Influenced by The Chantels and The Shirelles, Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelles found moderate success in the 1960s, singing sweet, doo-wop ballads. At the urging of various advisors, in the early 1970s the group began experimenting with harder-edge musical sounds and riskier styles of dress reminiscent of David Bowie and Elton John.
Original members: Patti LaBelle, Sundray Tucker, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash
Previously Known As: The Ordettes, The Del-Capris, The Blue Belles, Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelles
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Style: Doo wop, pop, R&B, rock, funk
Label: Newtown, Cameo-Parkway, Atlantic Records, Warner Bro., Epic Records
Bragging Rights: In 1974, LaBelle became the first African American pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. After recording for 16 years, LaBelle scored their first No. 1 hit with "Lady Marmalade." In 1975, LaBelle became the first African America group featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. In 2001, a cover of "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya and Lil' Kim reached No. 1 and received a Grammy. LaBelle, Hendrix and Dash all pursued successful solo careers.
Trivia: Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelle's first hit, 1962's "I Sold My Heart To The Junk Man," was actually the recording of another girl group, The Starlets. In 1967, Cindy Birdsong, who replaced Tucker, left the group to join The Supremes after Florence Ballard was fired. LaBelle's song "(Can I Speak To You Before You Go To) Hollywood," written by Hendryx, is allegedly about Birdsong's abrupt departure.
Co-sign: Says Lenny Williams on first time sharing concert bill with LaBelle: "We started hearing all this noise and commotion, it was like a riot going on."
Says Karyn White: "They pushed the fashion envelope along with their musical muscle and that's really what propelled them into super stardom."
The Latest: In 2008, LaBelle released "Back To Now," its first album of new recordings in 32 years.