The History of the Girl Group

By: Megan McCasland

Hit classics from the sixties and seventies are floating through the theatre this week as we work on the final preparations for The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On, opening tonight. After sitting in on last night’s dress rehearsal, seeing the ladies of the cast and crew working hard, and getting some the songs stuck in my head, I thought it would be fun to explore the history of the girl group.

The first girl group, the Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce (later known as the Three X Sisters), began in 1923. They predicted later girl group success by maintaining their popularity throughout the Great Depression. The Three X Sisters also paved the way for other girl groups to form, appearing out of and being influenced by other musical movements of the time period, like vaudeville, a cappella, and barbershop quartet.

The “golden age” of girl groups started in 1955 and lasted through 1970, but the Chantels’ 1958 song “Maybe” was arguably the true start of the standard girl group sound for this era. Their success was followed by an enormous rise in girl groups, which helped expand the idea of girlhood as an identity across racial and class lines.

The group often considered to have achieved the first sustained success is the Shirelles, with songs like “Tonight’s the Night,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Soldier Boy.”

The Marvelettes’ song “Please Mr. Postman” became the first number one song in the US for Motown Records, an African-American owned label, and was a major indication of the racial integration of popular music. Motown Records would mastermind several major girl groups, one of the most notable being the Supremes.

According to Wikipedia, over 750 girl groups were able to chart a song between 1960 and 1966 in the US and UK. But then beat music (a pop/rock music genre that developed in the UK in the early 1960s) grew in popularity and pushed out girl groups as a genre. Only the Supremes managed to survive the start of the British Invasion thanks to their significant charts presence.

The music in Dream On includes many favorites from the sixties, giving an energetic girl group spin to hits like “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille, “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group and “Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton, “Someday We’ll Be Together” by The Supremes, “We Are a Family” by Sister Sledge, and “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

We’re so excited to show you all what we’ve been working on, and we hope you’ll join us in singing along to great renditions of classic hits!


Photo taken by: Hannah Lemieux


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