The Young Sisters were three young Italian girls who hailed from the east side of Detroit and attended Servite High School. Patti Masaglia was the oldest, and sisters Lisa and Angela Pomilia rounded out the group.
The Young Sisters started out very young in the music business. While still in high school, they signed to a management contract with John Brooks, who also managed Mickey Denton and Spencer Sterling (C.P. Spencer). Brooks got The Young Sisters secured to a recording contract with Artists, Inc. helmed by partners Irving Micahnik and producer Harry Balk.
“We had a staff-writer on our payroll by the name of Maron McKenzie, but we all called him Robert or Robbie,” Balk remembered. “He wrote songs for us, under Vicki Music, my publishing arm. Anyhow, we were looking for some new songs for the Young Sisters to record. Robert came to mind.”
McKenzie recalled: “I remember I had an idea about a girl preaching to this guy, (sings) ‘…and for the moment, you sound so sweet and kind, but I know, no one can tame you…Casanova.’ Harry listened to the song, and every time I got to the part where I sang ‘Casanova,’ he’d say in his deep voice, ‘Brown!’ So I’d sing ‘No one can tame you down, Casanova Brown.’ I guess there was this movie called ‘Casanova Brown,’ and that’s where Harry got the ‘Brown’ from. The song came out nice, you know? Really strong. The flipside was ‘My Guy’ which I thought came out well too. So we had these two songs, and Harry flew the Young Sisters to Mirasound in New York and recorded the songs. I forget who else was at that session.”
“Casanova Brown” was released on Twirl Records, with a full page ad in Billboard, and scraped into the bottom of the charts for one week at #94 in September of 1962. The Twirl label had decent distribution with this single, however in hindsight in may have faired better with an outlet such as Bigtop to push the record. Regardless, the sound was good and Balk was anxious for a follow-up. “So that’s when I started writing the follow-up for ‘Casanova Brown’,” McKenzie explained. “I started writing a song called ‘Little Town Flirt.’ I wasn’t finished with this song yet when Harry called me on the phone and asked me to meet with Del Shannon. Harry said Del was in a writing-freeze and I think he had ‘Swiss Maid’ at the time, which did nothing here but was like #2 in England. So I called Del up on the phone and went to his house in Southfield (Michigan) on Robert Street. He asked me what ideas I had, and I started singing what I had for ‘Little Town Flirt.’ Del liked the idea, ‘The Town Flirt’ he said. I was originally writing the song for the Young Sisters, and so I had these parts in there for the girls to sing and harmonize, ‘…But you can get hurt, hur-hur-hur-hur-hurt…’ Del loved the idea, and he kept that part in there, and sang it in his falsetto register, which just made it beautiful. So Del and I worked out the parts, I had ‘ruby red lips,’ and he changed it to ‘tender red lips.’ He didn’t want to sound colored, that what I remember him saying to me. ‘Little Town Flirt’ was a new sound for Del, it made him sound different than the up-tempo songs he had with the organ going all through them. Harry still wanted to make use of the girls, so he came up with the idea to put the Young Sisters in the background, behind Del, to sing backing vocals. Del put in this striking guitar sound, and rhythm, and ‘Little Town Flirt’ unintentionally became the blueprint for the Merseybeat sound, or at least, that’s what I’ve heard or read.”
The Young Sisters backed Shannon on “Little Town Flirt” and it’s bottom side, a Shannon original dance number titled “The Wamboo.” McKenzie wrote “Playgirl” and “Hello Baby” for the Young Sisters, and the session was recorded at Bell Sound Studio in New York. A few members of the Royaltones played on the session, including Dennis Coffey on lead guitar, and Bob Babbitt on bass. Shannon played rhythm guitar.
“Little Town Flirt” stalled at the bottom of the charts in December of ’62 until the Christmas music was out of the way. Then it skyrocketed to #12 in January ‘63, almost breaking the Top Ten. Balk repeated the formula with another session of four songs penned by McKenzie and Shannon, and featuring the Young Sisters: “Two Kind of Teardrops,” “Kelly,” “Two Silhouettes,” and “My Wild One.”
The formula worked and Balk utilized the Young Sisters for other sessions. The girls sung on Dick & the Teenbeats’ “Strawberries” (Bigtop), Jamie Coe’s “I’ve Got That Feeling Again” (Bigtop), Ronnie Putirka’s “Never Never Land” (Twirl), Eddie Reid’s “Lucky Me” and “One Summer’s Love” (Twirl), Johnny & The Hurricanes’ “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” (Bigtop), and the Royaltones’ “The Yea Yea Song” (Mala).
The Young Sisters released a third and final single in the fall of 1963 titled “She Took His Love Away,” a fast piano rocker with a doo-wop feel, written by Maron McKenzie and Dicki Bossi (of the Teenbeats). “Jerry Boy” was the flipside, and the record was released on Mala Records.
“I remember those girls,” recalled Bobbie Smith of the Dream Girls in October 2008. “They were a crazy bunch. Always getting in trouble, fighting over boys, fighting amongst themselves, they were young, you know. The group didn’t last too long. They did some gigs but I think they called it quits in ’64. Moving away and getting married.”
Although the group split up, Patti Young managed to go solo later and released one single on Ernstrat. “Head and Shoulders (Above The Rest)” coupled with “The Valiant Kind” was produced by Fred Saxon and arranged by Mike Theodore. “The songs were recorded at Tera Shirma studios in Detroit,” Ralph Terrana explained. “Patti was in her very early 20’s at the time, maybe 1965 or ’66 when this was cut. She was also very pretty and tall. Maybe 5’8” with black hair and a fair complexion. I don’t think there were any other sides recorded. This was it.”
“Head and Shoulders” would go on to become a “Northern Soul” underground classic and dance floor filler in the United Kingdom. It was reissued in the 45rpm format on the Out Of The Past label, and has appeared over the past few years on numerous bootlegged CD compilations out of Europe.
-Author: Brian C. Young for Twirl Records, April 2009
Twirl #2008 – Playgirl / Hello, Baby – 1963
Mala #467 – She Took His Love Away / Jerry Boy – 1963
Little Town Flirt (by Del Shannon) Bigtop #45-3131
The Wamboo (by Del Shannon) Bigtop #45-3131
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (by Johnny & the Hurricanes) Bigtop #45-3132
I’ve Got That Feeling Again (by Jamie Coe) Bigtop #45-3139
Two Kind of Teardrops (by Del Shannon) Bigtop #45-3143
Kelly (by Del Shannon) Bigtop #45-3143
Strawberries (by Dick & The Teenbeats) Bigtop #45-3144
Two Silhouettes (by Del Shannon) Bigtop #45-3152
My Wild One (by Del Shannon)
Happy Street (by Ronnie Putirka) Twirl #2006
Never Never Land (by Ronnie Putirka) Twirl #2006
Lucky Me (by Eddie Reid) Twirl #2010
One Summer’s Love (by Eddie Reid) Twirl #2010
The Yea Yea Song (by The Royaltones) Mala #487
Patti Young (solo):
Ernstrat #495 – Head and Shoulders (Above The Rest) / The Valiant Kind - 1965
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