The Liverbirds

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The Liverbirds
The Liverbirds (1966)
The Liverbirds in April 1965; from left to right: Valerie Gell, Sylvia Saunders, Mary McGlory and Pamela Birch.
Background information
OriginLiverpool, England
GenresMerseybeat, R&B, rock and roll
Years active1963–1968
LabelsStar-Club Records
MembersValerie Gell (deceased)
Pamela Birch (deceased)
Mary McGlory
Sylvia Saunders

The Liverbirds were an English all-female rock band from Liverpool, active between 1963 and 1968. The group consisted of vocalist and guitarist Valerie Gell, guitarist and vocalist Pamela Birch, bassist and vocalist Mary McGlory, and drummer Sylvia Saunders. They were one of the very few female bands on the Merseybeat scene, as well as one of the first all-female rock and roll bands in the world.[1][2] They took their name from the fictional liver bird, which is the symbol of their native Liverpool.


Gell, Saunders, and McGlory formed the band in 1963,[3] along with guitarist Sheila McGlory (Mary's sister) and vocalist Irene Green, both of whom quickly left to join other bands and were replaced by Birch.[4] They achieved more commercial success in Germany than their native Britain.[2] Early in their career, they followed in the footsteps of fellow Liverpudlians the Beatles and made their way to Hamburg, where they performed at the Star-Club after the Beatles' own tenure and were billed as "the female Beatles".[5] John Lennon of the Beatles infamously told the group that "girls" were unable to play guitars.[5] Regardless, the Liverbirds became one of the top attractions at the Star-Club and they released two albums and several singles on the Club's own label. One of those singles, a cover of Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy", reached No. 5 on the German charts.[2] The group broke up in 1968, just after finishing a tour of Japan.[3] They briefly reunited in 1998.[6]

Three members of the band settled in Germany permanently.[2] Saunders moved to Spain, settling in Alicante with her husband, John (died 2 April 2017). Sylvia is now living in Glasgow. McGlory runs a Hamburg-based company called Ja/Nein Musikverlag ("Yes/No Music Publishing") which she founded with her husband, German songwriter Frank Dostal (died April 2017), who was one of the band's former colleagues from the Star-Club and later vice-chairman of the German performance rights organization GEMA.[7] Birch also settled in Hamburg and worked for many years in the city's clubs. She died at the UKE on 27 October 2009, at the age of 65.[6] Gell, who settled in Munich but later returned to Hamburg, died on 11 December 2016, aged 71.[5]


  • Star-Club Show 4 (1965)[8]
  • More of the Liverbirds (1966)[9]
  • From Merseyside to Hamburg - The Complete Star-Club Recordings (CD, Big Beat CDWIKD 290, 2010)[10]

In other media[edit]

The story of the Liverbirds is the subject of the 2019 musical Girls Don't Play Guitars written by Ian Salmon and directed by Bob Eaton[11] at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.[12] Founding members McGlory and Saunders have been involved with the production and join in the cast on stage for the encore.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rohkohl, Brigitte: Rock Frauen (Rowohlt 1979), ISBN 978-3499144547,
  • Flannery, Joe: Standing In the Wings (The History Press 2018), ISBN 978075098760 8


  1. ^ "Lost Liverpool #5: Girls with guitars - The Liverbirds, Britain's first all female rock band". Getintothis. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Bruce Eder. "The Liverbirds | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b Rohkohl, Brigitte: Rock Frauen (Rowohlt 1979)
  4. ^ Leigh, Spencer (14 December 2016). "Valerie Gell obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Leigh, Spencer (14 December 2016). "Valerie Gell obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Singer of the Liverbirds died on 27 October 2009". 29 October 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2009.
  7. ^ "Meet The Liverbirds: The all-girl Beatles who once toured with the Kinks and Rolling Stones". DangerousMinds. 25 April 2016. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  8. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Star Club Show, Vol. 4 - The Liverbirds | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  9. ^ "More of Liverbirds - The Liverbirds | Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links[edit]