We’ve had groups before that consisted solely of women, but The Shirelles are the first girl group to hit number one who really related to the kids who were buying records in 1961. The four Shirelles are not sisters, but grew up together and found out in high school that they could sing. They are Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Addie “Micki” Harris and Beverly Lee.
Shirley and Addie grew up together from grade school, but met Doris and Beverly in junior high. They started singing in high school in Passaic, New Jersey. After they won a school talent show singing a song that they wrote themselves called “I Met Him on a Sunday,” a friend told them her mother owned a record company. After some persuasion, they agreed to go audition for the mother. That woman was Florence Greenberg and the company was Tiara Records. At the time, they had named themselves The Poquellos (which means “little birds” in Spanish,) but Florence didn’t like that name and suggested the Honeytones. The girls didn’t like that, so went home and came up with the name The Shirelles. They based it on a group they really liked who were popular called the Chantells, using the first syllable of Shirley’s name, even though Shirley is not the lead singer of the group, Doris is.
“I Met Him on a Sunday” was a local hit which got them a contract with Decca Records and it went to number 49 nationally with the help of Decca. Florence, however, didn’t like the way Decca was promoting the group and so, cancelled their Decca contract and brought them back to Tiara, which was now known as Spector Records. The Shirelles stayed with Spector the rest of their career.
Their first Top 40 hit was “Tonight’s the Night” which reached number 39. Through a friend, they met two new, young songwriters who were looking for a break. Gerry Goffin and Carole King had written a song called “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” (sometimes called “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) and when Shirley heard the song, she hated it. She said it sounded like a country and western song. The more she rehearsed it, the more she disliked it. The result was the Shirelles’ first number one song and also the first number one for Goffin and King, who would go on to become one of the greatest songwriting teams in rock and roll history.
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow” entered the pop chart on December 12, 1960 and spent two weeks at number one.