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The Flirtations
There are not many sixties acts still working today that can boast having their original line up and an enduring popularity in show business but the girls of The Flirtations can certainly claim that.
Comprising sisters Earnestine and Shirley Pearce and Viola Billups (aka Pearly Gates), The Flirtations first formed in 1965 after meeting up in a New York recording studio. They were originally known as a quartet group called “The Gypsies” with a third sister Betty Pearce and Lestine Johnson in the line up when they scored their first major hit with “Jerk It”. Their first professional engagement was at The Apollo Theatre, New York and soon after they were playing at The Brooklyn Fox and The Paramount-the most prestigious venues of that time. Despite their success, they found themselves in competition with too many similar girl groups and they began to question whether the United States was the place for them in the long term. The success of the Beatles in their home country seemed to indicate that England was the place where every budding musician should be. As the answer became more and more evident, Betty left the group leaving the young trio, who had never travelled outside of the United States before, to make the brave decision to move to another country and they did.
Having arrived in the UK, the girls began to explore ideas of reinventing themselves with a new image and style. It was then that Viola suggested changing their names to The Flirtations. She chose the name, as they recognised how they were all sexy in their different personalities.“The Flirtations” they became and it was not long before they found themselves work doing regular TV appearances and touring with Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder, and eventually having their own seven week TV series called “Whatever Next”.
The girls then teamed up with Paul McCartney’s manager and agent at that time, Barry Marshall. He signed them up to Deram Records and it was here that they found the right mixture of airplay and media exposure to guarantee them international success and recognition. Their record “Nothing But A Heartache” remained an impressive 27 weeks in the charts in America and charted in practically every country across the world selling over two million copies. “Nothing But a Heartache” with its superior orchestral arrangement and Earnestine’s outstanding vocal lead became not only their signature tune but a beloved classic on the Northern Soul dance floor for many years to come. Four decades later, “Nothing But A Heartache” is still as popular as ever and was released in 2007 by The Freemasons as an updated dance version to a new generation of fans.
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