The Ladybirds

The Ladybirds

The Ladybirds are a British female vocal harmony trio, most famous for their appearances in "The Benny Hill Show". They participated in over sixty episodes between 1969 and 1991. In addition, they were long standing backing singers to many established artists, and perennial TV performers.


They had their origins in an earlier vocal group, The Vernons Girls. Their original full troupe disbanded after the beginning of the 1960s, but a smaller unit carried on, headed up by Maureen Kennedy. Most of the others banded together as duets and singing trios; these include the 'Redmond Twins', 'The Breakaways', 'The Pearls', the 'DeLaine Sisters' and the longest surviving and best known, The Ladybirds. Founding member Maggie Stredder, and Jean Ryder formed a vocal duo – The Two Tones – working initially on the United States Air Force bases in Germany, before joining the "Max Bygraves Show" for the summer season in the UK. In 1962, after working on the "Val Doonican TV Special", a third voice (Gloria George) was added to create a fuller sound and the singing group, The Ladybirds was born. [ Probus Club of Ewell website - Stredder (guest speaker) notes] ]

After Marc Bolan signed to the Decca Records label in August 1965, his debut offering was "The Wizard". Both tracks on the single were recorded at Decca Studios, Broadhurst Gardens, London, the following month. The music was provided by studio session musicians, with backing vocals from The Ladybirds. The stock copy hit the shops on 19 November 1965. [ [ Mark Bolan fansite @] ]

Stredder was also on the "Those Days" duet Benny Hill recorded in 1965. By this time, 1966, The Ladybirds were recruited to provide vocal backing on BBC Television's "Top of the Pops" programme. [ [ Sixties website notes] ] They continued in this role until 1978. They also appeared on a number of Twiggy’s television shows.

The Ladybirds sang backing vocals on Sandie Shaw’s 1967 British number one hit and Eurovision Song Contest entry "Puppet on a String", as well as on records by Rolf Harris, Des O'Connor and many other hits and misses.

In 1969, Benny Hill recruited them to be the resident backing singers on "The Benny Hill Show" when Hill joined Thames Television. It is likely the earlier singing partnership connection was responsible for them being chosen. On the first Thames "TBHS", The Ladybirds' musical number was "Goin' Out Of My Head". On the next show, they covered "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Interestingly two years previous, The Lettermen made a medley of both songs and had a hit record. Yet, on the syndicated shows, the earliest Ladybirds' number to be featured was their rendition of "I Say a Little Prayer" from 22 December 1971. Ironically, when Hill did his "Top of the Tops" spoof on 27 January 1971, The Ladybirds were not on his show, instead one of the musical guests, Petticoat & Vine, appeared with him. The Ladybirds', 27 December 1973 Broadway medley was unusual, as they sang individually in different spots with Stredder ("Don't Bring Lulu"), George ("I Won't Dance") and Davies ("I Wanna Be Loved by You"). After that George bowed out.

Their numbers from then on (up to their cover of The Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More" from their last on-screen appearance on 13 March 1974) would be scattered amongst different syndicated episodes.

On the May 1973 album release, "Rigor Mortis Sets In", by John Entwistle, The Ladybirds were credited as the backing vocalists.

Up until 1973, the group solely consisted of Gloria George, Maggie Stredder and Marian Davies. A later member of the group was Penny Lister. From the mid 1970s until 1986, the regular members were Stredder, Ann Simmons (also herself an ex-member of the Vernons Girls) and Laura Lee. [ [ biography] ]

The Ladybirds also appeared on a 1974 BBC TV performance by Olivia Newton-John, backing singing on "Long Live Love", another Eurovision Song Contest entry. However on the attaching pictures, Ann Simmons is mis-identified as Gloria George. [ [ - Eurovision Song Contest fansite] ]

The Ladybirds appeared on almost every light entertainment show on UK TV. "The Les Dawson Show", "The Two Ronnies", "Morecambe and Wise", "Tommy Cooper", "Little and Large", "Glen Campbell", "Shirley Bassey", "Paul Daniels", "The Generation Game", "Children in Need" plus many more. However, by 1978, when they returned to The Benny Hill Show, purely as backing vocalists rather than actual performers, they had stopped appearing on "Top of the Pops". [ [ to the notes] ]

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, so there was plenty of gender-bending, and "Silver Lady" unwittingly assumed distinctly sapphic connotations. A must-hear is their take on The Floaters, "Float On", where these nice middle-class ladies rap lines like "Capricorn, and my name is Maggie". [ [ Fansite comments @] ]

Tracy Miller and Joan Baxter boosted the Ladybird ranks from time to time. In 1979 they all provided backing vocals work on Max Bygraves album, "Discolongamax".

In 2005 they appeared one more time on Mark Wirtz’s Ear Theatre album "Love is Eggshaped: The Soundtrack". The track entitled "Withdrawal" has vocals by The Ladybirds (now Stredder, Kay Garner and Vicki Robinson). [ [ - album review dated August 2005] ]

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 recent times, Stredder, Sheila Bruce, together with ex-Ladybird Penny Lister, have brought new life to the Vernons Girls. They regularly recapture some of the old magic on tour with their friends, as part of the Solid Gold Rock 'n' Roll Show. [ [ biography on The Vernons Girls] ]

Stredder has more recently launched a successful career as an after dinner speaker, recalling her life in show business.


*Maggie Stredder (born Margaret Elizabeth Stredder, 9 January 1936, Birkenhead) - married writer Roy Tuvey, 1 October 1966 [ [ Oh Boy!fansite details @] ]
*Marian Davies (born 23 November 1940, Crynant, Wales - died 24 January 2008, Surrey) - often misspelled Marion Davies [ [ Marian Davies biography at the IMDb site] ,] [ [ Davies bio details @] ]
*Gloria George [ [ Ladybirds biography] ]
*Penny Lister
*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) [ [ Edinburgh Evening News, 2007-08-02] ]
*Tracy Miller
*Joan Baxter
*Kay Garner
*Vicki Robinson


External links

* [ The Ladybirds mini biography] at the IMDb website
* [ The Ladybirds Who's Who]

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