The Vernons Girls

TrackSingle / Album / CD
I’ve Told Every Little StarThe Vernons Girls LP
Bad Motorcycle You Know What I Mean CD
Jealous HeartParlophone R 4532
Don’t Look Now But Parlophone R 4596
Lover PleaseDecca F 11450
You Know What I MeanDecca F 11450
Just Another GirlJust For Fun LP
Funny All OverDecca F 11549
We Love The Beatles Decca F 11807
It’s A Sin To Tell A LieDecca F 12021

The Vernons Girls photo 2
Image from the sheet music for the 1960 B-side The Oo-We


Vernons playlist


The Vernons Girls photo 1
(l-r) Jean Owen, Frances Lea, Maureen Kennedy


Contributor: David Pearson

In the context of 20th century British pop, the Vernons Girls are both significant and interesting as a musical act.

Significant for two reasons. Firstly they are part of that first generation of 1950s British rock‘n’roll/pop acts, so they sit alongside the likes of Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury etc. And secondly because the legacy they left behind them was substantial: so many Vernons went on to make important contributions to popular music throughout the 60s and beyond. More of that later …

But they are also interesting, again for two reasons. They were an unusually big group: at their rock‘n’roll height in the late 50s they numbered some 15/16, though they often appeared on TV in groups of 3 or 4.

And though as a pop act they lasted around 10 years, their story falls into very distinct phases. There are definite chapters to their story, so the Vernons in 1955 are very different to the Vernons in 1958 and both very different to the Vernons in 1964.

This then is their story.

In early 1950s Britain, doing the weekly football pools was a popular social pastime as folk – generally men – sought to accurately predict the 9 score draws that would win them a fortune. Consequently, the pools industry was big business, with the main companies – Vernons, Littlewoods and Zetters – employing around 8,000 people each.

Vernons was based in Aintree, Liverpool. They had a choir of around 70 pools checkers, telephonists and secretaries, and this choir would go about the country giving concerts. Now this suited the management because advertising legislation in the 1950s prevented the direct advertising of gambling. But if your company has a choir that goes about the place bearing the Vernons name, then you have a powerful promotional tool and a lot of free advertising.

And the Vernons Choir was very good. Apparently, local girls would apply to the company for jobs in the hope that they might make the choir and just maybe a foot in the door of show business.

This turned out to be not as fanciful as you might think. For, around 1955, it was decided that the choir should turn professional. So the 70 members were whittled down to the best 16/17 and they landed a deal with Parlophone Records.

The first single released was as the “Voices of Vernons” and featured TV/radio presenter Eamonn Andrews. It was titled High Wind, backed with The Legend Of Wyatt Earp.

A second collaboration with Andrews came the following year when The Ship That Never Sailed / The Magic Tree was released. And in 1958, the girls released an album, this time as “The Vernons Girls”. There were 12 tracks, orchestration provided by Peter Knight. Here’s one of the tracks:

The album’s cover shows the girls in beautiful evening gowns, perfectly coiffeured hair, lots of bling – and looking even older than their mothers! (Some of these girls would only be 18/19.) And the album included lovely versions of Over The Rainbow and We’ll Gather Lilacs.

However, there was shortly to be a dramatic image change and it came about courtesy of a young BBC producer called Jack Good. He was developing what would become Britain’s first TV rock‘n’roll show, Six-Five Special, and he decided to use them occasionally. But the image had to change. Out went the evening gowns, the bling and the hairdos, in came loose open neck shirts, very tight shorts, nylons and stiletto heels. And this new image continued when Good moved to ATV with the iconic Oh Boy!.

They featured pretty much every week. They could be seen backing Marty Wilde or Cliff Richard, sometimes performing their own songs, or else delivering dance routines that for the late 50s were quite raunchy, a fact exemplified by this 1959 performance:

Another great dance routine accompanied their singing of Bad Motorcycle:


The Vernons Girls continued to record. Occasionally some of them would be featured as a trio; for example their 1959 single Jealous Heart (Parlophone), the label identifying the girls as Jean, Margaret and Barbara. Their surnames were Ryder, Stredder and Mitchell. Maggie Stredder is probably the best remembered thanks to her trademark horn-rimmed glasses.

Yet another memorable Oh Boy! performance can be found in this 1959 recording of Don’t Look Now But. The girl with the eyepatch is Ann O’Brien. She had an eye infection and assumed she would not be appearing that week. Jack Good had other ideas! Later on, under her married name of Ann Simmons, she joined the Ladybirds and The Pearls.


By 1960, with the British rock‘n’roll craze showing signs of waning, Vernons wanted to disband the girls. They were persuaded instead to continue by reducing still further to a trio. This was yet another chapter in the Vernons Girls story – the three in question were Maureen Kennedy, Frances Lee, Rae Parker. Rae left shortly after and was replaced by a young newcomer, Jean Owen. They released ten singles on the Decca label, one of the strongest being 1962’s Lover Please, arrangements by Joe Meek man Charles Blackwell and production by Jack Good himself. The B-side, You Know What I Mean, written by Trevor Peacock, also received significant airplay ensuring double-sided chart success in the UK with the record reaching No.16.



Uncredited they appeared with Billy Fury in the 1962 movie Play It Cool as well as Just For Fun the following year, where they performed Just Another Girl.

Another successful release was 1963’s Funny All Over, again written by Trevor Peacock decades before he achieved fame as an actor in The Vicar Of Dibley. It reached No.31 in the UK charts.


The girls also tasted success in the US charts with an early Beatles tribute, We Love The Beatles.

1964 saw the girls participate in a one-hour TV special, Around The Beatles, reuniting them with Jack Good. Cilla Black was reluctant to sing a number Good had planned for her, so young Jean Owen was drafted in, and so impressed everyone with her strong vocal performance that she made the decision to quit the group and try for a solo career.

She signed to United Artists who changed her name to Samantha Jones – and as such she would enjoy a successful 20-year career on TV and records, as well as throughout Europe.

Jean was not the first Vernon to fly solo. Lyn Cornell had left in 1960 and scored chart success with Never On Sunday. Both Samantha and Lyn are the subjects of separate entries on this site.

The Vernons Girls continued for a spell with Jean’s replacement Jane Sutton, seen here in this 1964 TV appearance (l-r: Frances Lea, Jane Sutton, Maureen Kennedy):

Sadly, the group split shortly after.


Perhaps the greatest and longest-lasting legacy of the original 1950s Vernons Girls can be found in the session work on hundreds of singles and albums by a huge number of major artistes, as well as numerous TV appearances.

The trio that formed in 1961 sang on several hit singles for singers like Billy Fury, but the most successful and long-lasting session groupings were the Ladybirds and The Breakaways.

The Ladybirds photo 1
The Ladybirds (l-r) Marian Davies, Maggie Stredder, Gloria George
(Still frame from the Benny Hill Show 1970)


The Ladybirds included perhaps the best known of all, the aforementioned Maggie Stredder, “the girl with the glasses”. Along with various non-Vernons girls, they released four Columbia singles in 1964/5 before beginning a highly successful career as session singers. One of their early assignments was providing backing vocals on Marc Bolan’s debut single The Wizard in 1965.

For twelve years they provided regular backing vocals on Top Of The Pops. In the Eurovision Song Contest they supported Sandie Shaw in 1967 and then Olivia Newton-John in 1974.

They were frequently seen in major TV entertainment shows with stars such as Benny Hill, Morecambe & Wise, the two Ronnies and top model Twiggy.

And the Vernons connection was further strengthened when they were joined in the 1970s by the aforementioned Ann Simmons.

The original Breakaways were Vicki Haseman, Margot Quantrell and Betty Prescott. Prescott was later replaced by Jean Ryder, but she was to return later when Haseman left. All were ex-Vernons, and these personnel changes illustrate the to-ings and fro-ings that went on amongst the various offshoots, and the way in which they would often help one another out.

Other acts with that Vernons connection included the Two Tones, the De Laine Sisters, the Nigel Brookes Singers and the Babs Knight Singers.

Trying to chart all the comings and goings through a Vernons Girls family tree is a daunting task. For instance, Lyn Cornell at various times was linked to the Breakaways, the Ladybirds, the Chucks, the Carefrees and the Raindrops. She also sang and toured with the James Last Orchestra!

And besides being a Pearl, Ann Simmons was a member of the Redmond Twins, the Breakaways, the Ladybirds and the Anita Kerr Singers during her career.

All this activity demonstrates the significant legacy of those thousands of female employees who from the early 1950s had sat at tables in the Vernons headquarters assiduously checking those pools coupons.

The Vernons Girls reunited a couple of times in the 1980s. In 1982 they appeared on ITV’s This Is Your Life when the subject was Marty Wilde. (Marty had married Vernon Joyce Baker)

And in 1989’s Cliff Richard 30th anniversary concert ‘The Event’ at Wembley they joined with the Dallas Boys and the Kalin Twins to recreate the magic of Oh Boy!.


In 2023, the musical Vernons Girls opened at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre.

Vernons Girls photo 3 1


For more information about the Vernons Girls and their time on the Oh Boy! series, visit this website.


Samantha Jones poster 2


The Vernons Girls discography

The Vernons Girls personnel

The Vernons Girls 1958 LP on CD from Cherry Red Records

The Vernons Girls – You Know What I Mean
36-track CD – Jasmine Records – 2022

The Girl With The Glasses: The Showbusiness Autobiography of Maggie Stredder (2001)

The Ladybirds (Wikipedia)

The Breakaways at Spectropop

The Vernons Girls biography (Wikipedia)

David Pearson has lived all his life in Glasgow. Married with two sons, he was an English teacher for 40 years. Since retiring in 2011 he has written a number of items for a range of publications, including 55 Life, Northern Echo, Shindig and Record Collector (including a longer piece in RC #516 on the 60s Brit Girl scene). He is a lover of 60s/70s pop, especially anything with a strong harmony sound.

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