The Ronettes were another
of the great girl groups. Supported by their producer, Phil
Ronettes' star shown bright for three years before their songs fell off the charts.
The group consisted of
lead singer Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett, her sister Estelle Bennett, and
their cousin Nedra
Talley. Ronnie was born in 1945, her sister in 1944, and their cousin in 1946; all were from New York City. They
began dancing and started to sing professionally while still in junior high in the late 50's. They were known as the
Darling Sisters, and later as Ronnie and the Relatives they recorded some songs for Col-Pix which failed to chart.
In the early 60's the
Peppermint Lounge in New York City was the place to be. The house band
there was Joey
Dee and the Starliters, whose Peppermint Twist - Part I became a number one song. The girls put on party dresses
and went there, eventually getting jobs as dancers. People in the music business began to notice them. They
appeared in a movie with disk jockey Clay Cole, Twist Around The Clock. The Twist was a dance sensation, and
the Bennett sisters and their cousin could twist with the best of them.
They worked up the courage
to call the hot young record producer, Phil Spector, and began singing
backup for him
in 1962. Spector was enamored of Ronnie. He signed them to his Philles label and their name was changed to the
Ronettes. After some time in New York, Spector left for the West Coast and took the Ronettes with him. He had
been successful with the Crystals and with some other artists, but now his attention was on featuring Ronnie on his
records. He used his contacts with Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Barry Mann, Cynthia
Weil, and others in the Brill Building to come up with some songs. The first and biggest for the Ronettes was Be My
Baby. Spector was a meticulous producer and Ronnie was a very good rock-and-roll singer. On their songs they
were usually backed by other musicians, some of whom would later go on to careers of their own as recording
artists. These included Darlene Love, Nino Tempo, Sonny and Cher, Hal Blaine, and Leon Russell. Be My Baby
was an instant hit, and went to number two in the Fall of 1963. Other hits followed: Baby, I Love You, [The Best
Part Of] Breakin' Up, Do I Love You? and Walking In The Rain all were top forty songs in 1964. All were
recorded at Spector's favorite recording studio, Gold Star in Los Angeles. The Ronettes travelled to England with
Phil and met the Beatles, with whom they became friends. They toured the British Isles with the Rolling Stones.
They appeared in the T.A.M.I. show. Walking In The Rain, which had been recorded in one take, won a grammy
for special effects.
Phil Spector and Ronnie
Bennett's relationship eventually developed into a full-fledged romance,
their marriage in 1968 [and subsequent divorce, in 1974]. The energy between the two helped to make the
Ronettes the success that they were. By 1965 Phil had turned his attentions to promoting other acts such as the
Righteous Brothers, and the Ronettes' aura began to fade. They placed no more songs in the top forty. Although
they were coming up with good material and still making good songs, their records were not selling and they
stopped recording altogether in 1966.
Ronnie Spector continued
her singing career, at first with others and eventually as a solo act.
She made solo
albums, including one called Siren in 1980 that has been very well received by her many fans. She has worked with
artists such as George Harrison, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and Bruce Springsteen. In 1986 she
collaborated with Eddie Money on his top ten hit Take Me Home Tonight, which incorporated Ronnie's singing of
the lead line from Be My Baby. Ronnie Spector has the respect of a great many people in the music business, both
for her talent as a performer and for her likable nature and willingness to cooperate. She titled her autobiography
Be My Baby. She now is remarried and living in Connecticut, and she continues to perform.
The Ronettes' run lasted
about three years. They produced some very good rock-and-roll songs and
remembered as one of the great girl groups.