Shirley Marie O'Garra (stage name: Shirley Ellis; married name: Shirley Elliston; 19 January 1929 [though her Social Security card shows 20 Jan 1927] - 2005), is by now quite a forgotten singer. Shirley Marie was born in the Bronx section of New York City of West Indian ancestry.
Probably you won't ever have the opportunity to listen her songs on some of those oldie radios, except those ones that made her famous in the mid-sixties: "The Nitty Gritty" (1963) (US no. 8), "The Name Game" (1964) (US no. 3) and "The Clapping Song" (1965) (US No. 8 and UK No. 6). "The Clapping Song" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disk though I personally like more “The Name Game”. In it, Shirley proves that she can rhyme any name using just a few simple rules:
Shirley - Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!
Shirley used to amaze audiences by taking name game requests. Shirley usually had the good sense to ignore requests for "Chuck", and guess, also for “Mitch”!
There is not much interesting details about the private life of Shirley Ellis, though there are some curious discrepancies. According to Wikipedia, she was born in 1929 but some sites cite it as 1941 and yet according to other sources, she was born in 1943, which is of course an anachronism becasue she reportedly married in 1949!.
Some sources say that Shirley married Lincoln Chase, her manager, although others report her husband's name as Alphonso Elliston and his cousin Chase was only her professional and songwriting partner, as well as her manager and producer of her hits.
After years of working as a songwriter and performer, Shirley Ellis became well known to a national audience through her success with The Nitty Gritty. She followed with a sequel that became a minor hit, (That's) What The Nitty Gritty Is and another titled simply Puzzle Song. Many of Shirley's records featured a driving sax, and lots of percussion.
The Name Game came out in early 1965 and was quite popular, rising to number three. Originally it was a childhood game she had played. Shirley recalled some words of it, discussed them with Lincoln Chase, who rearranged them into a song.
Three fondly remembered smashes is more than many more feated artists achieve and, although Shirley Ellis is one of that dignified handful who resisted the oldies circuit, her oft-revived classics continue to delight listeners the world over. All together now . . . Three-six-nine, the goose drank wine, the monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line; the line broke, the monkey got choked and they all went to heaven in a little row-boat!
Shirley Ellis appeared on a number of TV shows in the '60s including Hullabaloo, Shindig, American Bandstand and where the Action Is. She also participated in the production of several "Shindig" episodes.
By the way "The Name Game" is the tenth episode of the second season of the FX anthology television series American Horror Story. The episode, written by Jessica Sharzer and directed by Michael Lehmann, originally aired on January 2, 2013. The episode is named for the 1964 song "The Name Game" which is performed by the cast in the episode.
She continued to work with Lincoln Chase and had a few minor hits before retiring from show business in the late 60's and then literally disappeared from the scene.
Some of Shirley's songs have appeared in movies and some have been covered by other artists over the years such as Bob Kuban and the In-Men, Gary Glitter, and the Belle Stars. The most successful of these was Gladys Knight and The Pipps' 1969 version of The Nitty Gritty.
You might find interesting to listen the 1980s high energy dance version of The Name Game by actor and personality Divine a.k.a. Harris Glenn Milstead.
Recently and album was released with some of her productions Shirley Ellis – Three, Six, Nine! The Best Of Shirley Ellis (2018), Downloading this album is a unique opportunity to listen what else Shirley Ellis produced.
Format: MP3 320Kbps
Size: 149 Mb
01 – The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap)
02 – The Name Game
03 – The Nitty Gritty
04 – Don’t Let Go
05 – Takin’ Care of Business
06 – Such a Night
07 – Get Out
08 – Kansas City
09 – (That’s) What the Nitty Gritty Is
10 – Bring It On Home to Me
11 – C.C. Rider
12 – I Never Will Forget
13 – I See It, I Like It, I Want It
14 – The Puzzle Song (A Puzzle in Song)
15 – Ka Ta Ga Ta Boom Beat
16 – One Sour Note
17 – You Better Be Good, World
18 – Ever See a Diver Kiss His Wife While the Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water
19 – Birds, Bees, Cupids and Bows
20 – Soul Time
21 – Waitin’
22 – Sugar, Let’s Shing-A-Ling
23 – Back Track
24 – Yes I’m Ready
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