1954 – The Dreamers
The Dreamers were the earliest versions of the group who would become the Blossoms. They formed in 1954 in Fremont, California – when all were still enrolled in high school. The original line-up included Jewel Cobbs, Gloria Jones, twins Nanette and Annette Williams, Fanita Barrett, and Pat Howard. They were introduced to musician Richard Berry and before long were backing him on releases on the RPM. Flip and Flair labels. By 1955, Pat and Jewel decided to depart, leaving the group now as a quartet.
1956 – The Rollettes
As the members of the Dreamers were prone to do, members Gloria, Fanita and Annette released two singles on the Class label. Around the same time, Gloria was also performing with a group called the Pharaohs headed by Richard Berry.
1957 – The Blossoms
Before long, the group found their way onto Capitol Records, but under the condition of changing their name and so The Blossoms were born. Nanette departed shortly after the signing and was replaced by a 16-year-old singing sensation, Darlene Wright. Even at her very young age, she came into the group already having backed Sam Cooke and Clyde King as well as singing as a member of a group called The Echoes. Thc Capitol Records stint produced three singles (six tracks) with Darlene officially stepping up to lead mic on “No Other Love” and “Baby Daddy-O” in 1958.
1958 – The Playgirls
This is the name the Blossoms employed during a short stop-over on the RCA label, where their four tracks were much more pop-oriented. During this period of time, members of the Blossoms would revolve into the recording studio, based on needs at home, raising families and the like.
In the Spring of 1959 – the Blossoms would back Jimmy (James) Darren on a Colpix release “Angel Face” – and followed that effort as the background voices on Shelley Fabares “Johnny Angel”. On the TV show the song was lip synced by white girl actors at a Fabares party.
In the Spring of 1961 the Blossoms, now working as a trio with Darlene, Gloria and Fanita, signed to Challenge Records where they released four singles from 1961 into 1962, only one of which made any dent on the chart. Ironically Darlene failed to make the session where “Son In Law” was cut and a substitute lead singer filled in (name lost to time). The song would be their only charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 under the name The Blossoms. The song was a response to the hit “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K. Doe, and was penned by Jerry Fuller. The initial release of this single credited the song to “The Coeds”.
Fuller released tons of singles without much success, but later hit pay dirt for The Union Gap, penning “Young Girl”, “Lady Willpower” and “Over You”. He had earlier penned the Ricky Nelson hits “Young World”, “Travelin Man”, “It’s Up to You” and “A Wonder Like You”. He wrote “Swim Little Mermaid” for Colorado’s Astronauts in 1964 and a monster #1 hit “Show and Tell” for Al Wilson in 1973. Burgess of course – had headed up the instrumental 1950’s group – The Champs.
Going forward from their Challenge sessions, the girls settled into a very comfortable career backing many recording artists as diverse as Duane Eddy (think “Dance to the Guitar Man”) and Gene Autry.
1962 – More Blossoms – & Phil Spector
As a studio group, the Blossoms were often supplemented with other members including Darlene’s sister Edna, and wife of Jack Nitzsche, Gracia Nitzche. In the summer of 1962, an important event took place, The Blossoms came into contact with ex-Teddy Bear Phil Spector. He already had a group with a couple of hits, The Crystals, but they were unavailable for his next session. The Blossoms were under the impression that their name would go onto the track he presented to them, but when it hit the charts (in a very big way) it bore the name of The Crystals.
“He’s A Rebel” would catapult into the number 1 spot for two weeks, the only number 1 for “The Crystals”. Although he only paid the group scale, they continued to be associated with the “Wall of Sound” for the next few years. (Note” “He’s a Rebel” was written by recording star Gene Pitney). The Blossoms were recruited to join a male Spector singer, Bobby Sheen, and together they became “Bobb B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans”, and the first song they released was “Zip A Dee Doo Dah”. Their next effort as again presented to them as a recording which would indeed carry the “Blossom” moniker – but alas, “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” would again bear the name of The Crystals.
The actual Crystals would tour and perform the songs live.
Then, in 1963, Spector presented Darlene with an opportunity to record on his label as a solo. In this instance he changed her name to “Darlene Love” and she hit with “Today I Met (The Boy I’m Gonna Marry)” followed by “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home” and “A Fine Fine Boy”. Then in quick fashion Darlene moved into the lead vocal spot again for the Blue Jeans recordings of “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts” and “Not Too Young To Get Married” both in 1963.
The three Blossoms were used on all Spector releases accompanying all of his artists but Darlene would refuse to sing any more as a “Crystal”.
1963 – The Girlfriends – then 1964 – Shindig Regulars
Gloria, Nanette and Carolyn Willis recorded as “The Girlfriends” releasing “My One and Only Jimmy Boy” a song written by Bread lead singer David Gates (#49 in December, 1963). Spector never gave the Blossoms their due allowing them to use their own name, and it was during the recording of his Christmas Album, that Blossom Gloria walked out – quitting the trio soon after being replaced by Mrs. Nitzche.
The trio next moved into a supporting role for nearly all of the artists who appeared on the Television show “Shindig. In a curious program requirement, white singer Gracia Nitzche was asked to give way to Jean King, who now became the 3rd Blossom to keep the group all-black.
The Blossoms recall participating in as many as five recording sessions on a daily basis, never hurting for work. Shindig went by the wayside in 1966 but the Blossoms kept going strong. They backed Frank Sinatra on “That’s Life”, as well as backing Elvis Presley, Paul Anka, Tom Jones, Dionne Warwick, and even Jan and Dean.
The Blossoms career came to a near end when Darlene departed in 1975. She was replaced by former Raelett Alex Brown and not long after The Blossoms were finished. Darlene continued on a solo artist recording and appearing into the 1990’s. In 2010 Darlene was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She appeared in the 2013 motion picture “20 Feet From Stardom”.
What a voice, What a career – when it came time for Rock and Roll to find the “voice”, more often than not, Darlene Wright and The Blossoms were very nearby.