The Murmaids are a one-shot group from 1963 who recorded one memorable song before two of the members headed off to college, and then had no more top forty hits.
The group was comprised of sisters Terry (born in 1946) and Carol (1948) Fischer and Sally Gordon (1946). The sisters were the daughters of Carl Fischer, who was musical director for Frankie Laine for over a decade and the composer of Laine's We'll Be Together Again as well as Billie Holiday's You've Changed. Their mother Terry sang with some of the big bands, including the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Sally's father Leonard Gordon was Music Librarian at Paramount Pictures, and a pianist and orchestrator. The girls lived in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.
Mike Post, a school friend of Terry's, worked as contractor, lining up musicians and back-up singers for producers and arrangers. Mike arranged for the group and contracted Terry, her sister Carol and a friend, Susie Clay, to sing on demos, sometimes at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. One day when Susie wasn't free, she asked her friend Sally Gordon to fill in for her. Sally and the Fischer sisters sang backup, in a low-budget studio with chicken wire on the walls, on a demo titled Astrology for Kim Fowley. At the time Fowley was a record producer at Chattahoochee Records, but also a singer and composer. He liked their sound and took them to meet Ruth Conte, owner of Chattahoochee Records and the wife of actor John Conte, who signed the trio to her record label. Conte heard the girls there and offered to have them record for Chattahoochee. The group needed a name. Kim, the girls and Mrs. Conte couldn't agree on one at first; the only ideas were "The Mermaids" (Kim's) and "The Sweet Murmurs" (Mrs. Conte's). They all settled on Kim's idea to merge the two into "The Murmaids."
In 1963 David Gates was a twenty-two year old musician, songwriter and producer. Two years earlier he had moved to Los Angeles with his family from Tulsa, Oklahoma where his high school band had once played back-up for rock superstar Chuck Berry. Gates had written a song he called Popsicles And Icicles. It was a simple song with a nice melody, a reflection of early 60's pop music and an example of bubblegum rock. Terry, Carol and Sally were ready to record with Chattahoochee Records. Ruth Conte was a wealthy woman from Georgia. The record company had been named for a river that runs through western Georgia. In March 1963, the Murmaids recorded only one song, Popsicles And Icicles; Carol sang alto, Terry the lead, and Sally the soprano part. It was recorded at Gold Star Studios, with Stan Ross as the engineer and Kim Fowley the producer. Over time, the group recorded a record album as well as a few more songs for Chattahoochee: Wild and Wonderful, Alone, So Young, Heartbreak Ahead, and others.
Two of the members of the group went off to college in the fall of 1963, Terry in Los Angeles and Sally to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Carol remained in high school. For six months, nothing happened with Popsicles And Icicles. Chattahoochee did not have a big budget for promotion or an established network of distribution. A San Francisco disc jockey liked the song and promoted it, and as a result, it became an unexpected hit, at least to the Murmaids. Popsicles And Icicles entered the top 100 that fall, moved up to the top 40, and eventually peaked at #3 in early 1964. Just as the Beatles were about to break onto the scene, the Murmaids had a hit on their hands. The three teenage girls from Los Angeles sang very well.
Popsicles And Icicles was a big hit in Australia, but not in the UK. The Murmaids appeared on the nationally televised Lloyd Thaxton Show. The group did some additional recording sometime later, but nothing that sold many records. Chattahoochee released other records as by the Murmaids, but with different singers. Ruth Conte had some health issues and passed away. Terry Fischer continued with her singing career as a backup and session singer, working with artists such as Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, Sonny and Cher, Tina Turner and Fabian. Carol Fischer married session guitarist John Morell; they had two sons who both went on to become musicians. After college Sally Gordon-Mark worked in Florence, Italy for a time, and returned to session singing in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. She moved to San Francisco to work for Lucasfilm before a permananent move to France in 1987. Sally, a music teacher who also does research, translation and editing enjoys French and American dual citizenship. In the late 90's Terry Fischer-Siegel and Carol Fischer-Morell reformed the group, with first Cynthia Perry and later Petra Rowell and then Suzi Robertson as the third member. A CD that was recorded during Easter break in 1964 contained the singles Heartbreak Ahead and Wild and Wonderful which made the charts but did not become hits; it was released in 1994. Terry passed away in 2017. There is a website at www.themurmaids.com, and Sally has a website at www.sallygordonmark.com.
Although they received little in the way of financial compensation for their mega-hit, the Murmaids have received recognition for being one of the most important girl groups in the early days of rock, in the 60's. They have expressed surprise at the number of people who tell them they remember the Murmaids and their song. David Gates joined with others to form a group called Bread in 1969, which put a dozen singles in the top forty in the 70's, all of which were written by Gates, among them top ten entries Make It With You, It Don't Matter To Me, If, and Baby I'm-A Want You.
When Popsicles And Icicles became a nationwide hit for the Murmaids in late 1963, the Beatles had not yet had a top forty hit in the USA. By the time it left the top forty, the Beatles had reached number one with I Want To Hold Your Hand. It was as if the Murmaids had ushered out one era of pop music history just as another was getting ready to come in.
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