Sally Go 'Round the Roses

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"Sally Go 'Round the Roses"
Single by The Jaynetts
from the album Sally Go 'Round the Roses
B-side (Instrumental)
Released 1963
Format 7" single
Recorded 1962
Genre Rhythm and blues, pop
Length 3:04
Label Tuff
Writer(s) Lona Stevens, Zell Sanders
Producer(s) Abner Spector (1917–2010)
The Jaynetts singles chronology
"Sally Go Round the Roses"
"Keep an Eye on Her"

"Sally Go 'Round the Roses" is the name of a 1963 hit by The Jaynetts, a Bronx-based one-hit wonder girl group, released by J&S Records on the Tuff label.


The producer of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," Abner Spector, was an A&R man for the Chicago-based Chess Records. Spector was responsible for the Corsairs' 1962 number 12 hit "Smoky Places," which had been released on Tuff, a subsidiary of J&S Records. In the summer of 1963, Spector asked J&S owner, Zelma "Zell" Sanders, to assemble a vocal ensemble to record a girl group style record to which end Sanders wrote the song "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," with Spector's wife Lona Stevens, drawing inspiration from the nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosie." The songwriting copyright for "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" is now in the name of Abner Spector who died in 2010; Zell Sanders died in 1976.[1]

The arrangement for "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was provided by Artie Butler, who recalls Spector "asked me to listen to [the] song...[I] decided that in its present form it did not [have potential], but I heard something in my head. He said, 'Go into a small demo studio and do what you hear,' and he would pay for it." Butler claims he played all the instruments on the track except for the guitar parts which were by Al Gorgoni and Carl Lynch, although it is widely reported that Buddy Miles is the drummer on "Sally Go 'Round the Roses." Butler states the entire recording of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was done "on an old Ampex tape machine at 712 IPS mono....Each time when I added another element" - including the final element: the vocalists - "I added a different type of reverb. Each generation [ie. development] seemed to add to the distinct sound of the record."[2]

Besides the five vocalists credited in the group which Zell Sanders assembled to record "Sally Go 'Round the Roses": Yvonne Bushnell, Ethel Davis (aka Vernell Hill), Ada Ray Kelly, Johnnie Louise Richardson and Mary Sue Wells (aka Mary Sue Wellington/Mary Green Wilson); at least five other vocalists are known to be featured on the track: Selena Healey, Marie Hood, Marlene Jenkins (aka Marlina Mack/Marlina Mars), Louise Harris Murray, Lezli Valentine and Iggy Williams have been identified as participating in the recording sessions for "Sally Go 'Round the Roses,"[3] which took place over a week, running up of costs of $60,000 - then an exorbitant amount of time and money for a single track. According to Johnnie Louise Richardson: "Anybody that came in the studio that week, [Spector] would put them on [the track]. Originally, I think he had about 20 voices on 'Sally.'"[4]

Butler's recollection is that Spector only heard the "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" track when it was completed and "hated it. He was really angry. He felt that I wasted his money." Butler played the track for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who offered to buy it from Spector: the interest of the duo caused Spector to reassess "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," which he had Sanders release as a single credited to 'the Jaynetts,' with the instrumental track as the B-side. Butler claimed his only return for arranging "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was being credited as the arranger on the record.[2]

The recording engineer of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was John P. "Jack" Sullivan.


"Sally Go 'Round the Roses" had its first major market breakout in San Francisco, its ringing arrangement being a precursor of the San Francisco Sound. A favorite performance number of Grace Slick when she fronted her pre-Jefferson Airplane outfit, the Great Society, "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was also a formative influence on Laura Nyro.[5]

"Sally Go 'Round the Roses" peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated 28 September 1963, remaining at number 2 on the Hot 100 dated 5 October, both weeks kept out of the top slot by "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton. On the Music Vendor Top 40 dated 12 October 1963, "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was ranked at number 1. In the Cash Box Top 100, it reached the # 3 spot on 28 September 1963 as its highest position, and remained there for another week (5 October 1963). It was also a hit in France, reaching number 7 with a 17 week chart run,[6] and reached number 2 in New Zealand.

Tuff released a Sally Go 'Round the Roses album which, despite the group being promoted as a quintet, displayed a cover image of a trio, only two of whom, Ethel Davis and Lezli Valentine, are identifiable. Besides the title cut, in both vocal and instrumental versions, and the follow-up single "Keep An Eye On Her," the album featured "Archie's Melody," "Bongo Bobby," "I Wanna Know," "No Love At All," "One Track Mind," "Pick Up My Marbles," "School Days" and "See Saw." Also featured as 'a special guest appearance' was "Dear Abby" credited to the Hearts, a minor hit (No. 94) recorded by at least some of the same personnel as "Sally Go 'Round the Roses."[3]

Preceded by
"Blue Velvet"
Bobby Vinton
Music Vendor
#1 on Top 40 Singles chart

October 12, 1963
Succeeded by
"Sugar Shack"
Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs

Other versions[edit]

"Sally Go 'Round the Roses"
Single by Donna Gains
B-side "So Said The Man"
Released 1971
Format 7" single
Genre Soul
Length 4:17
Label MCA
Writer(s) Lona Stevens, Zell Sanders
Producer(s) Vince Melouney
Donna Gains singles chronology
"If You Walkin' Alone"
"Sally Go Round The Roses"
"Denver Dream"

In the UK, where the Jaynetts' single had a non-charting 1963 release on Stateside Records, "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was first covered by Lyn Cornell, which had an October 1963 release on Decca: this version also failed to chart as did later covers by the Remo Four in May 1964, and Dee King in April 1966, both on Piccadilly Records. "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" would gain its highest UK profile when recorded by Pentangle in 1969, for their hit album Basket of Light; "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" was employed as B-side for the 1970 US single release of the Basket of Light track, "Light Flight," which had charted in the UK but with a different B-side ("Cold Mountain").

A French language version of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," rendered by Jacques Plante as "Rose (Parmi Les Roses)" (Rose among roses) was recorded in the autumn of 1963 by both Richard Anthony;[7] Anthony's version became the hit in 1963-64 reaching number 3 in France and also - as a double A-side hit with "Tchin Tchin" - No. 4 in Belgium (Wallonia).[8] Nana Mouskouri, who also recorded "Rose (Parmi Les Roses)", recorded the Italian rendering "Rosa tra le rose" which charted in Italy at number 32 in 1965.

Joan Baez is shown singing a fragment of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" in the 1967 film Dont Look Back.

In Australia, Doug Parkinson and the Questions had a hit with "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," reaching number 33 in 1967.

A version of "Sally Go Round The Roses" was also the first single release by the American singer Donna Summer, then known as Donna Gaines. Gaines recorded the track in a session in London, produced by former Bee Gees' guitarist Vince Melouney, also recording the Melouney original "So Said the Man," which served as the single's B-side. "Sally Go Round the Roses" by Donna Gaines was issued as a one-off 1971 release on MCA Records in the UK (with catalog# MK 5060) and Europe with no evident result.[9]

"Sally Go 'Round the Roses" has also been recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Judy Collins (on Portrait of an American Girl 2005), Yvonne Elliman, Fanny, Holly Golightly, the Ikettes (B-side of "(Never More) Lonely For You" - December 1965), Alannah Myles, Asha Puthli, Normie Rowe, Sarah June (2010), Mitch Ryder, Voice Farm and - as an instrumental - by Henry Kaiser. A 1966 performance by Grace Slick is featured on Conspicuous Only in its Absence, the Great Society's live album released in 1968. The soundtrack for the 1999 film A Walk on the Moon featured a remake of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" by Damnations TX. Anny Celsi remade "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" for her 2009 album Tangle Free World: Celsi's version features Evie Sands as a backup vocalist. The Del-Byzanteens also covered this song on the album Lies To Live By in 1982.

Patti Scialfa's self-penned song "The Word" on her 2007 album Play It as It Lays references the lyrics of "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" and acknowledges the source.

Tim Buckley introduced a song entitled "Sally, Go 'Round the Roses" on his 1973 Sefronia album. Although obviously inspired by the Jaynetts' hit, the songwriting credit only mentioned Buckley. The spin Buckley put on the Jaynetts song lyric: "Sally don't you go - don't you go downtown/ Because the saddest thing in the whole wide world is to see your baby with another girl," which Buckley rendered as "Oh Sally don't you go down - Oh darlin' don't you go down/ Honey the saddest thing in the whole wide world/ Is to find your woman been with another girl" developed the lyric of the original song into a homosexual context.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Where Did They Get That Song". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Sally Go 'Round the Roses". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  3. ^ a b "Soulful Kind of Music – The Jaynetts". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  4. ^ "The Jaynetts". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  5. ^ Kort, Michele (2002). Soul Picnic: the Music Soul & Passion of Laura Nyro. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-312-20941-X. 
  6. ^ "InfoDisc : Tout les Titres par Artiste". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  7. ^ Billboard vol 75 #48 (30 November 1963) p.32
  8. ^ Billboard vol 75 #52 (28 December 1963) p.16
  9. ^ "Exclusive Magazine". Anne Carlini. Retrieved 2012-04-18.