So Who is Mary Weiss?

I wasn’t immediately taken with Amy Winehouse, but Rehab and other songs from her second cd blew me away. So I did a little research on Amy and found some interesting interviews and articles. Several times Amy mentioned that the Shangri-Las were one of her major musical influences.

Winehouse’s truest homegirls, though, were the Shangri-Las, whose records she dumped on co-producer Mark Ronson’s lap to let him know what Back to Black should sound like. Voice of the Beehive

I remember the Shangri-Las but I don’t remember them as anything special. They were a New York girl band from the 1960’s who had several hits in the US and England. I thought it they might be worth another listen. I did a little research and found that the Shangri-Las had a quite fascinating history. From

The group consisted of four sisters Mary (lead) and Liz (Betty) Weiss and identical twins Marge and Mary Ann Ganser. All were 15 and 16 when they began singing at Andrew Jackson High School In the Cambria Heights section of Queens, New York. Influenced by Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Four Seasons, they began playing school shows, talent shows and teen hops. The girls came to the attention of Artie Ripp, who arranged the groups first record deals with Smash, where they recorded “Simon Says” and with Spokane for “Wishing Well.”

“Wishing Well” gave a taste of the future with it’s talking intro over a capella harmony.

An unproven self-professed songwriter George Morton bluffed his way into a meeting with Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry through Jeff’s wife Ellie Greenwich, whom Morton knew from Long Island. Without even a song, when he met with Barry, who in turn challenged him to bring him a hit. Morton then put together a few musicians and went to see the Shangri-Las, whom he knew from some of their Queens appearances.

With all the pieces in place Morton drove to the demo session. He claimed that the only thing he forgot was to write the song, so he pulled to the side of the road and penned “Remember (Walking In the Sand).”

The demo done (with a young Billy Joel on the piano), Morton rushed to Greenwich’s and Barry’s offices. Stunned that Morton had a strong record, they called in Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller from their offices next store where they ran Red Bird Records with George Goldner.

“Remember” was released July 20, 1964 and shot up the charts to reach number five on September 26th. It also reached the British charts by fall, rising to number fourteen.

Remember (Walking in the Sand)

Seems like the other day My baby went away
He went away ‘cross the sea
It’s been two years or so Since I saw my baby go
And then this letter came for me
It said that we were through He found somebody new
Oh, let me think, let me think, what can I do?
Oh no, oh no, oh no no no no no

CHORUS: (remember) walkin’ in the sand
(remember) walkin’ hand in hand
(remember) the night was so exciting
(remember) smile was so inviting
(remember) then he touched my cheek
(remember) with his fingertips
Softly, softly we’d meet with our lips

Whatever happened to
The boy that I once knew?
The boy who said he’d be true
Oh, what will happen to
The life I gave to you?
What will I do with it now?

The second hit for the Shangri-Las became known as the “death disc” because of the roaring motorcycles, breaking glass, and screamed Look Out Look Out Look Out. The Leader of the Pack quickly moved to #1 in the US and charted 3 times (1964, 1972, 1976) in England. The Shangri-las wore leather jackets and were some of rocks first bad girls.

Leader of the Pack

Right Now and Not later (Great Video)

Shout (Must See and Hear)

OK, so Mary Weiss was the lead singer for the Shangri-Las with a big, smoky voice. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate this voice in the early 60’s. Mary has recently released an album titled Dangerous Games. Here’s a clip from Conan –

Stop and Think It Over

Break It To Me (From a recent Live Performance)

Mary still has the great voice, but timing is off and she needs a better band.

Other sources of information:

Interview with Mary Weiss and Others

NPR Interview with Mary (2007)

Wikipedia Article

Album That never Happened

Videos Posted by Mary Weiss on YouTube

Mary’s MySpace Page (With some great tunes)

Check out some of Mary’s MySpace friends – Amy Winehouse, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, The Donnas, Genya Raven, and Michael McDonald.


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