“Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” is the name of a 1963 hit by The Jaynetts, a Bronx-based one-hit wonder girl group, released by J&S Records on the Tuff label.
The producer of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” Abner Spector, was an A&R man for the Chicago-based Chess Records. Spector was responsible for the Corsairs’ 1962 number 12 hit “Smoky Places,” which had been released on Tuff, a subsidiary of J&S Records. In the summer of 1963, Spector asked J&S owner, Zelma “Zell” Sanders, to assemble a vocal ensemble to record a girl group style record to which end Sanders wrote the song “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” with Spector’s wife Lona Stevens, drawing inspiration from the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie.” The songwriting copyright for “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” is now in the name of Abner Spector who died in 2010; Zell Sanders died in 1976.
The arrangement for “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was provided by Artie Butler, who recalls Spector “asked me to listen to [the] song…[I] decided that in its present form it did not [have potential], but I heard something in my head. He said, ‘Go into a small demo studio and do what you hear,’ and he would pay for it.” Butler claims he played all the instruments on the track except for the guitar parts which were by Al Gorgoni and Carl Lynch, although it is widely reported that Buddy Miles is the drummer on “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses.” Butler states the entire recording of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was done “on an old Ampex tape machine at 71⁄2 IPS mono….Each time when I added another element” – including the final element: the vocalists – “I added a different type of reverb. Each generation [ie. development] seemed to add to the distinct sound of the record.”
Besides the five vocalists credited in the group which Zell Sanders assembled to record “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”: Yvonne Bushnell, Ethel Davis (aka Vernell Hill), Ada Ray Kelly, Johnnie Louise Richardson and Mary Sue Wells (aka Mary Sue Wellington/Mary Green Wilson); at least five other vocalists are known to be featured on the track: Selena Healey, Marie Hood, Marlene Jenkins (aka Marlina Mack/Marlina Mars), Louise Harris Murray, Lezli Valentine and Iggy Williams have been identified as participating in the recording sessions for “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” which took place over a week, running up of costs of $60,000 – then an exorbitant amount of time and money for a single track. According to Johnnie Louise Richardson: “Anybody that came in the studio that week, [Spector] would put them on [the track]. Originally, I think he had about 20 voices on ‘Sally.'”
Butler’s recollection is that Spector only heard the “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” track when it was completed and “hated it. He was really angry. He felt that I wasted his money.” Butler played the track for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who offered to buy it from Spector: the interest of the duo caused Spector to reassess “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” which he had Sanders release as a single credited to ‘the Jaynetts,’ with the instrumental track as the B-side. Butler claimed his only return for arranging “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was being credited as the arranger on the record.
The recording engineer of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was John P. “Jack” Sullivan.
“Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” had its first major market breakout in San Francisco, its ringing arrangement being a precursor of the San Francisco Sound. A favorite performance number of Grace Slick when she fronted her pre-Jefferson Airplane outfit, the Great Society, “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was also a formative influence on Laura Nyro.
“Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated 28 September 1963, remaining at number 2 on the Hot 100 dated 5 October, both weeks kept out of the top slot by “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton. On the Music Vendor Top 40 dated 12 October 1963, “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” was ranked at number 1. In the Cash Box Top 100, it reached the # 3 spot on 28 September 1963 as its highest position, and remained there for another week (5 October 1963). It was also a hit in France, reaching number 7 with a 17 week chart run, and reached number 2 in New Zealand.
Tuff released a Sally Go ‘Round the Roses album which, despite the group being promoted as a quintet, displayed a cover image of a trio, only two of whom, Ethel Davis and Lezli Valentine, are identifiable. Besides the title cut, in both vocal and instrumental versions, and the follow-up single “Keep An Eye On Her,” the album featured “Archie’s Melody,” “Bongo Bobby,” “I Wanna Know,” “No Love At All,” “One Track Mind,” “Pick Up My Marbles,” “School Days” and “See Saw.” Also featured as ‘a special guest appearance’ was “Dear Abby” credited to the Hearts, a minor hit (No. 94) recorded by at least some of the same personnel as “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses.”