The Ladybirds performing on The Benny Hill Show in 1970. Left to right: Marian Davies, Maggie Stredder and Gloria George
The Vernons Girls|
Maggie Stredder (deceased)|
Marian Davies (deceased)
Laura Lee (deceased)
Kay Garner (deceased)
The Ladybirds were a British female vocal harmony trio, most famous for their appearances on The Benny Hill Show. They participated in over 60 episodes between 1968 and 1991. In addition, they were long-standing backing singers to many established artists, and perennial television performers.
The Ladybirds had their origins in an earlier vocal group, The Vernons Girls. The original troupe disbanded at the start of the 1960s, but a smaller unit carried on, headed by Maureen Kennedy. Most of the other members performed as duets and singing trios. Amongst them were 'The Redmond Twins', 'The Breakaways', 'The Pearls', 'The DeLaine Sisters', and the longest surviving and best known, The Ladybirds. Founding member Margaret Elizabeth "Maggie" Stredder and Jean Ryder, billed as The Two Tones, appeared at United States Air Force bases in Germany, before returning to the UK to join Max Bygraves on stage. In 1962, following an appearance on the Val Doonican TV Special, Marian Davies had replaced Ryder, plus Gloria George was added, and The Ladybirds were born.
After signing to Decca Records in August 1965, Marc Bolan recorded his debut single. The Ladybirds sang backing vocals, while apart from Bolan's vocals, all other music was created by studio session musicians. "The Wizard" was released on 19 November 1965.
In 1966, The Ladybirds were recruited to provide vocal backing on BBC Television's Top of the Pops programme. They continued in this role until 10 August 1978, when they were replaced a week later by The Maggie Stredder Singers. They also appeared on a number of Twiggy's television shows. The same year they sang as backing singers on the Mood Mosaic track "A Touch of Velvet – A Sting of Brass" – later to become Radio Caroline disc jockey Dave Lee Travis' (DLT) signature tune.
The Ladybirds sang backing vocals on Sandie Shaw's 1967 British number one hit single "Puppet on a String", joining Sandie for the live performance in Vienna, Austria, when the song won the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as on records by Rolf Harris, Des O'Connor and many other hits and misses.
In 1969, when Benny Hill joined Thames Television, he recruited them to The Benny Hill Show. The Ladybirds' first number was "Goin' Out of My Head". In 1971, Hill did a spoof of Top of the Pops, titled "Top of the Tops", but unusually, The Ladybirds were not on that programme. Instead, one of the musical guests, Petticoat & Vine, appeared in the sketch. The Ladybirds' later Broadway medley was unique in that each member sang independently, i.e. Stredder ("Don't Bring Lulu"), George ("I Won't Dance"), and Davies ("I Wanna Be Loved by You"). After that point, George left the trio.
Up until 1973, the Ladybirds remained as a working trio of Gloria George, Maggie Stredder and Marian Davies. Penny Lister was then recruited for a short tenure. From the mid 1970s until 1986, the regular members became Stredder, Ann Simmons, who was another former Vernons Girl, and Laura Lee. Simmons later joined The Pearls.
The Ladybirds also returned to Eurovision, backing Olivia Newton-John, singing on "Long Live Love", in the 1974 contest staged in Brighton, United Kingdom. However, Ann Simmons was misidentified as her predecessor Gloria George.
The Ladybirds appeared on many light entertainment shows on UK TV. The first series of Cilla in 1968, Lulu's Back In Town, The Les Dawson Show, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Little and Large, Glen Campbell, Shirley Bassey, Paul Daniels, The Generation Game and Children in Need. However, by 1978, when they returned to The Benny Hill Show, purely as backing vocalists rather than actual performers, they also had stopped appearing on Top of the Pops. In 1977, The Ladybirds recorded songs for a low budget covers album. Tracks featured included "Chanson D'Amour", "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie", and "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina". The music compelled the all-female group to tackle songs made famous by male singers.
On occasion, Tracy Miller and Joan Baxter boosted the Ladybird ranks. In 1979, they all provided backing vocals work on Max Bygraves album, Discolongamax. The Ladybirds also sang on several orchestral albums by Benny Hill's Thames TV musical director, Ronnie Aldrich.
In 2005, they appeared one more time on Mark Wirtz's Ear Theatre album Love is Eggshaped: The Soundtrack. The track entitled "Withdrawal" had vocals by The Ladybirds (by this time comprising Stredder, Kay Garner and Vicki Robinson).
The Vernon Girls reformed as a trio after being invited to appear on the Cliff Richard 30th Anniversary Concert at Wembley Arena, playing over the two evenings to an audience of 140,000. In more recent times, Stredder, Sheila Bruce, and Penny Lister, reappeared billed as the Vernons Girls.
Stredder later launched a successful career as an after dinner speaker, recalling her life in show business. She died on 9 March 2018, aged 82.
- Maggie Stredder (born Margaret Elisabeth Stredder, 9 January 1936, Birkenhead – died 9 March 2018) She married writer Roy Tuvey on 1 October 1966
- Marian Davies (born 23 November 1937, Crynant, Wales – died 24 January 2008, London) – often misspelled Marion Davies
- Gloria George
- Penny Lister (born in Scarborough, currently living in Dorset). Also appeared in the 1977 episode of Doctor Who, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" as a singer
- Ann Simmons (born Ann O'Brien, 20 November 19xx)
- Laura Lee (born Isabella McIntyre, 11 May 1937, Musselburgh, Scotland – died July 2007 at home in Musselburgh)
- Tracy Miller
- Barbara Moore
- Joan Baxter
- Kay Garner (born 4 October 1943, Hull, Yorkshire – died 16 July 2007)
- Vicki Robinson
- Sylvia King (real name Sylvia Rosen)
- Archived 30 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
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- ""Life in Showbiz " by Maggie Stredder". Ewell-probus.org.uk. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
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- Archived 7 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Biography for Marian Davies". IMDb.com. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
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- "The Ladybirds Biography". TV.com. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- "Tributes flood in for Laura the Ladybird – News – The Scotsman". News.scotsman.com. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2013.