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Middletown, Ohio was a very typical American, one-industry town in the '50s. A place where people had moved for employment -- as did Doug and Pearl Shepherd from Kentucky. Like most of the people in Middletown, Doug worked most of his life for Armco Steel. Pearl was the quintessential mother who felt her husband and children were the most important people in her life. Each and everyone of them. The Shepherd Family grew to include eight children -- Maybel, Dorsey, Mildred/"Mid", Paul, Martha, MaryLou, Gayle and Judith. All born in Middletown.

Music was always a part of the Shepherd household. For three or four years Maybel, Dorsey and Mid performed as The Shepherd Trio on the local radio station. Dorsey played the guitar and the girls both played mandolins.

The next generation of Shepherd children, three of the sisters who would first become The Shepherd Sisters, started singing while they were still in high school, with Herb Spade a local band.

At one of their appearances with Herb Spade, they were seen by Inez and Carl Taylor. Inez and Carl were the "big time agents" in Dayton and all of Ohio. They had handled The McGuire Sisters (also from Middletown) and were responsible for their early success. The Taylors were looking for a new "sister" act. They became key people in The Shepherd Sisters career. Inez first booked the girls in local venues -- including fronting her husband's band, "Carl Taylor and His Taylor-Made Music." Then she got them their first big break, an appearance on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts".(1) They sang “Melody Of Love” with an arrangement scored by Ken Lane (their vocal coach in Dayton, Ohio).

Next came a three month tour of Europe with The Downhomers which turned into an extended, additional three month tour for The Shepherd Sisters. After returning to Ohio, they continued to perform with Carl Taylor until it became apparent that they had to go were the "big time" music business was, New York City.

MaryLou remembers, "we always dressed the same and looked quite a bit alike -- we attracted a lot of attention. We were walking on 7th Avenue (NYC) around 52nd Street, and were approached by Morty Craft.(2) This was in the same area as Hansons Drug Store where all the working acts hung out.(3) Morty loved the way we sang and came up with a unique rendition of 'Gone With The Wind.'" (see quote from Morty on left)

"Gone With The Wind" made a lot of noise -- it was a regional hit, going to #1 in Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, and New York. It was the record that brought them to the attention of Alan Freed and Dick Clark. The Shepherd Sisters performed on the Alan Freed Stage Shows at The New York Paramount (M,M,G,J) and The Brooklyn Paramount (M,M,G). "Gone With The Wind" was the first song sung by The Shepherd Sisters on Dick Clark's first Bandstand out of Philadelphia. The Shepherd Sisters made dozens of appearances on Bandstand including Judith's first appearance with them on TV.

In New York City, Morty Craft had a song he wanted them to record, "Alone." In life, timing is everything, and the session was scheduled for the very week that Judith -- who was still in high school -- traveled to New York to visit her sisters. They invited her to sing on the record with them and The Shepherd Sisters as a foursome was created. "Alone" got a lot of play -- spending weeks at the top of the charts(4) -- and became the song they are most associated with. Morty Craft was a major force in The Shepherd Sisters career. He produced many of their records on many of his labels (Melba, Lance, York, etc) but that's another story(3).

With the addition of Judith came the need for new arrangements. Clark McClellan became their vocal coach, arranger and conductor. Although the girls picked their material, they credit Clark with the music his arrangements brought to life.

The Alan Freed Christmas Show Program described The Shepherd Sisters as follows.
"The very blond and beautiful Shepherd Sisters have
catapulted to stardom via their smash hit recording of "Alone" on the Lance label.
This authentic all-sister attraction consisting of Martha, Mary Lou, Gayle and Judy Shepherd
hail from Middletown, Ohio, and are part of a family of six girls and two boys.
For the past few years, The Shepherd Sisters were a popular trio, having appeared in
many of the top show-places throughout the United States and Canada.
However, Judy, the youngest, joined her sisters and made it a foursome when
they recorded their smash hit "Alone" and she has been with the others ever since...."

As Rock 'N' Roll was sweeping the country, so were The Shepherd Sisters as part of Alan Freed's Shows, Dick Clark's Bandstand and Irving Feld's "Biggest Show of Stars" Rock 'N' Roll Caravan. They spent their teenage years performing with other teenagers like Phil and Don Everly, Paul Anka, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, Danny and the Juniors, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, the Twin Tones, Little Joe Dubs, Thurston Harris, Terry Nolan, and Jo Ann Campbell.

But Rock 'N' Roll was only a part of The Shepherd Sisters career. In the vernacular, they always worked "two-ways." They recorded (around fifty songs although we can currently only document thirty-five) and had a nightclub/stage act. Paul Anka once said to them it was the one thing they had in common, they could always work.
The nightclub act required a pianist/conductor and that's is how they linked-up with Charles Strouse.

The Shepherd Sisters performed in hotel ballrooms, supper clubs, night clubs, theaters (including NYC's Apollo Theater) and casinos in Reno and Vegas. Music took them a long way from Ohio. They sang in the Philippines, Canada, South America and toured Europe for six months. They were even booked to perform in Australia but begged out exhausted from touring.

Although The Shepherd Sisters were of an era when you could see you favorite Rock 'N' Roll Stars live, three performances a day, they also appeared on one of the first "music videos." Way before MTV there was a unique film jukebox with "movies" and the girls where featured on it.
(5)

Martha retired from the group in 1959 choosing to have a personal life over a stage one. In 1963, "Don't Mention My Name" appeared on the charts.
(4) MaryLou, Gayle and Judith performed until 1965. They returned to record three songs with Charles Strouse in 1976.

Even though The Shepherd Sisters last sang together in 1976, their music still appears on CDs. One CD available from Amazon, "Great Ladies Of Rock 'N Roll: The 50's" includes The Shepherd Sisters.
The Shepherd Sisters would like to thank all of their fans for listening and their fellow performers for the wonderful times together. The Alan Freed Show marque trumpeted "It's Great To Be Young," which it was but as the song goes, "if there's a Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, they must have a hell-of-a band."


(1) The sisters never performed as the La-La Quartet as reported on one website.
(2) Morty Craft was an orchestra leader who in the '50s was an A&R man for ABC-Paramount, MGM and Mercury Records.
He also owned/produced many record labels based in NYC. To name a few but probably not all:
Bruce, Craft, Most, Stere-O-Craft, Do-Re-Me, Holiday, Lance, Marble, Melba, Rapid, Saxony, Scope, Selma, York and Tel.
Just about everyone from the early days of Rock 'N' Roll has a Morty Craft story (you can find a lot of them on the web).
(3) "1650 Broadway" was home to the NYC Music business. It's were everyone worked with their coaches and the agents had offices.
Bobby Darren; Neil Sedaka and his writing partner Howie Greenfield; Don Kirshner (whose office was next to Morty);
Bob Crew and Frank Sleigh (these were all the hot writers at this time) were "always" there.

(4) Source: Billboard
(5) This was most likely a Scopitone movie jukebox. It was not video but 16mm film.
We have found references to a Sheppard Sisters Scopitone performance of "Talk Is Cheap" (Cinebox); however, have not found one yet.
The "Cinebox" reference seems to indicate that it may have actually been a competitor of Scopitone, Cinebox/Coilorama.

note: Morty Craft released a number of The Shepherd Sisters records on his label named Melba.
He said, "I called the label Melba because if the records don't sell I'll eat them."



for more information:
sisters@theshepherdsisters.com
If you have Shepherd Sisters photos, memorabilia, rare records or film, please e-mail us. Thanks.


The Official Site of The Shepherd Sisters
The source of the information for this site
is The Shepherd Sisters.


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