The Ronettes

The Ronettes were another of the great girl groups of the 60's. Supported by their producer, Phil Spector, the Ronettes' star shown bright in terms of record sales 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. All of them were born in the mid to late 40's and 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 Colpix which failed to chart. Eventually, they changed their name to the Ronettes.

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. While standing in line waiting to get in, the manager saw them and said "girls, you're late." They entered the Peppermint Lounge, started dancing there, and their act was solidified. They became regulars, and 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 working with him in 1962. Spector was enamored of Ronnie. He signed them to his Philles label. 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 to tour with the Rolling Stones. While they were there the Beatles sought them out, and they became friends. 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, culminating in 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' record label became less viable. Their record sales declined, although the Ronettes remained an enormously popular act. 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 as well 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 produced some very good rock-and-roll songs and are remembered as one of the great girl groups of the 60's. Rightfully so, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Estelle passed away in February, 2009.

The Ronettes changed the way the female side of rock and roll looked and how it was performed.

Most Recent Update: February 13, 2009

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