Through marriages, Doris Coley became Doris Coley Kenner, then Doris Kenner-Jackson. Born on August 2 ,1941, in Passaic, NJ, she and high school friend Beverly Lee joined up with Shirley Owens and Addie Harris to start a singing group, the Poquellos. Classmate Mary Jane Greenberg invited them to audition for her mother, Florence Greenberg, who had a label called Tiara Records. Singing their original song "I Met Him on a Sunday," they won a school talent contest and after auditioning for their classmate's mother, they were offered a recording contract. Obtaining their parents' permission, they signed with Tiara. After renaming themselves the Shirelles, the first single issued was a recording of "I Met Him on a Sunday." Florence Greenberg felt that a bigger label would do a better job promoting the record, so she leased it to Decca Records. "I Met Him on a Sunday" went to number 49 pop in spring 1958.
Their next two Decca releases failed to chart, so Greenberg began releasing their records on her now renamed label, Sceptor Records. She enlisted songwriter/producer Luther Dixon to work with the Shirelles. The group brought Greenberg a song, "Dedicated to the One I Love," written by Lowman Pauling of the "5" Royales and Ralph Bass. The single release charted at number 83 pop in 1959. Their Sceptor single, "Tonight's the Night," written by Shirley Owens and Dixon was caught in a cover battle (when two artists have competing versions of the same song) with the Chiffons' version. The Shirelles' version made it to number 14 R&B in fall 1960.
Dixon told the group that he owed songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King a favor and told them that he would record one of the songs with the Shirelles. The duo's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" parked the group at number one pop for two weeks and held the number two R&B spot for four weeks on Billboard's charts in early 1961. Carole King, who played kettle drums on the track, covered the song on her 1971 two million-selling Tapestry LP.
Greenberg saw this success as a chance to reissue "Dedicated to the One I Love." Her belief in the track paid her with the single going to number three pop and holding the number two R&B spot for two weeks in early 1961. (A 1967 cover by the Mamas and the Papas went to number two pop.) More Shirelles hit followed: "Mama Said" (number two R&B, number four pop, spring 1961 -- used as the basis for a 1984 automobile TV ad for the Mercury Topaz) and "Big John" (number two R&B). Originally a Burt Bacharach and Hal David song called "I'll Cherish You," "Baby It's You" was rewritten at Dixon's request and gave the group a number three R&B/number eight pop hit in early 1962. Their next single, "Soldier Boy," was written by Dixon and Greenberg and became the group's biggest hit, going gold and parking at number three pop for three weeks, as well as charting number three R&B in the spring of 1962. Its follow-ups were "Everybody Loves a Lover" (number 15 R&B, late 1962) and "Foolish Little Girl" (number nine R&B, number four pop, spring 1963). That same year, their LP The Shirelles Greatest Hits went to number 19 pop.
Around the same time, Dixon left Sceptor for Capitol Records and this along with the British Invasion (which included the Beatles, who covered the Shirelles' hits "Baby It's You" and "Boys") pushed '50s vocal group off the charts. Lawsuits over trust fund money ensued between the group and Sceptor for years after they turned 21, though the group recorded a 1967 Sceptor single, "Last Minute Miracle," in summer of 1967. Doris Kenner-Jackson retired from the music business in 1968. She returned to performing with Addie "Micki" Harris and Beverly Lee as the Shirelles in later years.
At the age of 58, Doris Kenner-Jackson died of breast cancer on February 4, 2000, in Sacramento, CA. ~ Ed Hogan