Text Box: The Jean Thomas ‘New York’ Music Journal

A Tribute to the Back-Up Singers

This is my chance to pay tribute to the voices that I worked with on such great music during the 60’s. We raced from session to session and appeared in all sorts of groups, many without  names at the time. We were also able to accompany some of the greatest singers of the times and create wonderful songs that are still enjoyed today. We will add to the list as we complete their profile and get photos. Jean Thomas

Ellie Greenwich

“Ellie was the queen of the girl's group sound. Mikie and I were the lucky ones to be working with her on so many  wonderful records.  Ellie and I met at Associated Recording during a demo session and realized it would be a lot easier to work together on sessions instead of trying to do all the background voices by ourselves.  We started to work as a duo on a lot of these demos and I called Mikie to come to NY and join us, which she did.  We felt it was a good sound together. Bob Crewe used us and a few others, depending on the sound he needed.  Many times Ellie worked with other singers, as did Mikie and I, but we did so much work together. “ … Jean

Mikie Harris

“Mikie was a singing school friend of mine who I called after I moved to New York and started doing back-up work. Ellie and I needed another voice to create a ‘trio sound’ and Mikie came from Sarasota, Florida, to join us. She became a part of ‘our sound’ on so many sessions and was back-up on some of the Rag Dolls recordings. She remains one of my best friends”….Jean

Valerie Simpson

The rare session photo above of Valerie Simpson in the studio doing back-up is before she and husband Nick Ashford would become a key part of the Motown legend. During the mid sixties they performed as a duo and where writers for many New York artists. On this occasion we think that Ellie must have recruited her to the session with Bob Crewe before they joined Motown and moved to Detroit….Chameleon

Bernadette Carroll

Bernadette sang with the Starlets, and with the Angels, and was a solo artist with a national hit "Party Girl", and is also known for “Try My Luck” and “Nicky”.(  a sort of ‘tribute’ song to 4 Season Nick Massi). .Bernadette teamed up with Denise Ferri and Peg Santiglia in the mid-60s to sing back-up for the many artists listed in Denise’s profile. They have remained life-long friends and have established their own very special web site together.

In 1959 Denise sang with the Delicates, a trio from Belleville, New Jersey. They were a Brill Building girl-group signed to four record companies, during the course of their career: Tender, Unart, United Artists and Roulette. The Delicates became Murray the K"s dancing girls on his his 1010 WINS, New York radio show, In 1959 The Delicates met Teddy Randazzo, who introduced them to their first back-up singing experience. It was for Al Martino, a song Teddy wrote called "Journey To Love". In the mid 60's Denise teamed up with Bernadette Carroll and Peg Santiglia as steady session singers for many top artists. Don Costa, Connie Francis, Frankie Valli, Patty Duke, Frankie Lymon, Kitty Kallen and most notably for the MGM recording's for Lou Christie, including his #1 Hit "Lightning Strikes" and many more.

Click on the image above for the best book on the early 60’s music scene in New York or the one below which features Jean’s story and those of many others

Photo by George Schowerer 1967

In the Studio…. a classic back-up quartet

Valerie Simpson, Jean Thomas, Ellie Greenwich and Mikie Harris………...in a Bob Crewe session late 67/early 68….photo by George Schowerer


At the mike…………...

Denise Ferri

In the Studio…. another classic back-up trio

Peggy Santiglia

Peggy was a part of the Angels line-up that had a hit with ‘My Boyfriends Back’ and was co-writer of songs with Jean like ‘The Boy That I Want Doesn’t Want Me ‘ (see our Music Page) and  the unheard ‘Bridesmaid with A Broken Heart’ under the name of Peggy Farina . Of course, with Bob Gaudio she wrote the Four Seasons big hit ‘Beggin’ and has featured in a diverse music career since then….Chameleon


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