Comprising three sisters and a mutual friend, Le Snobs were one of Italy’s most prominent girl groups of the 1960s. They are notable for having played their own instruments and having released a string of records in their homeland and beyond.
Sisters Annamaria, Ornella and Renata Giusti, plus their friend Gianna Raffa, hailed from the town of Desenzano del Garda, in the Brescia region of Italy. Together, they formed a girl group in 1964 in response to the rising dominance of the beat sound in Italy.
The foursome were often mistakenly thought of as four siblings, thanks to an interview in which they were described as “the four Giusti sisters”.
They were well qualified for their venture into the music business, as Ornella, Renata and Gianna had studied piano at a conservatory while the youngest sister, Annamaria, had studied violin. Not only that – they were managed and guided by the sisters’ father, who himself was an accomplished music teacher.
They started out singing and playing in venues such as local clubs and on cruise ships under the monikers of, first, Sette Notte and, later, Atlantic.
They were offered a recording contract with the Durium label under their newly adopted name, Le Snobs.
For their debut release the group recorded the single Amore ti ricordi, in 1965. The lead side showcased the girls’ sweet vocals, while the flip, La storia di Johnny McRea, saw them take on a country and western flavoured number. Both sides were written by singer Beppe Cardile and fellow songwriter Marcello Minerbi, both of whom would collaborate on several of the group’s subsequent releases.
The single proved the group’s greatest sales success, with some 50,000 copies snapped up. With the resultant opportunities to appear in the music press and on television, the ladies were off to a good start. Even more notable was the inclusion of the song Amore ti ricordi in the Cantagiro song festival that year.
Buoyed by this success, the group released their second single, Non ci pensare più, soon afterwards. The A-side was a cover of American country singer Ned Miller’s Do what you do, do well, while the B-side, Ritorneranno i giorni belli, featured the girls again with a sweet mid-tempo number. A notable feature of the release was the sleeve, featuring the group on go-karts brandishing their instruments.
By this time, the quartet were deemed to be doing well enough to merit an attempt at an international career. This saw Portuguese releases of their first two singles, plus a rare UK EP distributed by Pye Records.
The group also had to polish up their German pronunciation for a translation of Non ci pensare più and La storia di Johnny McRea for the Populär label. The songs became Treue gehört dazu and Jonny McRea respectively, but the single bombed. (Interestingly, Swedish singer Anna-Lena enjoyed a big hit with an alternative version of the A-side, retitled Dein Herz, das muß aus Gold sein, in spring 1967.)
Back at home, the girls’ last release of 1965 was a version of Stevie Wonder's uptempo La la la la la. This proved the group’s first true beat recording and is, arguably, one of their finest moments. They were even given the opportunity to appear in the 1966 music film Per un pugno di canzoni performing the number which they had retitled Sha la la la la. (The flip, Non so cosa farei senza di te, was another slower-paced Beppe Cardile composition.)
The group started 1966 with a recording to herald the Viareggio carnival of that year. The single, entitled Viaregginella, became the Tuscan carnival’s theme song.
The final 45 issued by the group found the girls on fine form again – this time with covers of two US girl group classics, The Ikettes’ Peaches ‘n’ cream and The Toys’ A lover’s concerto. The former, retitled Dicci come finì, was released around the same time as one by another female band, The Honeybeats – with the two groups providing some healthy competition for each other. The two recordings also bear a remarkable similarity, so it’s quite hard to make a definitive choice.
After just a couple of years in the industry and shortly before they were about to start a run for the Macario theatre company, the group decided to call it a day. This was partly due to impending marriages and, with them, a change of focus.
Ornella and Gianna went on to complete their studies at the conservatory and became teachers.
One further single, entitled Prega / Io son gelosa, had been scheduled for release on the Durium label. Sadly, however, it never saw the light of day.