Forget about the Spice Girls and Sugababes – back in the 1960s two Merseyside bands blazed the trail for girl power!

Their names may not be so familiar now, but the Vernons Girls and Three Bells aimed to be the All Saints and Atomic Kittens of their day!

The Vernons’ Girls played on the same stage as the Beatles and Rolling Stones while the Three Bells wrote and recorded the Mod classic Someone to Love.

Merseyside trio the Vernons Girls perform at the Great Pop Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, September 1963

Merseyside trio the Vernons Girls perform at the Great Pop Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, September 1963

Liverpool group the Vernons’ Girls started life as a sixteen-strong choir of workers from Vernon’s Pools. But by the early 1960s the numbers were down to five then three.

Signed to the Decca label, they released covers of US hits including the single Lover Please/You Know What I Mean which reached No. 16 in the charts.

The group had a US hit themselves with We Love the Beatles and provided the female backing on many Decca singles, including Maybe Tomorrow by Liverpool legend Billy Fury.

And in 1964, band members Jean Owen, Frances Lea and Maureen Kennedy appeared in the TV special Around with the Beatles.

Bell sisters Jean, Carol and Sue serve cereal to Alan David, the singing compere of the BBC TV series Gadzooks, It’s in the Crowd, June 1965

Bell sisters Jean, Carol and Sue serve cereal to Alan David, the singing compere of the BBC TV series Gadzooks, It’s in the Crowd, June 1965

Former Vernons’ Girl Joyce Baker married Marty Wilde and was the mother of singing star Kim. Another former band member Vicki Haseman married 60s’ favourite Joe Brown.

Marty Wilde sings to his fiancée, Vernons Girl Joyce Baker, October 1959

Marty Wilde sings to his fiancée, Vernons Girl Joyce Baker, October 1959

Haseman teamed up with ex- Vernon’s Girls Barbara Moore and Margot Quantrell to form the aptly named Breakaways in 1962. They became Britain’s premier session vocalists, backing Cliff Richard, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and Lulu.

Girl group the Breakaways, who formed from the Vernons Girls, January 1964

Girl group the Breakaways, who formed from the Vernons Girls, January 1964

Never in a band, but formidable as solo artists – Cilla Black, Petula Clark and Sandie Shaw at a Variety Club lunch, May 1965

Never in a band, but formidable as solo artists – Cilla Black, Petula Clark and Sandie Shaw at a Variety Club lunch, May 1965

The Three Bells were formed in Liverpool by Jean Bell and her identical twin sisters Sue and Carol. They were signed by Pye in 1960 but were dropped when their singles Steady Date and Melody of Love failed to chart.

The Three Bells sport the blonde bouffant hairstyles demanded by their record company, June 1965

The Three Bells sport the blonde bouffant hairstyles demanded by their record company, June 1965

The girls then signed for Columbia and released Someone to Love in July 1965. The record company insisted they adopted the bouffant blonde hairstyles which became a trademark.

The Three Bells were more successful in Europe than at home, but they never gave up on the UK market. They moved back to Pye in 1968 when they reinvented themselves as the Satin Bells.

All-Merseyside edition of the TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars with the Beatles, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and the Searchers, December 1963

All-Merseyside edition of the TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars with the Beatles, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and the Searchers, December 1963

They released two singles – the soul number Baby, You’re So Right For Me and a cover of French recording star France Gall’s Dady da da, which they renamed Da-di-da-da for the UK market! It bombed!

In 1969 they managed to secure a contract with Decca, releasing a cover of Martha Reeves and The Vandellas’ Sweet Darlin’.

Their final single – The Belle Telephone Song – was released by CBS in 1971.

 

 

Many more unmissable images from the Sixties feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant new book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s – published this July.