No Other 'Love' But Darlene
A 17-year-old girl with a unique and powerful voice was asked to be her replacement. Darlene Wright not only replaced Nanette, she was selected to be the lead--something the ensemble-based Blossoms had not previously considered. The addition of Wright would change the style of the group, but despite Darlene's unique presence as lead on songs like No Other Love for Capitol in 1958, Sugarbeat for RCA (as The Playgirls) in 1960 and Write Me A Letter for Challenge in 1961, chart success was still elusive.
During the summer of 1962, The Blossoms would finally emerge successful on the charts, but, unfortunately, under an "alias." Then-unknown producer Phil Spector used them on a song he had acquired from singer/songwriter Gene Pitney. Spector was having success on the East Coast with a quintet of young Brooklyn girls named The Crystals, who already had two major hits with Spector.
Problems between The Crystals and Spector prompted him to record this new song without them. Instead he used The Blossoms, who received a meager session fee. The song, "He's a Rebel," turned out to be a monster hit, firmly establishing Spector as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. The single with The Blossoms' voices was billed as The Crystals, much to the dismay of the real Crystals. Over the next three years, The Blossoms, with Darlene as lead, would be the favored singers on all of Spector's sessions recorded in California. They were The Crystals once again on He's Sure The Boy I Love. Darlene and Fanita sang with Bobby Sheen as Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. This combo spawned recorded hit singles for Spector, including the grinding version of the Disney classic, Zip A Dee Do Dah.
Back to the Background
The Blossoms more than likely recorded all the backgrounds on numerous sessions by The Crystals, The Ronettes and Darlene's solo efforts under the new stage name Phil had given her--Darlene Love. However, this association would prevent the group from establishing themselves as primary artists. At a crucial time in the industry, when new sounds were striking the listening public at full speed, The Blossoms seemed to be floundering as recording artists.
It was quite a different story, though, when it came to their stature as session vocalists. In 1964, the trio, now Darlene, Fanita, and newcomer Jean King, were a featured part of a relatively successful weekly Rock & Roll television program called Shindig. The Blossoms used their vocal versatility to their advantage, singing in various styles behind a variety of artists--from Patty Duke to Shelley Fabares to Marvin Gaye. They also had their own spots, covering popular songs of the day. This ability would see them through the 60s, amid numerous production and record label changes.
Beyond the Blossoms
Gloria Jones recorded intermittently between going to school and venturing into other careers. Darlene eventually left The Blossoms in 1974 in controversy over business decisions and Jean's alleged drug abuse. Jean King died of a heart attack in Las Vegas in 1983. Fanita kept The Blossoms going, with varying personnel, on the Vegas circuit until 1990. Darlene stayed out of the music business for about five years after a brief and unpleasant reunion with Phil Spector in late 1974. She made a comeback in 1981 and two years later, was starring in Leader of the Pack, the Broadway musical based on the life of songwriter Ellie Greenwich. Darlene added to her rising impact with a new acting career, portraying Trish in the Lethal Weapon movie series. She also had her own highly successful one-woman show, "Darlene Love: Portrait of a Woman" at The Bottom Line in New York City. She is currently working in the Lou Rawls production of Me and Mrs. Jones.
The Blossoms were the icons of vocal versatility and made their mark in the music industry by working behind the scenes, never once sounding like they were tired of standing in the shadows. Hey, that's where all the fun was!
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