Distaff Doo-Wop

Distaff-doo-wop refers to to the contributions of females to the body of doo-wop works. Earlier contributions were made by Shirley Gunter and the Queens, the Bobbettes, Tonnettes, Chantels and Shirelles. On occasions woman lead singers fronted male groups, Zola Taylor with the Platters, Pat Spann the Cleftones and Barbara Lee with the Aquatones.  With these few exceptions, women did not play a prominent role in doo wop until the 1962-1963 neo-doo wop Tin Pan Alley sound grew in favor.

Prominent Examples

Group Song Tempo Year
Blue Belles
Bobbettes
Chantels
Cookies
Delrons
Poni-tails
Shirley Gunter and the Queens
Rosebuds
Shirelles
Tonettes
You'll Never Walk Alone
Mr. Lee
Maybe
Don't Say Nothin' Bad
Whever A Teenager Cries
Born Too Late
Oop-Shoop
Dearest Darling
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Oh What A Baby
slow
fast
slow
fast
medium
slow
fast
slow
slow
fast
1963
1957
1958
1963
1964
1958
1954
1957
1960
1958

 

Early Women with backing groups - 1947-1954

Little Esther/Robins Savannah Churchill/Four Tunes Ruth Brown/Delta Rhythm Boys Dinah Washington/Ravens Viola Watkins/Crow

From July, 1948 when Savannah Churchill backed by the Four Tunes charted with I Want To Cry until  October, 1954 Shirley Gunter and the Queens charted Oop-Shoop, only three records by women appeared on the R&B chart. Those two were by Ella Fitzgerald and other by Little Esther with the Robins (Double Crossn' Blues) February, 1950.

Little Esther also did Other Lips, Other Arms and Heart To Heart (1951) with Clyde McPhatter, Savannah Churchill recorded Let's Call A Spade A Spade (1947, Five Kings), Can Anyone Explain (1950, Four Tunes) and Once There Lived A Fool (1950, Striders). Ruth Brown with the Delta Rhythm Boys did Sentimental Journey and It's All In Your Mind and Ann Nichols with The Bluebirds.

 

1954-1957

Bobbettes Cookies Chantels Deltairs Dreamers/Blossoms
Hearts Joytones Shirley Gunter and the Queens Etta James and Peaches Three Tons of Joy

The groups chosen above were based on they having made Billboards R&B chart

1958-1964

Blue-Belles Crystals Dixie Cups Exciters Ikettes
Jaynetts Jellybeans Jewels Shirelles Sherrys

 

The problem with distaff groups were that their songs weren't to doo woppy to begin with. The voices didn't different much because of a lack of a contrasting lower voices as was common among the male groups.The Hearts on Baton being an exception. Sometimes a male was added to sing a bassline (What A Guy by the Raindrops) or by having the female lead backed by a male group (Hello Stranger - Barbara Lewis and with the Dells). Most lacked nonsense syllables with the Shirelles I Met Him On A Sunday and Chiffonss He's So Fine being notable exceptions.

Lacking a bas, thus having a restricted voice range and the lack of nonsense syllables can these songs be called doo wop. Certainly they didn't resemble the McGuirre Sisters and the Chordettes. Many like the Cookies and Chiffons fell within the boundaries of doo wop and rhythm and blues.

The groups chosen above were based on they having made Billboards R&B chart