Born: 4-17-1956 Died: 12-2-2001
The daughters of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Francis Jones, one of RCA Records' first gospel artists. Shirley and her middle sister Brenda began singing with their mother and
were later joined by younger sister Valerie. During their teenage years, the sisters turned to secular music. Hooking up with manager Dick Scott, they began opening for acts such as
The Four Tops and Little Richard.
The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the 1960's, with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by
Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the later part of the decade, but sales of those records weren't much better. It was during this period that session work came to dominate their
activities-The Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists' singles. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was
originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson's activities as a producer and arranger. "If You Don't Love Me No More," their debut single failed to chart, but it led to a follow-up
record, "Will You Be There," that proved extremely important.
The single didn't chart but its arranger, Gil Askey, who was working for Diana Ross, recommended The Jones Girls as back-up singers for her tour, a series of engagements that lasted two years and brought them
valuable exposure. Ironically enough, Curtom was sitting on an entire album cut by the trio that was never released. One of the songs from the album, "Hey Lucinda," was issued as a single, but it proved less fortunate for
The Jones Girls than it did for Betty Everett, who later recorded her vocals over their backing track for her version of the song, which did chart.
Their performances with Diana Ross opened many doors. Ross gave them a brief interlude in her show where they would sing "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," a song popularized by Quincy Jones. Kenneth Gamble of
Philadelphia International Records and singer Patti LaBelle were in the audience during a Philadelphia performance, and after the show, Ross introduced them to The Jones Girls; the group signed with Philadelphia
International in early 1979. Their first Philadelphia International album, 1979's "The Jones Girls," included the R&B/Club Top 20 hit "You're Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else," which has been rapped over numerous
times. (A single from the album, "Who Can I Run To," was a hit cover for Xscape in 1995.) During this period the group can be heard doing background vocals on various records throughout the Philadelphia International
catalog as well as on releases by Leon Haywood, Michael Pedicin Jr., and others.
1980's "At Peace With Woman" was their second album for Philadelphia International and boasts some of the sisters' best work. The playful "I Just Love The Man" and the perky 12" single "Dance Turned Into A
Romance," both written by Gamble & Huff, were major hits. The Jones Girls are equally impressive on album tracks that range from the nostalgic "Back In The Day" to an inspired cover of the Stylistics' "Children Of The
Night." The sister's final album for Philadelphia International Records contains eight dressy urban soul tracks that work well. 1982's "Get As Much Love As You Can" features their jazzy-smooth rendition of Cynthia Biggs and
Dexter Wansel's "Nights Over Egypt," (featuring Grover Washington), which is arguably the best song they've ever recorded. The peppery "(I Found) That Man Of Mine" and the soulful "ASAP (As Soon As Possible)" are
saucy delights. However sales were marginal and the label decided not to renew their contract.
Quickly moving over to RCA Records, The Jones Girls released "On Target" in 1983. Once again their voices were in splendid form, but once again chart success eluded them. Despite a spirited remake of "Baby I'm
Yours" and contemporary pop items "Let's Hit It" and "Win U Back" the album failed and once again the sisters were without a label. By the time Philadelphia International released "Keep It Comin'" in 1984, The Jones
Girls had already gone through their RCA Records contract and were once again label-less. This album consists of material they recorded before their departure from Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's label. So "Keep It Comin'"
was an LP of leftovers, but they're enjoyable leftovers. Most of the material sounds like it was recorded around 1982, when R&B was becoming more keyboards-minded but wasn't as high tech as it would become in 1983
and 1984. Produced and written by Gamble & Huff, "Better Things To Do" is pure Philly soul. But the songs that were produced by Kenneth M. Burke or McKinley Jackson tend to be closer to the sort of things that Kashif
and his associates were providing for Evelyn "Champagne" King in the early 1980's; soul music was evolving into urban contemporary, and tunes like "Won't Let You Take It Back" and "You Can't Have My Love" find The
Jones Girls changing with the times. It's a solid pleasing collection that the group's hardcore fans will appreciate.
The next eight years saw the sisters return to session work. Brenda got married and Valerie went to college. Kenny Gamble called Shirley to see if she was interested in becoming a solo act. Soon, she was back at
Philadelphia Records working on her solo debut album. While working on a track with Dexter Wansel, Shirley convinced Bunny Sigler to let her record "Do You Get Enough Love," which was intended for The O'Jays. The
song featured Sigler on piano, bass, and background vocals; former Instant Funk horn man Larry Davis on guitar; and drum programming and arranger Jack Faith on flute and horn. It went to #-1 on the R&B charts for two
weeks in August 1986. An album entitled "Always In The Mood" was issued to favorable success. Around the time the album was made, Shirley met and married Harold Hubbard of the Harlem Globetrotters. Two more solo
releases followed, 1990's "Silent Strength" and 1994's "With You."
In between Shirley's solo success the sisters reunited for 1992's "Coming Back." "Coming Back" was the long-awaited sixth album for The Jones Girls. Released on ARP under the U.K. Production of Errol Henry, Stephen
Carmichael, Wayne Lawes, and Jazzie B. "When A Woman's In Love," co-written by Shirley Jones and Keni Burke, is a beautiful ballad accompanied with some soulful sax by Patrick Claher, while "Tell Me Why" showcases
the girls' sweet vocals. Solid productions by Errol Henry are "Getting On With My Own Life," highlighted with trumpet solos from Kevin Robinson; the up-tempo dancer "You Threw Your Love Away"; and the groovy "All I
Want." This quality set with some brilliant songs, excellent productions, and fine vocals was a great comeback.
With reissues of their Philly material released in 2000, the girls returned to making occasional appearances. They continued to do session work as background vocalists, for which they are the most well-known. Among
the many disco hits their voices can be heard on are Linda Clifford's "If My Friends Could See Me Now" and Le Pamplemousse's "Le Spank." Their names appear on more disco hits than any other background singers, with
the exception of "The Sweethearts Of Sigma Sound (Carla Benson, Yvette Benton and Barbara Ingram)."
In December of 2001 Valerie, who remained a Detroit resident, passed away from undisclosed causes. Her death not only shattered her family and friends but ended any chance of a Jones Girls reunion. Still we have
their marvelous legacy of smooth R&B and tasty dance hits to enjoy.