went unreleased like I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine and Girls Can Tell.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    They definitely had enough material for a second album. And some real good ones too that went unreleased like I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine and Girls Can Tell.
    YES!! I love both those cuts. I have several late 70's lp Spector compilations and both those songs are included; both were top-20 worthy.

  23. #23
    How do you guys feel about Nedra and Estelle not being on a lot of the songs? Motown fans seem to be miffed with the Andantes replacing the Supremes, Vandellas, etc. But I don't hear people talking much about Cher, Darlene, Sonny, Bobby, etc singing in place of the Ronettes. I've heard just Nedra and Estelle live and I'm glad they chose to go with other singers on the recordings.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    How do you guys feel about Nedra and Estelle not being on a lot of the songs? Motown fans seem to be miffed with the Andantes replacing the Supremes, Vandellas, etc. But I don't hear people talking much about Cher, Darlene, Sonny, Bobby, etc singing in place of the Ronettes. I've heard just Nedra and Estelle live and I'm glad they chose to go with other singers on the recordings.
    Interesting question. I think the case of the Supremes is more 'personal' because the group was higher profile, lasted longer (and therefore became more identifiable) and because much of the time the non-lead vocals on Supremes records were 'smaller'. In the case of the Ronettes the backing vocals were so huge it was more obvious that there was vocal supplementation. I would have preferred Mary-Florence-Cindy be prominent on all the Supremes recordings, with a bit o' supplementation as needed; I don't find fault with MFC for not being on the recordings (it was not their choice) but I do think it a bit of foul play on the part of Motown-at-large.

  25. #25
    Yeah I also feel like Mary and Flo had more identifiable voices where as with Estelle and Nedra, I really couldn't tell you. Going by Ronnie's book they were on Do I Love You, Best Part Of Breakin Up and Chapel of Love. Also Nedra has said they were on the Christmas tracks. I also believe they're on I Can Hear Music which was recorded in NYC. They're on some of the later released tracks like Everything Under The Sun and Keep On Dancing where they sing in harmony with Ronnie.

  26. #26
    Oh and depending on who's story you go by they may have been on Be My Baby. Definitely not for Baby I Love You as they were on tour with their cousin Elaine.

    That was another part of the Ronettes that I found interesting in that they easily replaced Ronnie live for a couple of tours. They replaced Estelle for a couple of appearances as well with Elaine. Not sure if Nedra ever was subbed by her.

  27. #27
    Phil said albums(LPs) 2 hits & 10 pieces of junk. Remember 45's ruled in the 60's.

  28. #28
    It seems to me that the Ronnettes followed the pattern of most girl groups that were signed to labels other than Motown. They generally had a few hit singles and one, possibly two, albums released in their name. Other than Patti LaBelle and the bluebells, I canít think of any girl group that had more than two albums during the period that Motown ruled the airwaves in the 60s.

    I believe the Ronnettes had an album on Colpix but I think that came out after their success with Phil Spector.

    If you think of the 3 Degrees, the toys, the Flirtations, the Cookies, and so on, It seems most labels didnít stick with their girl groups after they stopped getting into the top 10.

    I think even the Shangri-Las only had two albums prior to their greatest hits album, and I think one of them was even repackaged to include ďI can never go home anymoreĒ which it didnít include when it was first released, rather than issuing a new album to promote the single.

    I often wish there were more albums by the Marvelettes or the Vandellas, but then I always tell myself Motown stuck with these groups probably longer than any other label wouldíve, and each released close to 10 albums, which is a pretty good run.
    Last edited by kenneth; 01-27-2021 at 01:57 PM.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    It seems to me that the Ronnettes followed the pattern of most girl groups that were signed to labels other than Motown. They generally had a few hit singles and one, possibly two, albums released in their name. Other than Patti LaBelle and the bluebells, I canít think of any girl group that had more than two albums during the period that Motown ruled the airwaves in the 60s.

    I believe the Ronnettes had an album on Colpix but I think that came out after their success with Phil Spector.

    If you think of the 3 Degrees, the toys, the Flirtations, the Cookies, and so on, It seems most labels didnít stick with their girl groups after they stopped getting into the top 10.

    I think even the Shangri-Las only had two albums prior to their greatest hits album, and I think one of them was even repackaged to include ďI can never go home anymoreĒ which it didnít include when it was first released, rather than issuing a new album to promote the single.

    I often wish there were more albums by the Marvelettes or the Vandellas, but then I always tell myself Motown stuck with these groups probably longer than any other label wouldíve, and each released close to 10 albums, which is a pretty good run.
    Good points.

    The Shangri-las were actually in the top 40 more than the Ronettes believe it or not. They were way too young (15, 16, 17), Betty and the twins all left the group at different times and I feel like they never evolved from the pouty "leader of the pack" sulking teen act. They were great vocalists though. A lot of the album cuts had great harmonies from them and as far as I know they never used additional vocalists.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    Good points.

    The Shangri-las were actually in the top 40 more than the Ronettes believe it or not. They were way too young (15, 16, 17), Betty and the twins all left the group at different times and I feel like they never evolved from the pouty "leader of the pack" sulking teen act. They were great vocalists though. A lot of the album cuts had great harmonies from them and as far as I know they never used additional vocalists.
    I agree I think they were vastly underrated. They certainly could sing. I still think “remember (walking in the sand)“ one of the finest songs ever released by a girl group. One music writer referred to it as invoking the feeling of memory itself which I think is a great description.

    I guess I probably shouldn’t have included the 3 Degrees in my summary. They had a pretty amazing career if you look back on it, really there were three distinct phases to it. The early girl group phase where I don’t believe they had a lot of success, then in the late 60s when they were modeled after more of a Motown group and even did a remake of the song “maybe“ by the Chantels, produced by The original producer of the earlier version. Then they went through kind of a metamorphosis and evolved into a disco act and really had their greatest success up to that time. So I guess their career was far more unique and I shouldn’t have included it along with the more “one hit wonders“ which were abandoned by their record labels after they failed to chart a second or third time.

  31. #31
    Oh and I forgot to say "The Train From Kansas City" by the Shangri-las is one of my all time favorites.

  32. #32
    Kenneth I'm not too familiar with the Three Degrees' history. I feel like I should be since I'm from Philly lol. Didn't they go through a lot of line up changes before their success in the 70s?

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    Kenneth I'm not too familiar with the Three Degrees' history. I feel like I should be since I'm from Philly lol. Didn't they go through a lot of line up changes before their success in the 70s?
    you know, I am not sure! I donít know that much about them though I recently got a few CDs which had most of their early catalog on it, up to the Philly days. I think that they had a pretty consistent lineup until then, and I want to say that one of the singers was possibly named Sheila Ferguson? But Iím just thinking from memory right now.


    I love their late 60s early 70s. Especially the albums that came out on the Roulette label. They sang some great songs on that album including Stardust, youíre the One (not the Marvelettes song, the one by little sister who was a spinoff of sly and the family stone), Sugar on Sunday, and I think they did a really great version of MacArthur Park also. Great singers. Thereís a double CD which has all their roulette material and itís well worth buying.

    I didnít collect the Philadelphia era material but Iíd like to hear it again.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    you know, I am not sure! I don’t know that much about them though I recently got a few CDs which had most of their early catalog on it, up to the Philly days. I think that they had a pretty consistent lineup until then, and I want to say that one of the singers was possibly named Sheila Ferguson? But I’m just thinking from memory right now.


    I love their late 60s early 70s. Especially the albums that came out on the Roulette label. They sang some great songs on that album including Stardust, you’re the One (not the Marvelettes song, the one by little sister who was a spinoff of sly and the family stone), Sugar on Sunday, and I think they did a really great version of MacArthur Park also. Great singers. There’s a double CD which has all their roulette material and it’s well worth buying.

    I didn’t collect the Philadelphia era material but I’d like to hear it again.
    I think that there quite a few personnel changes in the group before they solidified with Fayette, Sheila, and Valerie in the late 60s. This line-up stayed in place up through the late 70s when Fayette was dismissed and replaced by Helen Scott, who had been in an earlier incarnation of the group. I believe Helen and Valerie are still touring along with another member.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    you know, I am not sure! I don’t know that much about them though I recently got a few CDs which had most of their early catalog on it, up to the Philly days. I think that they had a pretty consistent lineup until then, and I want to say that one of the singers was possibly named Sheila Ferguson? But I’m just thinking from memory right now.


    I love their late 60s early 70s. Especially the albums that came out on the Roulette label. They sang some great songs on that album including Stardust, you’re the One (not the Marvelettes song, the one by little sister who was a spinoff of sly and the family stone), Sugar on Sunday, and I think they did a really great version of MacArthur Park also. Great singers. There’s a double CD which has all their roulette material and it’s well worth buying.

    I didn’t collect the Philadelphia era material but I’d like to hear it again.
    The Three Degrees 70's Roulette material is quite possible my favorite music ever. Those voices - the songs - the production - all the songs you mention are favorites of mine as well. And the full-length 'Maybe'. 'Melting Pot'. The rap on 'You're The One'. 3D were baasasss! And the Philly material is great as well. More polished but equally as invigorating. Their 'What I Did For Love' - 10s across the BOARD!!!

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by floyjoy678 View Post
    as far as I know they never used additional vocalists.
    Oh, they did. Writer/producer Ellie Greenwich opens "Out In the Streets" for instance.




    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    I can’t think of any girl group that had more than two albums during the period that Motown ruled the airwaves in the 60s.
    The Shirelles had five albums between 1963 and 1967. The Chiffons had four, though the final album was an odds and ends collection. The Sweet Inspirations released four albums between 1967 and 1969.
    Last edited by smallworld; 01-27-2021 at 09:40 PM.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by smallworld View Post



    The Shirelles had five albums between 1963 and 1967. The Chiffons had four, though the final album was an odds and ends collection. The Sweet Inspirations released four albums between 1967 and 1969.

    Ah yes, how right you are! I never collected the Chiffons or the Shirelles, but I have all the Sweet Inspirations LPs except I think the one on RSO, and they are all excellent. I especially love their gospel album. With all their great lineages going back to the Drinkard Singers, that album had to be great.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    I have all the Sweet Inspirations LPs except I think the one on RSO, and they are all excellent. I especially love their gospel album. With all their great lineages going back to the Drinkard Singers, that album had to be great.

    Thanks for pointing that out.
    You're welcome. There's also a Sweet Inspirations album that was reissued in 2020 for Record Store Day. I've never heard it.

    https://www.discogs.com/The-Sweet-In...master/1796687

  39. #39
    like the Crystals, the Ronettes were a GREAT LIVE act.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    like the Crystals, the Ronettes were a GREAT LIVE act.
    Have you seen them live? Do you remember anything specific? I wish there was footage of the Ronettes live. I never saw them live but when I went to Ronnie's show years ago, she had footage playing on the screen of one of their old concerts and man could they move! Lotta shaking lol

    From what I read they toned it down after a while after Nedra and Estelle started making complaints about Ronnie putting herself out there too much for their liking.

  41. #41
    yes, in 1964 on the back of a flat bed truck in a new shopping center parking lot in Hollywood, Fl. OMG I screamed my 13 yr old lungs out. Just a 4 piece band with Ronnie, Nedra, & Estelle. They had green sparkley short dresses on, but only did songs "Twist & Shout" & "Be My Baby" . LOcal radio station promotion for new shopping center. Oh yea, Steve Alaimo (Miami artist) & deejays there it was madness....but all us Jr. High boys were in love with the Ronettes.

  42. #42
    They were appearing at one of the hotels on Miami Beach at the time, which ofcourse I was too young to go to.

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    The Three Degrees 70's Roulette material is quite possible my favorite music ever. Those voices - the songs - the production - all the songs you mention are favorites of mine as well. And the full-length 'Maybe'. 'Melting Pot'. The rap on 'You're The One'. 3D were baasasss! And the Philly material is great as well. More polished but equally as invigorating. Their 'What I Did For Love' - 10s across the BOARD!!!
    I guess the singer at that time was Sheila Ferguson. What a voice. In an earlier era she would’ve been fronting a big band and probably out singing the entire orchestra. I also love their version of “maybe“. Really, that album which was also called “Maybe” contains one showstopper after another.

    Oh, and you had me interested in buying the Philly material when you mentioned “What I Did for Love”. I’d love to hear what they do with that song.
    Last edited by kenneth; 01-28-2021 at 08:19 PM.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    I think that there quite a few personnel changes in the group before they solidified with Fayette, Sheila, and Valerie in the late 60s. This line-up stayed in place up through the late 70s when Fayette was dismissed and replaced by Helen Scott, who had been in an earlier incarnation of the group. I believe Helen and Valerie are still touring along with another member.
    I think they had to have formed pretty close to the early 60s originally. So have they actually been a group nearly all of this past 60 years? Or did they have periods where they didnít tour at all? Do you know? I think Iíve read that they were quite big in Europe. And I know they had an appearance in the film ďthe French connectionď. Yikes, I was really off-base when I was thinking they were kind of a short lived group at least in terms of recorded output. They were both prolific and long-lived. Good for them.

    I guess the Velvelettes have also set some sort of record in terms of longevity. Iím not sure theyíve been together all this time, but I believe they still have mostly original members. We have a major Velvelettes fan in the forum. Iím sure he would know.

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    I think they had to have formed pretty close to the early 60s originally. So have they actually been a group nearly all of this past 60 years? Or did they have periods where they didn’t tour at all? Do you know? I think I’ve read that they were quite big in Europe. And I know they had an appearance in the film “the French connection“. Yikes, I was really off-base when I was thinking they were kind of a short lived group at least in terms of recorded output. They were both prolific and long-lived. Good for them.

    I guess the Velvelettes have also set some sort of record in terms of longevity. I’m not sure they’ve been together all this time, but I believe they still have mostly original members. We have a major Velvelettes fan in the forum. I’m sure he would know.
    From what I've read, The Three Degrees were formed in the early 60s with Linda Turner, Shirley Porter, and Fayette Pickney, and being produced by Richard Barrett. They made some recordings but didn't have any big hits. There were also some personnel changes until the group featuring included Fayette, Valerie Holiday, and Sheila Ferguson formed in the late 60s.

    To my knowledge, they were much bigger in Europe than they were in America, although they did have some hits in the US like MAYBE, WHEN WILL I SEE YOU AGAIN, and TSOP. They also starred in a great episode of SANFORD AND SON.

    I don't think they've ever stopped recording and performing, although there seemed to be a period when they weren't able to use the group name and were billed by their firs t names.

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    It seems to me that the Ronnettes followed the pattern of most girl groups that were signed to labels other than Motown. They generally had a few hit singles and one, possibly two, albums released in their name. Other than Patti LaBelle and the bluebells, I can’t think of any girl group that had more than two albums during the period that Motown ruled the airwaves in the 60s.

    I believe the Ronnettes had an album on Colpix but I think that came out after their success with Phil Spector.

    If you think of the 3 Degrees, the toys, the Flirtations, the Cookies, and so on, It seems most labels didn’t stick with their girl groups after they stopped getting into the top 10.

    I think even the Shangri-Las only had two albums prior to their greatest hits album, and I think one of them was even repackaged to include “I can never go home anymore” which it didn’t include when it was first released, rather than issuing a new album to promote the single.

    I often wish there were more albums by the Marvelettes or the Vandellas, but then I always tell myself Motown stuck with these groups probably longer than any other label would’ve, and each released close to 10 albums, which is a pretty good run.
    It should be noted that the Ronettes' Colpix album consisted of pre-Spector naterial recorded under the name Ronnie and the Relatives.

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