Singer Shirley Jones of the Philly soul vocal group the Jones Girls was born into a singing family. The Detroit native’s mother, Mary Frazier Jones, was one of RCA Records‘ first gospel artists. Jones and her middle sister Brenda sang 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 fellow Detroiters the Four Tops, Little Richard, and others who would play in Detroit. Becoming the Jones Girls, the group secured recording deals with Paramount Records, then Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records. In 1976, they began to tour as background singers for Diana Ross, who gave them a brief interlude 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, The Jones Girls, included the R&B/soul 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.) 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. Other Jones Girls albums on Philadelphia International were At Peace With Woman and Get As Much Love As You Can.
The group left Philadelphia International for RCA Records and released one LP: On Target. In 1984, Philadelphia International released an album of the group’s unreleased tracks called Keep It Comin’. Soon after, the Jones Girls disbanded; Brenda got married and Valerie went to college. Gamble, hearing about the breakup, 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 hornman Larry Davis on guitar; and drum programming and arranger Jack Faith on flute and horn. It went to number one on the R&B charts for two weeks in August 1986. An album called Always in the Mood was issued and included several follow-ups, including Wansel’s “Last Night I Need Somebody” and Sigler’s bossa nova-ish “Breaking Up.” Around the time the album was made, Jones met and married Harold Hubbard of the Harlem Globetrotters. There are infrequent Jones Girls tour reunions in Europe and the U.S.
by Ed Hogan