How many people can say they had a song on the charts that beat out Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and everyone else who was making mega hits in the 1960’s? In 1965 that is exactly what happened to Barbara Harris, the driving force behind The Toys. “A Lover’s Concerto” reached number one and stayed there for an impressive six weeks.
Long before this would happen, the circumstances that would mold and eventually drive Barbara to become one of music’s premier legends is perhaps as romantic as the words to that song from so many years ago:
“We had a little church at the end of my block, I would always hear the music coming down to my home. I would run down there and pick up the tambourine, I’d see the older women playing and I’d imitate them. I would just sing my little heart out” When asked who her greatest influence was I did not receive the pat answer of the current superstars of her day. “I would have to say my great - grandfather. He wasn’t well known, but he played the accordion. We would sit and listen to him for hours. He was my biggest inspiration and he would push me to sing. He would play weddings and church functions. In the South in those days we would sit around the house and hold little prayer meetings and he would play”.
Adding to the performance purity ethic, Barbara and four other ladies would perform street harmony that was so prevalent in the 50’s. “We had full harmonies going on. We would travel to New York and try to get work. It was so much fun; we would go into the park bathrooms where there was this great echo and croon for days. Then we finally met the guy with the big cigar that said: ‘hey little girl I’m gonna make you a star.’
The time came for Barbara to be signed and true to the music business horror stories of her days, did end up getting burned. While she has such a positive attitude over the past and is not the least bit bitter she explains: “It was difficult. Our manager and the accountant would work together, which in later years proved not to be a good idea. All we wanted to do was sing. We weren’t paying much attention to the business and we didn’t know much about it. They would say ‘go ahead girls, we got it’.
The demands of stardom in those early days were difficult. “I had a family at the time and you had to be ready to leave at anytime. There was no saying I’m not going to do it. The demand was that you go. I knew what I was getting into and I wanted to do it. When it came down to leaving it was hard; I cried all the time. My manager did help me out with that, I wouldn’t stay out longer than a month.” Also our manager worked his butt off for us; he got us into places I don’t think we would have gotten into if he hadn’t pushed. We had one record and we were following The Supremes everywhere. They would be coming out of a club and we would be coming in the next week.
Now many years later, things are very different. Barbara has worked long and hard to become the type of artist she has always wanted to be. “I can record the type of music I like as opposed to being told what I have to sing. I don’t even care if I make the money or not. Just to put some good music out there, I’m satisfied.”
What Barbara modestly calls “good music”
is a true reflection of a very genuine, gifted, and rare soul. It is apparent
that she was not only inspired while creating “Barbara Now” she has equally
gifted family and friends surrounding and working with her.
Article written by: Leslie
Leslie Sallee is a former audio engineer and is currently trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
listing in our roster
Barbara's web site
Girl Musician Online HOME
The Toys - 1965
The Toys - 1988