Found Performance: “Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las

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I enjoyed restoring this video, putting in fresh audio, with the full track, and lip syncing it to match. The story that goes with this one is amusing. This performance tracks back to the popular TV show “I’ve Got a Secret.” On Nov. 16, 1964, regular panelist Betsy Palmer and guest, Robert Goulet, did a tongue in cheek and overly dramatic reading from a script. Here are some of the lines: “Is she really going out with him”? “Is he picking you up after school today”? “By the way, where did you meet him”? “I met him at the candy store.”  It was great fun and the other panelists — Henry Morgan, Bess Myerson and Bill Cullen — were all stumped. (They obviously did not pay attention to Top 40 radio!)

It was then disclosed by host Steve Allen that the script was comprised of the lyrics to the fastest rising hit record in the country. Less than two weeks later, on November 28, 1964, “Leader of the Pack” would bump “Baby Love” by The Supremes out of the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Shangri-Las then took to the stage and performed their smash hit. Robert Goulet played the role of the ‘Leader” of the pack. He was old enough to be dad to any of the girls in the group, but it was all tastefully done and humorous. The Shangri-Las recorded several hits over the years and “Leader of the Pack” was an early entry in the genre of “teen melodrama” songs.  In the mid-’60s, The Shangril-Las came to the Pacific Northwest. They played at a KJR “Teen Spectacular” on the revolving stage at Seattle Center.

The Shangri-Las in Seattle (Jini Dellaccio photo, courtesy of Pat O’Day)

The Shangri-Las got together in 1963 while attending Andrew Jackson High School in Queens, New York. Initially they formed a quartet, with two sets of sisters: Mary Weiss (lead singer) and her sis, Elizabeth “Betty” Weiss, and identical twins Margie and Mary Ann Ganser. They played school and talent shows, and teen hops, coming to the attention of Artie Ripp, a big-time promoter and producer, who arranged the group’s first record deal. Initially, the girls performed without a name; however, when they signed their first deal, they began calling themselves the Shangri-Las, after a Queens, New York restaurant. They are best known for “Leader of the Pack“, but had several other hits including “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” “Out in the Streets,” and “Past, Present and Future.”

Betty Weiss is missing on this “I’ve Got a Secret” broadcast. She had left the group in Oct. 1964, a month before this performance, and did not return until mid-’65. So, in this performance, The Shangri-Las are a trio and a very cute Mary Weiss has the lead vocal.

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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

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