The Queens are sometimes called the first all-female vocal group to
emerge during the early R&B transition to rock and roll. Though they only recorded for
a short time, Shirley Gunter and the Queens influence was far reaching.
Originally called the Four Queens, the group was organized by classmates and friends from Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in 1953. The group consisted originally of Shirley Gunter (lead), Lula Bee Kinney (1st tenor), Lula Mae Suggs (2nd tenor) and Blondean (Zola) Taylor (baritone). Zola Taylor of the Platters spent some time in the group though she performed on none of the recordings.
Shirley Gunter was born in Coffeyville, Kansas where her mother taught school and had a radio show. In the early forties the family moved to California. Shirley was introduced to the Bihari brothers Modern Records by her brother Cornell whose Flairs were signed to that label. Joe Biharil liked the group, but suggested a name change to Shirley Gunter and The Queens. After a few releases that went nowhere, they recorded "Oop Shoop" in the early summer of 1954. "Oop Shoop" would be their only hit though they recorded some other equally good songs.
After recording only eighteen months with two more singles the Queens broke up in 1956.
Shirley then joined her brother Cornell in the Flairs. There she recorded "How Can I Tell You" /"Ipsy Oopsy Ooh" which many consider to be her finest songs. After leaving modern Gunter recorded only occasionally and without much success. Her last known recording was for Ray Charles' Tangerine Records in 1969.
Shirley Gunter currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both Blondean Taylor and Lula Mae Suggs have passed away. Piper Alvez continued in show business becoming one of the first black dancers and showgirls to work in Las Vegas. She currently lives in Los Angeles.