What's New


Concert Recaps


Go To Page:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Watch 4 Girls 4 perform

More Information on
The Girls of 4 Girls 4

About the Author Matt Connor


The Show Goes On

When Rosemary left 4 Girls 4 for good in 1983, the call went out to Whiting to rejoin the group. She was on the next plane. The act now consisted of Whiting, Rose Marie, Starr and O’Connell. Soon, the old tensions between Rose Marie and O’Connell began to re-emerge.

Rose Marie"Anthony Newley wrote a song called ‘Thank You Very Much’ from the picture ‘Scrooge,’" Rose Marie begins. "I said to myself, ‘Gee that would make a great finale for us.’ So I called Anthony Newley, who was a doll, and he sent me a copy of the song.

"Then I called Frankie Ortega and he came over and we lined up a finale number. I thought it would be great, but Frankie said to call Helen.

"I said, ‘Why should I call Helen?’ He thought I should let her know. So I called her, and she said, ‘We don’t need a new finale. Why should we spend more money when we have a good finale.’ I said, ‘We’re playing the same places! The same crap doesn’t make it! You just can’t change your dress or a song and make it another act! We need a new finale!’

"She didn’t understand why we should spend the money, and I think she was the richest of us all! So I told her that if she didn’t want to do it, I’d do it in my act. Then she said she wanted to hear it. The moment I said it was going to be in my act, she was interested. So we finally did it."

4 Girls 4 went to Phoenix; Dallas; Westbury, Long Island; St. Louis; Chicago. According to Rose Marie, they did "great biz" and the new finale brought them standing ovations. Unfortunately Rose Marie’s throat was starting to give her problems. She quit the act again, telling the other "girls" that "Thank You Very Much" was her gift to them.

And the show still went on. When Ballard was unavailable as the comic relief, the women simply changed the name of the act to 3 Girls 3. In 1985 they played the Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre in Chicago, and they were still in fine fettle.

"Most of the people who will be heading out to the Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre this week to see Helen O’Connell, Kay Starr and Margaret Whiting will be doing so, I imagine, for nostalgic reasons -- eager to stir memories of the band-singer era and hoping there won’t be so many signs of advanced age on the stage that the audience, too, will begin to feel its years," wrote Larry Kart of the Chicago Tribune. "There’s nothing wrong with all that, but let me insist that the O’Connell-Starr-Whiting show also deserves to be seen for purely musical reasons. In fact, I’d like to take every aspiring pop vocalist in the area and bus them out to Oakbrook, because these three singers know a great deal about how to interpret a song and may be in better voice now than they were back in the ‘30s and ‘40s."

The group, Kart said, "is perfectly balanced, with Whiting adding hearty wisecracks to her elegantly straightforward contralto, O’Connell singing with a slyly wistful depth that touches the heart and Starr summoning up all of her old guttural power."

Kaye BallardThrough the 1980s the act continued to tour, and even in its 11th year it still drew solid reviews. November 1988 found Whiting, Starr, O’Connell and Ballard roaming the back roads and major highways of America in an RV, stopping in major cities to put on their still in-demand show.

During a six-week run of one-night stands in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel caught up with Whiting, who told reporter Winifred Walsh, "We spend life fighting off colds and trying to get breakfast. It is very difficult to get up at 8 a.m., then spend four to six hours traveling in our mobile home to the next town. We get in about 4 p.m., unpack, eat dinner, dress and go on at 8 p.m. Then the next morning we pack and check out. We’re living out of a suitcase."

At the completion of the tour, she told the reporter, she’d begin cutting another album. "November 20th is my Thanksgiving Day," she said. "I will be back in New York choosing songs for the album and rehearsing for my upcoming two-month run at the Algonquin Hotel. I’m working more than ever now. This has been the best year of my life."

Prior to their series of engagements in Florida that year, the 4 Girls played the Orange County Performing Arts Center in California, and again, the reviews were sterling.

Ballard’s "unrelentingly contemporary point of view in fact added a jolt of up-to-date spice to a program that might otherwise have become mired in its own reminiscences," wrote Dan Heckman of the LA Times. "Numbers like ‘My Son, the Stripper’ and ‘Don’t Ask a Lady’ combined with Ballard’s devastatingly pointed impressions (of everyone from Joan Crawford to Nancy Reagan) to give 4 Girls 4 an energy it has not always had in the past."

Whiting, Heckman wrote, sang "‘Moonlight in Vermont’ and ‘That Old Black Magic’ with the musically articulate phrasing that always has been her trademark."

O’Connell he described as "the most idiosyncratic performer of the group" who "once again sang with the quirky accents, sliding pitch and rushed phrases that made her so unique in her salad years with the Jimmy Dorsey Band. The hits – ‘Amapola,’ ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Tangerine’ – were handled nicely in a crowd-pleasing medley. Interestingly, however, O'Connell hit her musical peak with an insightful performance of the far more contemporary ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing?’

"Kay Starr’s set was a reprise of the program she has been using in most of her performances, solo and otherwise, for the last few years. An important figure in the rock-defining music of the ’50s, Starr has lost none of the bite in the gospel-tinged, rhythm-and-blues-styled phrasing that characterized her early work. Her singing on ‘Side by Side,’ ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Hallelujah, I Love Him So’ was – like much of the entire evening with 4 Girls 4 – vigorous testimony to the fact that some pop music styles don't just fade away."

Inevitably, however, 4 Girls 4 was fading away. The following year it was back to 3 Girls 3, with O’Connell, Whiting and Starr continuing to perform wherever they could get gigs. A New York Times cabaret listing from October 15, 1989 has the 3 Girls doing a Sunday show at the Criterion Cabaret in Manhattan. It was among their last performances. Asked recently where they last appeared as 3 Girls 3, neither Starr nor Whiting could recall. It was, after all, a decade and a half ago.

Go To Page: 1---2---3---4---5---6---7---8---9---10---11---12---13---14 --- NEXT>>>