The Shangri-Las were a girl group from Queens, New York that became famous during the mid 1960s. They were well known for such melodramatic oldies classics as "Leader Of The Pack" and "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" which feature evocative sound effects as well as gripping and sometimes dark story lines. Unlike other top girl groups of their era, The Shangri-Las were known for their street-smart, "bad girl" onstage persona, and they are often cited as an important influence on such 1970s-1980s female punk rock acts as the New York Dolls, The Go-Go's, and Blondie.
The group was formed in 1963 by two sets of sisters who were all students at Andrew Jackson High School in Cambria Heights, a neighborhood in Queens. The original lineup consisted of lead singer Mary Weiss, her sister Elizabeth "Betty" Weiss, and identical twins Marguerite "Marge" Ganser (February 4, 1948 - July 28, 1996) and Mary Ann Ganser (February 4, 1948 - March 14, 1970). They began performing at school functions and other local events before they were discovered by record producer and executive, Artie Ripp, who arranged their first record contract with Kama Sutra. Soon after, the group became known as The Shangri-Las named after a local restaurant. They made their first recording in late 1963, "Simon Says," which was followed by several more singles before they signed with Red Bird in 1964 where they recorded most of the songs for which they are best known.
The Shangri-Las made their debut in 1964 with the lush and haunting "Remember (Walking In The Sand," which became a Top 5 hit on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts and one of the group's signature songs. This smash, in which seagulls and crashing ocean waves can be heard throughout, was followed later that year by the epic teenage tragedy ballad, "Leader Of The Pack," which topped both charts. Both "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" and "Leader Of The Pack," which kicks off with the sound of a roaring motorcycle, were included in Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and Billboard's list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. The Shangri-Las had two other Top 40 hits with "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" (1964) and "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (1965). The group's long string of hits, which continued through 1966, also included "Maybe" (1964), "Out In The Streets" (1965), "Give Us Your Blessings" (1965), "Long Live Our Love" (1966), "He Cried" (1966), and "Past, Present And Future" (1966).
The Shangri-Las appeared on such TV shows as "Hollywood A-Go-Go," "Hullabaloo," "Shindig!," and "Lloyd Thaxton" and continued to tour actively until they disbanded in 1968. The three surviving members reunited briefly in 1977 after the re-release of "Leader Of The Pack" in the UK in 1976 which renewed the group's popularity. They performed again on June 3, 1989 at a reunion show hosted by DJ Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Mary Weiss provided uncredited backing vocals for Aerosmith's rock-styled cover of "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" which became a minor hit in 1980. After many years away from the music business, she returned in 2007 to record her first solo album, "Dangerous Game." She has been performing in the U.S., Spain, and France.
- Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and others cite the The Shangri-Las as an influence on both punk and heavy metal in Ahead of the 'Pack': How the Shangri-Las created punk.
- Mary Weiss discusses The Shangri-Las and her solo album, "Dangerous Game," in an interview with Daiana Feuer of L.A. Record (August 9, 2008).
- Findagrave.com remembers Mary Ann Ganser.
- Findagrave.com remembers Marge Ganser.
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- Give Him A Great Big Kiss 1964
- I Can Never Go Home Anymore 1965
- Leader Of The Pack 1964
(This song topped the charts and later also became a hit for Twisted Sister (1986). "Leader Of The Pack" is included in Rolling Stone magazine's list of 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Motorcycle engine noises can be heard in the background of this melodramatic teenage story song.)
- Long Live Our Love 1966
(Part of the introduction to this song has the same melody as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.")
- Remember (Walkin' In The Sand) 1964
(This song later also became a hit for Louise Goffin (1979) and Aerosmith (1980).)
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