Notebook Cover

  Memories of the Bobbettes

By Reather Dixon Turner

NOTE: Reather Dixon Turner wrote this as an introduction to the Bobbettes article in "Yesterday's Memories," back in 1976.

In 1957, we were five busy little girls. The times I remember most are the tours, where all we did was what was called then, and is still called, one-night stands.

That was when about 16 top recording artists were booked on the same show, and most of them, including the headliners, traveled on the same bus. We went from state to state; sometimes two or three states in one day. We never got a chance to do too much sightseeing, but on one of those tours we would get to at least 40 states in a couple of months.

It was fun on the bus; we'd talk and laugh and pull pranks on one another. Sometimes, when we were late, we'd have to dress for the show on the bus, since we didn't have time to get a hotel and wash up. Was that a crazy scene! Everyone trying to dress and put on make-up on the bus and the Bobbettes, being young and new in the business, trying to hide each other with our coats.

We were the only girl group on most of the tours we went on. There were single female singers such as Ruth Brown and Lavern Baker, who taught us everything we know about make-up and what to wear on stage. Having a male manager, we didn't know too much about that at first.

We went to every state with the exception of Alaska, where we didn't want to go anyway. We worked with so many people, some of whom, I'm very proud to say are still at it today, such as: Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Dells, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, and many, many more.

We were like everyone's Little Sisters and were well taken care of. We'd be working with one headliner, such as Clyde McPhatter, and when we left that show to go to another, he'd tell the next headliner, such as Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson, to take care of his Little Girls. And they would. They'd take time to take us out to dinner or if we had a problem, the older vets were always there and willing to help. We worked with and learned from everyone we met.

We went to a correspondence school. When we were home we'd attend, and when we were working, we'd do our schoolwork and mail it in. The name of the school was The Professional School For Children in New York City on 60th Street and Columbus Avenue. Many other child entertainers such as the Chantels, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Josh White, Jr., and Leslie Uggams also attended this school with us.

Being a black girl group was pretty tough in some situations in those days. When we were on tours and we'd stop for something to eat, the white groups would go into the restaurant and the black entertainers would remain on the bus. We'd give them our orders and they'd bring us back whatever we ordered.

When we got to a state, we'd drop the white entertainers off in one part of town, then the black groups would be driven to another part of town (known as the "Black Section").

The white entertainers were never prejudiced toward us. On those tours everyone was like one big happy family, and the saddest part was when a show was over and everyone had to separate. There'd be tears and hugs and kisses all over the place. I always felt like I was losing my best friends. Even now, when we work with someone and it's time to move on, it's still very sad because you never know if you'll see them again.

We have been singing together with the same four girls for 20 years, and we will remain together for another 20, until we are old and gray - with one thing in our minds: that is to get one more (at least one more) gold record on the top.

We have been and are still loyal to ourselves and our public and will remain so until it happens again for us.

Reather Dixon Turner

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