Shirley Ellis

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Shirley Ellis
Birth nameShirley Marie O'Garra
Also known asShirley Ellis
Born(1929-01-19)19 January 1929
Bronx, New York City, N.Y., US
Died5 October 2005(2005-10-05) (aged 76)
Bronx, New York City, N.Y., US
GenresPop, soul
Occupation(s)Singer, Songwriter
Years active1958–1968
LabelsCongress, Kapp, Columbia, Bell
Associated actsThe Metronomes

Shirley Marie O'Garra[1] (stage name: Shirley Ellis; married name: Shirley Elliston;[2] 19 January 1929 [though her Social Security card shows 20 Jan 1927] – 5 October 2005[3]) was an American soul music singer and songwriter of West Indian origin.[4][5] She is best known for her novelty hits "The Nitty Gritty" (1963) (US no. 8), "The Name Game" (1964) (US no. 3) and "The Clapping Song" (1965) (US no. 8 and UK no. 6). "The Clapping Song" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6]


By 1954 she had written two songs which were recorded by The Chords.[5] Ellis was originally in the group The Metronomes and she went on to marry the lead singer, Alphonso Elliston. All her solo hits were written by her and her manager, record producer, and songwriting partner, Lincoln Chase.

Ellis had recording contracts with the Kapp Records subsidiary Congress and later Columbia and Bell, but retired from the music industry in 1968.

Personal life[edit]

Shirley O'Garra was born to William H. and Petra (Smith) O'Garra. Her father was a native of Montserrat and her mother was born in the Bahamas.[4] Shirley had three full siblings: Joyce, Bertram and William H Jr and four half siblings Reginald, Suzanne, Joycelyn and Berbian. O'Garra married her husband, Arnold Alphonso Elliston (21 Oct 1929 - 23 Aug 2009; professional name: Alphonso Elliston) on 3 August 1949 in Florida.[1] It is not known if she had children. She died on October 5, 2005 in New York City, NY at the age of 76.

Cover versions[edit]

Cover versions of her hits have been recorded by Madeline Bell, The Belle Stars, Laura Branigan, Aaron Carter, Gary Glitter, Ricardo Ray, Pia Zadora, Southern Culture on the Skids, Gladys Knight and the Pips (a version of "The Nitty Gritty", produced by Norman Whitfield) as well as a 1980s high energy dance version of The Name Game by actor and personality "Divine" aka. Harris Glenn Milstead.[5] In addition, her song "Soul Time" was sampled by the UK band, The Go! Team for their single "Bottle Rocket".[7]




Year Single Chart positions[8]
1963 "The Nitty Gritty" 8 4
1964 "(That's) What the Nitty Gritty Is" 72 14
"Shy One" 130 43
"The Name Game" 3 4
1965 "The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap)" 8 16 6
"The Puzzle Song (A Puzzle in Song)" 78
"I Will Never Forget"
"You Better Be Good, World"
1966 "Ever See a Diver Kiss His Wife While the Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water?" 135
"Birds, Bees, Cupids and Bows"
1967 "Soul Time" 67 31
"Sugar Let’s Shing-a-Ling"
1978 "The Clapping Song" (re-release) 59
"—" denotes the single failed to chart


  1. ^ a b "Person Details for Arnold Alphonso Elliston, "Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993" —". Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  2. ^ Whitburn, J. (2010). The Billboard book of top 40 hits. New York: Billboard Books. p. 214. ISBN 0307985121
  3. ^ "Shirley Ellis Page". Retrieved 2014-07-31.
  4. ^ a b "United States Census, 1930, Shirley O Gara in household of William O Gara". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "". Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 190. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ "". Diddy Wah. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Shirley Ellis US singles chart history". Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  9. ^ "Shirley Ellis UK chart history". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2011-01-13.

External links[edit]