The Crystals

1960-1966
Barbara Alston1960-1964
Delores "Dee Dee" Kennibrew
Mary Thomas1960-1962
Patricia "Pattie" Wright1960-1964
Merna Girard1960-1962
Dolores "La La" Brooks1962-1966
Frances Collins1964-1966

The Crystals Artistfacts

  • They were credited with six Top 40 hits produced by Phil Spector, even though their voices are heard on only four of them.
  • In 1962 Gerard was replaced by La La Brooks and Thomas left the group, reducing the group to a quartet.
  • The group took their name from the daughter of Leroy Bates, who later composed their first hit, "There's No Other (Like My Baby)."
  • Barbara Alston sang lead on their first two hits, "There's No Other (Like My Baby)" (1961) and "Uptown," (1962) - but Spector's "Wall of Sound" was the real star of all the Philles records credited to the Crystals.
  • Their third Spector-produced single was the infamous "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)." Spector was starting his plan to wrest complete control of Philles Records from partners Lester Sill and Harry Finfer -- needless to say, the single did not sell.
  • While at Liberty Records as the company's West Coast A&R head (in 1962), Spector heard Gene Pitney's demo of "He's a Rebel." He promptly resigned his position as his boss, Snuff Garrett, produced a version by Vikki Carr to be released as her first single. Spector assembled his musicians to do HIS version, but the Crystals were 3000 miles away in New York City; so he recruited the Blossoms (Darlene Love, Famita James, and Gracia Nitzschke) to sing "He's a Rebel."
  • Spector used the royalties of "He's a Rebel" to buy out his partners, with the stipulation that his ex-partners would share in the profits of the next two Crystals singles. For those singles, he used the Blossoms to pose as the Crystals (again) for the #11 hit "He's Sure the Boy I Love"; but the Crystals actually sang on the next single credited to them, entitled "(Let's Do) The Screw" -- a five-minute song punctuated with the voice of Phil Spector's lawyer saying "Do the Screw." Only one copy of the 45 was pressed and distributed - to ex-partner Lester Sill. It garnered zero airplay and earned zero royalties. Spector was now sole owner of Philles Records.
  • Spector tried to make Darlene Love pretend to be the Crystals on "Da Doo Ron Ron," but as the recording was being completed, Love insisted upon being signed to an artist's contract (instead of getting session fees, as she did for the other "Crystals" singles), so Spector erased Love's lead vocals and had La La Brooks' voice dubbed in instead. Darlene Love can still be heard in the background, as can Cher, and according to a couple of sources, Sonny, too.
  • The Crystals can finally be heard as a group on "And Then He Kissed Me" (with La La Brooks doing the lead), their last Top 40 hit as Spector lost interest in them and turned his attention to another girl group, the Ronnettes. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above
  • Barbara Alston recorded the lead vocals for the majority of their first few songs. However, she had a fear of singing in front of audiences, which is why she did not like singing lead at all. When Brooks joined the group, all the members loved her voice. Alston insisted to Phil Spector that Brooks be the lead singer. Although Spector was reluctant to have Brooks singing lead (he didn't like her voice at first), he gave in and Brooks was the lead singer from then on.
  • In 1962, when Brooks replaced a pregnant Girard, Thomas left the group to get married, reducing the group to a quartet. In 1964, Wright quit to attend college and was replaced by Frances Collins. Later that same year, Alston left reducing the group to a trio. Finally, in 1966, they disbanded. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for above 2
  • Frances Collins passed away on Christmas Eve 2016. Her son Albert Johnson, aka Prodigy, was a rapper who was one half of the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep along with Havoc. Prodigy also had some success as an actor and author. He died on June 20, 2017, as a result of complications related to his sickle-cell anemia.

Comments: 4

  • Bubblesk from Memphis, TnWhen I first heard "He's A Rebel" on AM Top 40 Radio in 1962, I was dumbstruck by the voice of Darlene Love. I still am a true solid fan. She certainly had a difficult time dealing with Phil Spector in the 60s. But Spector made many enemies in the music industry & that cost his artists some hits they should've had. I try to hear & see Darlene Love whenever possible and am still a true fan who has survived the trials of the Golden Era of Rock & Roll. What an icon of our music she is.
  • Stephen from Adelaide, AustraliaIn the early 60's it was common practice for recording contracts to give all rights to the record company, including full use of the group's name, which meant the record company had the right to record who ever they liked as that group. Phil Spector was one of the biggest abusers of these rights, to the detriment of both The Crystals and Darlene Love and the Blossoms. The group's first two hits were both actually recorded by Darlene Love and the Blossoms. He tried the same on Da Do Ron Ron, but Darlene had finally had enough and insisted on an artist's contract, so he removed her from the lead vocals.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThe Snopes urban legends Web site has an article about the "Screw" single ( http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/spector.htm ). The legend is that the song was recorded to cheat Lester Sill out of royalties, but the article's author seems to believe it was merely Spector's way of getting in one last dig at Sill.
  • Andy from Arlington, VaGood Lord. Phil Spector is the biggest @$$hole ever.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Kristian Bush of Sugarland

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Tom Keifer of Cinderella

Tom Keifer of CinderellaSongwriter Interviews

Tom talks about the evolution of Cinderella's songs through their first three albums, and how he writes as a solo artist.

Neal Smith - "I'm Eighteen"

Neal Smith - "I'm Eighteen"They're Playing My Song

With the band in danger of being dropped from their label, Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith co-wrote the song that started their trek from horror show curiosity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pam Tillis

Pam TillisSongwriter Interviews

The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.

Charles Fox

Charles FoxSongwriter Interviews

After studying in Paris with a famous composition teacher, Charles became the most successful writer of TV theme songs.

Timothy B. Schmit

Timothy B. SchmitSongwriter Interviews

The longtime Eagle talks about soaring back to his solo career, and what he learned about songwriting in the group.