The Shirelles were riding high in 1962. They had had their first number one the year before in 1961 and since then had hit the chart four more times, three of them Top 10 songs. “Dedicated to the One I Love” was number three, “Mama Said” hit number four and “Baby It’s You” got to number eight. They went into the studio to find another hit.
“Soldier Boy” was written by Luther Dixon and Florence Greenberg and Dixon acted as the group’s producer on many of their songs. During the recording session they had tried many different songs and recorded some of them. With five minutes left in the session, they decided to try “Soldier Boy” which they recorded in one take. It turned out not only to be a number one but it surpassed their previous number one “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and became their biggest selling single.
Since the song was recorded in 1961, I assume that the soldier boy they were singing to might have gone off to Vietnam. But, the song really is sung to any soldier who is away from home and has a girlfriend back home waiting for him. She promises to remain true to him while he is away.
The Shirelles would never have another number one, but they continued to hit the charts through 1963, placing twelve songs, total, in the Top 40. The advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion was probably the main factor that killed their career. The Beatles actually covered two of the Shirelles songs, “Boys” and “Baby, It’s You.”
They were all minors when they recorded their hits, so the proceeds from the sales was supposed to be placed in a trust fund that they would receive when they turned 21 years of age. When they turned 21, nothing happened and so, years of lawsuits ensued. It turned out that their label, Spector Records had never set aside any money for them and the trust fund did not exist. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, but I suspect the Shirelles didn’t get anywhere near as much as they should have.
The Shirelles made several changes over the years, becoming a trio and then going back to a quartet. Girls left and others joined. In 1982, one of the original members, Micki Harper had a heart attack and died. The others sing when and where they can, but the Shirelles have been gone for a long time.
“Soldier Boy entered the pop chart on March 31, 1962 and spent three weeks at number one.