"I'm sorry to trouble you, but I was wondering if you knew anything about Shirley Ellis (of The Name Game fame) and what might have become of her. I'm placing her music in a commercial and am trying to make sure that all the payments make it to her, but we've got no current contact info and very little to go on. I'm sorry if I'm imposing on you but I thought maybe you or someone in your vast Soul Network might have a lead."
I warned Nick that our 'Soul Network' was really only half-vast, and I have as yet have been unable to find out anything definite about Ms. Ellis. I find it hard to believe that someone who had been as well-known as Shirley, who had released two top 5 R&B hits that are still heavy in the rotation today, could have disappeared from the public eye so completely.
Both Google and Wikipedia lead nowhere, and there seems to be no record of her after 1968. This great 45 we have here would be her last chart appearance. It was released in the Spring of 1967. I don't know, do you think that perhaps Shirley has been overlooked by the 'serious' Soul fan out there because she was too 'Pop' or something?
Her real name was Shirley Marie Elliston, and she was born in The Bronx. A search of the Social Security Death Index yielded this:
Although Wikipedia lists the year of Elliston's birth as 'circa 1941', it certainly seems plausible that she may have lied about her age back when the phones were still ringing. Although I sincerely hope I'm wrong, this may indeed be her.
Can anyone out there shed any light on all of this?
Nick got back in touch with us to report, sadly, that the SSDI entry we found did indeed refer to Shirley Ellis...
"I just spoke to Shirley's niece who says she loves the commercial... Shirley did leave the business in the late 60s and never seems to have looked back, only occasionally belting out a tune at block parties."
Well there ya go... thanks, Nick, and may she rest in peace.