Still Alive and Kicking

The problem with going to an oldies show is that not only do you see how old the oldies artists are, you also see how old their audience is, which, of course, you yourself are a part of.

At least you’re all “still alive and kicking,” as the Toys’ (“A Lover’s Concerto”) lead singer Barbara Harris said, calling out her other two originals Barbara Parritt and June Montiero to take a bow from the audience. Harris led off Sunday night’s Girl Group Sound Spectacular Show at B.B. King’s, consisting of many of New York’s great girl group singers from the 1960s.


It was a big crowd full of bald heads and a few Brill Building “relics,” as one relic—Tuff City Records’ head Aaron Fuchs—put it to another such relic. Some might actually have been older than the second relic, though he wasn’t about to ask. Then again, Louise Murray of the Jaynetts (“Sally Go ’Round The Roses”) volunteered her age (74!), as did 71-year-old Margaret Ross-Williams of the Cookies (“Chains”), who said she and absent Cookie Earl-Jean McCrea were still “hanging in there for [surviving] the Cookies.”

Incredibly, both Murray and Ross-Williams looked and sounded great—as did most everyone else (Baby Washington, the Raindrops’ Beverly Warren, the Exciters’ Lillian Walker-Moss, Maxine Brown, Reparata and the Delrons’ Nanette Licari, and Toni Wine) on the bill. They also moved great for any age, as Brown, who looked especially stunning, had them all showing off youthful dance moves at the end of her closing set.

Brown’s set, by the way, was topped by her big hit “Oh No, Not My Baby,” by the then budding Brill Building team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Another Goffin-King hit came with the Cookies’ classic “Chains,” while Brill Building relic Toni Wine, also a noteworthy backup singer for the likes of Gene Pitney and Tony Orlando, stood out in accompanying herself on a slow electric piano version of “A Groovy Kind Of Love,” her hit composition for the Mindbenders.

The Exciters_albumOne of the greatest girl group songs ever came from the Brill Building team of Jeff Barry and the late Ellie Greenwich, who wrote—and as the Raindrops, sang—“The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget.” Beverly Warren, who sang with the group, dedicated it to Greenwich and her sister Laura Greenwich, who also sang with them and was in the house.

But while most of the artists were known for one signature hit, none of them were really “one-hit wonders.” As opener Harris pointed out, the Toys, for whom it was written, cut “Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby” before Question Mark & the Mysterians had the better-known hit with it. Likewise, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” which the Exciters cut after their signature hit “Tell Him” and just ahead of its hitmaker Manfred Mann; both sounded great in Walker-Moss’ performance at B.B.’s., same with Baby Washington’s “The Time” and “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face”: the former Heart performed both in addition to her big solo hit “That’s How Heartaches Are Made.”

And speaking of the Hearts, Murray was an original member of the group, said to be perhaps the first girl group. Long and lovely, she sang its 1955 hit “Lonely Nights” as well as her Jaynetts’ masterpiece “Sally Go ’Round The Roses”—and was also quite the sight clutching two bouquets of floral gifts in addition to her microphone.

Quite the sight, too, was a bald man in the back, as Licari sang her Reparata and the Delrons hit “Whenever A Teenager Cries.” Borrowing from “Sally Go ’Round The Roses,” it’s the “saddest thing in the whole wide world” whenever a sexagenarian cries, as he most certainly was, though in his case, presumably over the joy of still being alive to listen to these living legends.

Jim Bessman


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