There is much debate about which popular recording should be credited as the first rock 'n' roll song. One unarguable fact is that the first rock song to ever top the national music charts, back in July 1955, was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets. To the casual observer that event might have seemed an anomaly, a rock 'n' roll blip on the radar. In reality, the hot 100 charts would never be the same again.
Moving forward to January 1961, the charts produced another first: The first ever #1 hit by an all girl group. Those of us old enough to remember back then would probably guess that this honor belonged to that Motown power-house group the Supremes. But that is not the case, the Supremes were still three years away from stardom.
The first girl group to top the charts was from New Jersey. The teenagers were propelled to an iconic place in music history by a tune of youthful angst and lust that was presented from a female perspective. The legendary Carole King was pregnant and 18 years old when she co-wrote the song with her partner-husband Gerry Goffin. King could relate to Goffin's lyrics about a young woman who might pay a steep price for a moment of pleasure. However, there was no way that King or Goffin would know that the simple composition was destined to become a rock classic---covered over the years by many star performers including a haunting rendition by the late Amy Winehouse.
Shirley, Doris, Addie, and Beverly, the girls who recorded the original chart-topper, began singing together in junior high school. Previously the group had other chart successes, some of which are recognizable today, but never a #1 hit. In rehearsals Shirley hated the song that would become the vocal group's most notable achievement. She said that Carole King's demo and the song itself were unappealingly countrified. Shirley was adamantly opposed to recording it, but during the studio session she changed her mind: The producer had reworked the arrangement and it had become a catchy pop tune.
The single was more notable than simply being the first #1 by a girl group. Also, it was the first #1 hit for the songwriting team of King and Goffin. To learn the identity of the mystery artists and the name of the song, simply change the TV channel. Don't hesitate, you can watch "Have Gun Will Travel" anytime. A simple click on the screen will take you back in time to one of the best "girl group" songs ever recorded.