The Jaynetts are one of those one-hit wonder acts who surfaced in the 1960s. Songwriter-producer Zelma “Zell” Sanders produced a sleeper hit “Lonely Nights” which was performed by The Hearts. After the success of the single, she formed her own record label J&S; at this point she formed the Jaynetts as a way to “trim off” the overflowing number The Hearts members. The Jaynetts thus were actually Sanders’ studio “creations,” rather than as a real group. Jaynett’s first single under the group’s name “I Wanted To Be Free,” was actuallly sung by Justine “Baby” Washington from The Hearts. Chess Records’ A&R man Abner Spector came along and used J&S’s auxiliary label Tuff to supervise recording for the Jaynetts’next single “Sally, Go ‘Round The Roses” — the sessions for “Sally” actually employed a lot of singers. It became a national hit in 1963. But the success of this mysterious all-girl group didn’t last long. Follow-up singles didn’t chart at all, and soon Tuff gave up on the girls. However, the girls continued to wax records on Sanders’ J&S label.
Zell Sanders and her first group The Hearts, and her record label J&S
The Jaynetts were an all-girl doo-wop vocal group created by Zelma “Zell” Sanders. Bronx, New York native Sanders was an aspiring songwriter who first helmed “Lonely Nights” by an all-girl R&B vocal group The Hearts, in 1954. The Hearts were composed of Hazel Crutchfield, Louise Harris, and Joyce Weiss. Betty Harris and Justine “Baby” Washington would also frequently perform on the Hearts records. Sanders recruited the girls specifically to perform the songs she’d written.
But no major label was interested in an all-girl group, so “Lonely Nights was eventually released on a small independent label called Baton. In 1955, it became a top ten R&B hit (reaching #8) making “Lonely Nights” one of the earliest hits by an all-female group.
The commercial success of “Lonely Nights’ enabled Sanders to establish her own imprint called J&S.
The formation of The Jaynetts
Sanders, now with her own label, created another group called the Jaynetts. The name was based on the “J” on her record label’s name, and “Anette” which was the middle name of session singer Lezli Valentine. Valentine also appeared on one of the Jaynett’s earliest releases “I Want to Be Free,” whose lead vocal on the other hand was performed by the Hearts’ Baby Washington.
As the number of Hearts members kept on mounting, Sanders formed The Jaynetts as a way to “trim off” the Hearts.
“Sally Go Round the Roses”
Chicago producer and Chess Records’ A&R man Abner Spector first handled J&S’s subsidiary label Tuff Records to release a song called “Smoky Places” which became a hit for the Corsairs in 1962. For Spector’s next project, he had Sanders assemble an all-girl lineup and create a song specifically for this purpose. Sanders and Spector’s wife Lona Stevens wrote together a new song called “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses.”
“Sally Go Round the Roses,” performed by the Jaynetts and released on Tuff label, climbed all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B singles chart in 1963.
The voices behind “Sally”
The song became a classic largely because of its reputed mystery. In the singles’ sleeve and publicity photos, they showed three women as the Jaynetts. But in truth, there were five credited singers in the “Sally” sessions: Sanders’ own daughter Johnnie Louise Richardson (formerly of Johnnie & Joe), Ethel Davis (aka Vernell Hill), Ada Ray, Yvonne Bushnell and Mary Sue Wells (aka Mary Sue Wellington and Mary Green Wilson). All of these singers had already worked and performed for J&S.
Not only those five credited singers mentioned above, there were more other J&S veterans who also took part on the “Sally” sessions: Lezli Valentine, Selena Healey, Marie Hood, Marlene Mack, Louise (Harris) Murray and Iggy Williams. Murray had been a member of the original Hearts lineup.
According to Richardson’s recollection of those sessions, Spector would isolate the girls in the studio and not allow them to leave until the sessions were done by next week. Anyone who walked into the studio during that week of recording, Spector would get them on the track. It seemed to be a marathon of sessions for just one song. Richardson said that, “Originally, I think he (Spector) had about 20 voices on ‘Sally.'” The result of these lengthy recording sessions was “Sally Go Round the Roses” on the A-side, while the flip side was the songs’ instrumental version.
Follow-ups to “Sally Go Round the Roses” included “Keep an Eye on Her” (#120 Billboard “Bubbling Under Hot 100”), “Snowman, Snowman,” “Sweet Potato Nose.” All of these singles made zero impact, and Tuff finally let the Jaynetts go. Sanders moved her J&S offices to upstate New York and continued to release singles using the name The Jaynetts, as well as solo works from former Jaynetts personnel. Sanders died in 1976, and her daughter Johnnie Louise Richardson passed away twelve years later.