Who are the Cookies?
The Cookies were a 50s-60s all-girl R&B group originating from Brooklyn, New York. Aside from having had achievements in their own right, the Cookies also had successes as a backing group for other artists, most notably Neil Sedaka (“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” “Bad Girl and “The Dreamer”), and Little Eva on her hit song “The Loco-Motion”. The Cookies were known to have close associations with the husband-and-wife songwriting partners Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The original members were Dorothy Jones, Darlene McCrea and Beulah Robertson, Jones’ cousin. McCrea and Robertson’s replacement Margie Hendricks then formed the Raelettes, together with Pat Lyles – as backing vocalists to Ray Charles. Other singers such as Darlene’s younger sister Ethel McCrea (known as Earl Jean) and other cousin of Jones named Margaret Ross joined to the fold. Their first charting single was “In Paradise” which reached the Top 10 R&B singles chart. Then they scored higher-charting hits like “Chains” (later to be covered by the Beatles for their 1963 LP Please Please Me) and “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby).” They also recorded under different names such as The Palisades, The Stepping Stones, The Cinderellas, and The Honey Bees also under different labels. Their last record was released in 1967.
The formation of the original Cookies
The Cookies were an all girl group formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953 or 1954. The original members were Dorothy Jones, Ethel (“Darlene”) McCrea and Beulah Robertson, Jones’ cousin. But according to another source, Pat Lyles (who was to be one of the Raelettes) was also an original Cookie, other sources never mention her as such.
From the Cookies to the Raelettes
The group made their recording debut on Lamp label, a subsidiary of Aladdin Records. The following year they were signed to Atlantic label, and in 1956 the girls were to enjoy their first hit as Cookies with “In Paradise” (#9 R&B). Around the same period they also worked as session artists for Chuck Willis and Joe Turner; Margie Hendricks (Hendrix) also replaced Beulah Robertson in the Cookies lineup.
The group was introduced to Ray Charles through their session work for Atlantic. From then on they were no longer the Cookies but they were now Ray Charles’ backing girls, the Raelettes.
The reincarnation of the Cookies
The all-female group spent the next five years working under the name the Raelettes until 1961. That’s when Jones joined formed the second reincarnation of the Cookies along with newcomers Earl-Jean McCrea (Darlene’s younger sister) and Margaret Ross (Jones’ own cousin). They began their sessions at the Brill Building, cutting demos at Aldon Music (which was responsible for bringing the “Brill Building sound”), under the wings of married songwriting pair Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
As the second generation Cookies, the all-girl trio had successes as session vocalists for Neil Sedaka (notably “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”), Little Eva (“The Loco-Motion” and “Let’s Turkey Trot”), and Mel Torme (his hit rendition of “Comin’ Home Baby”). Because these hits put the Cookies on the map, they were finally granted with their own session.
The Cookies’ own hits
The session turned out to be quite auspicious for the Cookies for the time being, as they churned out their first pop hit with 1962’s “Chains” (#17 pop, #6 R&B) and 1963’s “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)” (#7 pop, #3 R&B). Both of these hits were penned by Goffin-King. In 1963 the girls scored their final Top 40 pop hit with “Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys” (#33 pop, #18 R&B), written by Goffin and Jack Keller. The Cookies had begun to disintegrate by 1963.
“Chains” was later recorded by the Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me in 1963, earning the Cookies a special place in pop music history.
Earl-Jean McCrea leaves the Cookies
Earl-Jean McCrea left the Cookies to pursue a solo career. It seemed promising as first with her original rendition of “I’m Into Something Good,” another Goffin-King song. Unfortunately for her, another act made a more popular version; British pop band Herman’s Hermits recorded their own rendition which turned into a top 20 Billboard hit in 1964. This overshadowed the original record and and its singer herself.The Cookies, later on…
The Cookies’ last record was issued in 1967, and produced by the Tokens. The group had also performed under several aliases for different labels: The Palisades, The Stepping Stones, The Cinderellas, and the Honey Bees. The Cookies are still active touring up to the present, with Margaret Ross (now Williams) being ably supported by new members.
Jones died in 2010, and Darlene McCrea passed away in 2013.