The Blossoms in 1966 (clockwise from top: Fanita James, Jean King, and Darlene Love)
|Also known as||The Dreamers
|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|
|Past members||Darlene Love
The Blossoms were a backing group from California. They had a recording career in their own right and were to the American West Coast what The Sweet Inspirations were to the East Coast and The Andantes were for Motown.
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.
During the summer of 1962, the Blossoms finally emerged successful on the charts. Then-unknown producer Phil Spector used them on a song, "He's a Rebel", that he had acquired from singer-songwriter Gene Pitney. Spector was having success on the East Coast with a quintet of young Brooklyn girls named The Crystals, who already had two hits with Spector.
Problems between The Crystals and Spector prompted him to record this new song without them. Instead he used the Blossoms, who received a meager session fee (Darlene Love states they were paid "triple scale") under the alias The Crystals, much to the dismay of the real Crystals. The song turned out to be a hit 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. They were the Crystals once again on "He's Sure the Boy I Love". 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."
The Blossoms most probably recorded all the backgrounds on numerous sessions by The Crystals and The Ronettes as well as on Darlene's solo efforts under the new stage name Spector had given her, Darlene Love. The surname was in honor of Dorothy Love-Coates, a gospel singer he was impressed with. This association would prevent the group from establishing themselves as primary artists. At a crucial time in the industry, when new sounds were emerging quickly, The Blossoms seemed to be floundering as recording artists.
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. They were the backup group for Fabares on her recording of "Johnny Angel". 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". 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.
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.
- 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)
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 212. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6.
- 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.