The Starlets

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The Starlets notched a pair of girl group classics, one under their own name, the other inadvertently giving rise to the career of Patti LaBelle. Formed in Chicago in 1961, the group was formed by vocalists…
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The Starlets notched a pair of girl group classics, one under their own name, the other inadvertently giving rise to the career of Patti LaBelle. Formed in Chicago in 1961, the group was formed by vocalists Jane Hall and Maxine Edwards, who met while working in a pecan processing plant. Adding Mickey McKinney and Jeanette Miles, the quartet auditioned for local songwriter Bernice Williams, who suggested they complete the lineup with Liz Walker, aka Dynetta Boone. Williams authored the Starlets' debut single, the soulful "Better Tell Him No." Featuring a fantastic lead performance by Edwards, the disc appeared on Bill Shepard and Carl Davis' Pam Records imprint in mid-1961, eventually denting the Billboard pop Top 40. The Starlets went out on tour alongside Jackie Wilson, Mary Wells, and Gladys Knight & the Pips; a second single, "My Last Cry," appeared on Pam in August, but failed to repeat the success of its predecessor.

While on a package tour in December 1961, the Starlets appeared in Philadelphia, where local car salesman and Newtown Records label owner Harold Robinson convinced the group to cut a rendition of the chestnut "I Sold My Soul to the Junkman" with producer Bobby Martin. The following April, Maxine Edwards' mother was watching TV's American Bandstand when she heard the Starlets' recording of "Junkman" -- credited instead to the BlueBelles, and with an entirely different group lip-synching the song. It was later revealed that Newtown credited "Junkman" to the BlueBelles to avoid conflict with the Starlets' contract with Pam. When the single began taking off in Philadelphia, Robinson tapped local quartet the Ordettes -- the foursome of Patsy Holt, Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash, and Cindy Birdsong -- and re-christened them the BlueBelles, with Holt adopting the name Patti LaBelle. The single reached number 15 in Billboard over the summer, and the Starlets sued, with each member later receiving a settlement of 5,000 dollars. But the damage was done, and when Pam co-owner Davis moved to Okeh, he brought the Starlets with him; with Walker on lead, their lone effort for the label, 1962's "You Belong to Me" (credited to Dynetta and the Starlets), promptly went nowhere. The group was soon dropped, and worse still were then erroneously told that as a result of the "Junkman" fiasco they couldn't record anywhere else, hastening their breakup.