The Blossoms

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The Blossoms
The Blossoms.png
The Blossoms in 1966 (clockwise from top: Fanita James, Jean King, and Darlene Love)
Background information
Also known as The Dreamers
The Playgirls
The Rollettes
Origin Los Angeles, United States
Genres R&B, Pop, Rock and Roll, Soul
Years active 1954–1990; 2000-present
Labels Capitol, Philles, Challenge, Bell, RCA, Reprise, Ode, MGM, Lion
Members Fanita James
Gloria Jones
Past members Darlene Love
Jean King
Gracia Nitzsche
Nanette Williams
Annette Williams
Jewel Cobbs
Pat Howard
Edna Wright
Carolyn Willis

The Blossoms are an American girl-group group that initially originated from California. During their height of success in the 1960s, the group's lineup most famously consisted of Darlene Love, Fanita James, and Jean King.

Although the group had a recording career in their own right, they were most famously known for being the group to actually record the #1 hit "He's a Rebel" (which producer Phil Spector credited to The Crystals), and for providing backing vocals for many of the biggest hits of the 1960s.

It has been said that The Blossoms were to the American West Coast what The Sweet Inspirations were to the East Coast and The Andantes were for Motown.

History[edit]

Early Years: Formation, Name and Lineup Changes, and inclusion of Darlene Love[edit]

Their career began in Los Angeles, California, while still in high school in 1954. Originally the group was a sextet of young girls singing for fun. Calling themselves The Dreamers the group originally sang spirituals since two of the members had parents who were against their daughters singing secular rhythm and blues music popular on the radio during the early 1950s.

Fanita Barrett (later known as Fanita James), Gloria Jones, Jewel Cobbs, Pat Howard and twin sisters Annette and Nanette Williams all came from musical backgrounds. The twins had taken vocal and dancing lessons as youngsters. Fanita's brother Ronald was already a success with his vocal group, The Meadowlarks. The Dreamers were introduced to local musicians through Dexter Tisby, then successful with his own group The Penguins who had a hit with "Earth Angel".

The Dreamers joined Richard Berry in the studio and during 1955 and 1956 made several recordings for Flair and RPM Records. Among them was a version of Harry Warren and Mac Gordon's "At Last" and several of Richard Berry's compositions: "Together", "Wait For Me", and "Daddy, Daddy". The Dreamers gained attention as versatile singers and began to get studio work singing backup for other artists as well as recording a few singles of their own as The Dreamers.

The Dreamers signed with Capitol Records where one of the executives, noticing their different skin tones, said they looked like a bouquet; which is how they became The Blossoms. Even though signing to Capitol was considered a step up, the group's stay at Capitol was short - yielding only three singles - none of which made the charts. The Blossoms also underwent significant changes at this time. By 1958 Nanette was married, pregnant, and planning a leave of absence from the group.

Darlene Wright (later known as Darlene Love) replaced Nanette and was selected to be the lead, which the ensemble-based Blossoms had not previously had. The addition of Wright would change the style of the group but chart success was still elusive, despite Darlene's unique presence as lead, on songs like "No Other Love" for Capitol in 1958, "Sugarbeat" for RCA (as The Playgirls) in 1960 and "Write Me A Letter" for Challenge in 1961.

The 1960s: Phil Spector, Backing Vocalists, The Crystals, and Solo Success[edit]

During the summer of 1962, The Blossoms finally emerged successful on the charts, although their biggest hit song, "He's a Rebel", would not be credited to them.

Then-unknown producer Phil Spector had learned that Vikki Carr was soon to record "He's a Rebel" for Liberty Records as her debut single, and decided he had to rush his own version to stores. Since The Crystals (his biggest girl group at the time) were touring on the east coast at the time, The Blossoms were instead brought in to record the track. Prior to this, Spector had been using The Blossoms to contribute backing vocals behind many of his artist's tracks including the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron".

However, when Spector released the record, the song was instead credited to The Crystals (much to the dismay of the actual Crystals). The Blossoms in turn only received a meager session fee (Darlene Love states they were paid "triple scale") and are not credited for contributing to the record. The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and firmly established Spector as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Over the next three years, the Blossoms, with Darlene as lead, would be the favored singers on all of Spector's sessions recorded in California.

Darlene and Fanita sang with Bobby Sheen as Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. This combo achieved hit singles for Spector, including a version of the Disney classic "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

Although The Blossoms were attempting to establish themselves as primary artists, they still contributed backing vocals behind many of the biggest hits of the 1960s including The Ronettes' "Be My Baby", Shelley Fabares' "Johnny Angel", and The Blossoms lead singer Darlene Love's solo efforts (which included "He's Sure the Boy I Love" although again Spector credited the song to The Crystals).[1] Fabares stated in an interview quoted in The Billboard Book of #1 Hits that her strongest memory of that recording session was the "beautiful voices of the backup singers".[2]

In 1964, the group was reduced to a trio of Darlene, Fanita, and newcomer Jean King and were a featured part of a relatively successful weekly rock'n'roll television program called Shindig!. The Blossoms used their vocal versatility to their advantage, singing in various styles behind a variety of artists including Patty Duke, Shelley Fabares and Marvin Gaye.

The Blossoms appeared in 1964's The T.A.M.I. Show providing backup vocals and dancing for all of Marvin Gaye's songs; their name appeared in the opening credits, but they were not introduced. They are later seen at stage left encouraging an exhausted James Brown to take the stage one last time after his climactic performance. In 1968 they appeared in the Elvis (NBC TV Special). The Blossoms also provided backing vocals to Doris Day's "Move Over, Darling" from the film of the same name. They resumed recording under their own name later in the 1960s for labels such as Reprise, Ode, and MGM. While with Ode, they recorded a pop-gospel version of Laura Nyro's "Stoney End", which was first released in 1967 as the B-side to the "Wonderful" single, and then again in 1969 as an A-side single. They recorded their only album, Shockwave, in 1972 for Lion Records.

1970s-Present: Lineup Changes, Post-Breakup, Revival, and 20 Feet From Stardom[edit]

Darlene eventually left The Blossoms in 1974 and Jean King died of a heart attack in Las Vegas in 1983. Fanita kept The Blossoms going with varying personnel, backing Tom Jones, and performing on the Las Vegas circuit until 1990 when she became a backing singer for Doris Kenner Jackson of The Shirelles. Darlene stayed out of the music business for about five years after a brief reunion with Phil Spector in late 1974. She made a comeback in 1981 and two years later was starring in Leader of the Pack, the Broadway musical based on the life of songwriter Ellie Greenwich. Darlene began a film acting career portraying Trish in the Lethal Weapon movie series. She also had her own one-woman show "Darlene Love: Portrait of a Woman" at The Bottom Line in New York City. Darlene is also remembered for her hit "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" from the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.

Following Doris Kenner Jackson’s death in 2000 from breast cancer, Fanita revived The Blossoms with original member Gloria Jones and a new third member.

In 2013, The Blossoms (namely Darlene Love, Fanita James, Edna Wright, and Gloria Jones) were highlighted in the oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, in which it was revealed that they also sang backing vocals for Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash", Frank Sinatra's version of "That's Life", and Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)".

Known Members[edit]

  • Fanita James (1954-1990; 2000–present)
  • Gloria Jones (1954-1962; 2000–present)
  • Annette Williams (1954-1960)
  • Nanette Williams (1954-1958)
  • Jewel Cobbs (1954)
  • Pat Howard (1954)
  • Darlene Love (1958-1974)
  • Gracia Nitzsche (1962-1964)
  • Edna Wright (1962-1964)
  • Carolyn Willis (1962-1964)
  • Jean King (1964-1983)

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role
2013 20 Feet from Stardom Background Singers

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 212. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6. 
  2. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present (5 ed.). Billboard Books. p. 107. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.