THE JONES GIRLS: SHIRLEY JONES
Member of the Philly girl group, the Jones Girls
On September 22, was born, Shirley Jones; singer and member of the Jones Girls.
Singer Shirley Jones of the Philly soul vocal group the Jones Girls was born into a singing family. The Detroit native's mother, Mary Frazier Jones, was one of RCA Records' first gospel artists. Jones and her middle sister Brenda sang with their mother and were later joined by younger sister Valerie.
During their teenage years, the sisters turned to secular music. Hooking up with manager Dick Scott, they began opening for acts such as fellow Detroiters the Four Tops, Little Richard, and others who would play in Detroit. Becoming the Jones Girls, the group secured recording deals with Paramount Records, then Curtis Mayfield's Curtom Records. In 1976, they began to tour as background singers for Diana Ross, who gave them a brief interlude where they would sing "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," a song popularized by Quincy Jones. Kenneth Gamble of Philadelphia International Records and singer Patti LaBelle were in the audience during a Philadelphia performance, and after the show, Ross introduced them to the Jones Girls; the group signed with Philadelphia International in early 1979.
Their first Philadelphia International album, The Jones Girls, included the R&B/soul Top 20 hit "You're Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else," which has been rapped over numerous times. (A single from the album, "Who Can I Run To," was a hit cover for Xscape in 1995.) The group can be heard doing background vocals on various records throughout the Philadelphia International catalog as well as on releases by Leon Haywood, Michael Pedicin Jr., and others. Other Jones Girls albums on Philadelphia International were At Peace With Woman and Get As Much Love As You Can.
The group left Philadelphia International for RCA Records and released one LP: On Target. In 1984, Philadelphia International released an album of the group's unreleased tracks called Keep It Comin'. Soon after, the Jones Girls disbanded; Brenda got married and Valerie went to college. Gamble, hearing about the breakup, called Shirley to see if she was interested in becoming a solo act. Soon, she was back at Philadelphia Records working on her solo debut album. While working on a track with Dexter Wansel, Shirley convinced Bunny Sigler to let her record "Do You Get Enough Love," which was intended for the O'Jays. The song featured Sigler on piano, bass, and background vocals; former Instant Funk hornman Larry Davis on guitar; and drum programming and arranger Jack Faith on flute and horn. It went to number one on the R&B charts for two weeks in August 1986. An album called Always in the Mood was issued and included several follow-ups, including Wansel's "Last Night I Need Somebody" and Sigler's bossa nova-ish "Breaking Up." Around the time the album was made, Jones met and married Harold Hubbard of the Harlem Globetrotters. There are infrequent Jones Girls tour reunions in Europe and the U.S.
THE JONES GIRLS
Valerie, Shirley, and Brenda Jones spent more than ten years in the music business before they tasted success of their own. During that time, however, their voices graced the records and stage performances of dozens of established stars, including Diana Ross and Betty Everett.
The daughters of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Francis Jones, Valerie, Shirley, and Brenda Jones spent years singing on other artists' recording sessions in Detroit, and later in Los Angeles. The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the '60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the later part of the decade, but sales of those records weren't much more encouraging.
It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities -- the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists' singles. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson's activities as a producer and arranger. "If You Don't Love Me No More," their debut single, wasn't especially popular, but it led to a follow-up record, "Will You Be There," that proved extremely important. The single never sold but its arranger, Gil Askey, who was working for Diana Ross, recommended the Jones Girls as backup singers for her on tour for a series of engagements that lasted two years and brought them some valuable exposure. Ironically enough, Curtom was sitting on an entire LP cut by the trio that never got released. One of the songs off of the album, "Hey Lucinda," was issued as a single, but it did less good for the Jones Girls than it did for Betty Everett, who later recorded her vocals over their backing track for her version of the song, which did chart.
Their performances with Diana Ross opened up many doors, however, including a contract with Philadelphia International Records at the end of the '70s. The trio cut four LPs in their three years with the label, enjoying a string of hits around them including "You're Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else," "Better Things to Do," "Nights Over Egypt," and "I Just Love the Man." They later left Philadelphia International for an offer from RCA, but their sales at the new label were poor. The trio never recaptured the moment they had at the end of the '70s and the beginning of the '80s. Shirley Jones, who was the first of the trio to record singly, with an entire album for Philadelphia International, has continued to carve out a separate career.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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