What background specialists the Blossoms were to the Los Angeles recording scene, the Cookies were to New York. But unlike the former group, the Cookies enjoyed some smash hits of their own, thanks to a couple of great songs from Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Formed in Coney Island in 1954 by Dorothy Jones, her cousin Beulah Robertson and Darlene McCrea, the group was discovered at a talent show at the Apollo Theater by Jesse Stone, who secured them a deal with the Lamp label (a subsidiary of Aladdin Records), writing their debut, "Don't Let Go" (later recorded by Roy Hamilton and - twice even - by Jerry Lee Lewis).
By 1955 the Cookies were recording for Atlantic, on which label they had three single releases, registering a # 9 R&B hit with "In Paradise" in April 1956. Beulah was then replaced by Margie Hendricks, another Jesse Stone protégée. In addition to their own releases, the Cookies also provided backing vocals for Atlantic stars such as Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown and Chuck Willis. So integral did the girls become to Ray Charles' sound that in 1958 he hired Margie and Darlene to form the nucleus of his full-time back-up group, the Raeletts. Dorothy, pregnant at the time, declined the offer. Following a short break, she revived the Cookies with her cousin, Margaret Ross, and Darlene's younger sister, Ethel 'Earl-Jean' McCrea. That line-up began cutting demos and doing sessions at the Brill Building, specifically at Aldon Music (the publishing company of Don Kirshner and Al Nevins), singing background on hits by Neil Sedaka, Tony Orlando, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme ("Blame It On the Bossa Nova") , Mel Torme ("Comin' Home Baby") and Little Eva, the latter frequently standing in as the Cookies' fourth member on recording dates. At the suggestion of Don Kirshner, Dorothy Jones cut a solo record for Columbia in 1961, the dramatic "It's Unbearable" (produced by Carole King and Gerry Goffin), which got a release on Philips in the UK, where DISC reviewer Don Nicholl gave it five stars ("Almost eerie, it's so gripping.").
Joining Don Kirshner's Dimension label in 1962, the Cookies returned to the (pop) charts in their own right with "Chains" (# 17), "Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby" (# 7), "Will Power" (# 72) and "Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys" (# 33), the last three all in 1963. Of their five Dimension 45s, only the last one, "The Old Crowd" (originally the B-side of Lesley Gore's "She's A Fool"), did not chart. The Cookies earned a special place in pop music history when the Beatles added "Chains" to their repertory and ended up recording it on their first LP, "Please Please Me" in 1963. The group also recorded under the aliases the Palisades, the Cinderellas, the Stepping Stones and the Honey Bees, while Earl-Jean McCrea also released some solo discs (as "Earl-Jean"). The first and best of these was "I'm Into Something Good" (Colpix 729, mid-1964), which went to # 38 on the Billboard charts. Unfortunately for her, the song was picked up by Herman's Hermits, who had a # 13 hit with their version towards the end of 1964, eclipsing the original record and the artist herself. Darlene returned to replace her sister Earl-Jean for two singles on Warner Bros in 1967, following which the Cookies called it quits.
The above is mainly adapted from the entry for the Cookies (by Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick) in the liner notes for the CD "Early Girls, Vol. 4" (Ace CDCHD 1045, released this year). Most other sources mention Pat Lyles as an original member of the group.
CD's : In 1994, the UK label Sequel issued "The Complete Cookies" (16 tracks), which was indeed complete in terms of the Dimension recordings (including the solo Colpix tracks by Earl-Jean). This was followed in 2004 by "The Absolute Complete Cookies" (26 tracks) on Chocolate Chip (!), which also includes the 1954 single on Lamp, the six Atlantic recordings and the Josie single "King of Hearts"/"Happy Dippy Daddy" from 1957. Not the four WB tracks though, so there is room for a further "Definitely Absolute Complete Cookies" CD.
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