Sisters Sue and Sunny were two of Britain’s most in-demand backing singers of the 1960s. They also issued a clutch of records of their own, in various guises, and were part of the original Brotherhood of Man, before Sunny went on to enjoy solo success with Doctor’s orders.
They were born Yvonne (Sue) and Heather (Sunny) Wheatman in what was then Madras (now Chennai) in India. After moving back to Britain, they eventually settled in Camberley, Surrey, where they set their sights on a career in pop.
In November 1962 they signed to the Oriole label. Their first single, Just let me cry, was issued the following year under the name The Myrtelles. The song had originally been recorded by Italian singer Mina, though the version by Lesley Gore remains the best known.
After quitting Oriole they signed to Columbia as Sue and Sunshine. The Spector-esque A little love (will go a long, long way) became their first release for the new label. Ironically, they were backed on the recording by The Breakaways. Though they didn’t know it at the time, both groups would become better known for their work as backing vocalists rather than for their own records.
One further 45 followed, the pleasant We’re in love (backed with Sue’s own composition Don’t look behind), before the pair adopted a new stage moniker: Sue and Sunny.
Using their new name, they cut a version of Carla Thomas’ Every ounce of strength in 1966. The record marked the beginning of the soulful style that would the sisters would come to be known for.
The follow up, a take on Willie Kendrick’s You can’t bypass love, issued in January 1967, was even better. Though the single failed to sell at the time, it has since found favour on Britain’s northern soul circuit.
With their career in the UK proving a bit of a slog, the pair jumped at the opportunity to play the US air bases in Germany. While there, they were offered the chance to cut some records for the lucrative German market. Their first German release was the Schlager tale of Hans und Franz in Germany, issued on the Electrola label in 1967. Far better was the B-side, the beatier Shame on you.
Spielt mir noch einmal die Bye Bye Melody was issued as the follow up in 1968, though again, the flip, the Nancy Sinatra-esque Wir dummen Mädchen sind ja selber schuld, was the better side.
Back in the UK, they joined CBS in 1968 and began to carve themselves a niche providing backing vocals to many of the top performers of the day. They can be heard on Joe Cocker’s With a little help from my friends, for instance, and can seen backing Lulu at the 1969 Eurovision song contest in Madrid.
Alongside this work, they continued to issue singles as Sue and Sunny – notably 1968’s The show must go on, which included the great Kenny Lynch-penned Motown-esque Little black book on its B-side – and also recorded as The Stockingtops. With Kenny Lynch providing songwriting duties, The Stockingtops cut two highly regarded 45s, You’re never gonna get my lovin’ and I don’t ever wanna get kicked by you, both in 1968.
In 1969, back as Sue and Sunny, they issued an LP of their own. Original gospel-styled tracks jostled with a selection of covers – among them Curtis Mayfield’s People get ready, Joni Mitchell’s Michael from mountains and Ike and Tina Turner’s River deep, mountain high. Although producer Bobby Scott claimed the album “makes Memphis look like a ‘B’ movie”, its religious overtones may have limited sales among Britain’s increasingly agnostic youth.
Later that year, the sisters joined session group Brotherhood of Man and scored a top ten UK hit with United we stand in 1970. (The line up was completely different for the later Save your kisses for me-era group.)
The pair also continued to record as Sue and Sunny and even found themselves appearing twice on the same episode of Top of the pops – once with Brotherhood of Man singing This boy and then as themselves singing their first 45 for the Deram label, Ain’t that telling you people.
They continued to record with Brotherhood of Man for a couple of years, and in 1974 Sunny scored a UK top ten with Doctor’s orders as a soloist.
Sue – by now known as Sue Glover – backed Germany’s Joy Fleming on the excellent Ein Lied kann eine Brücke sein at the 1975 Eurovision song contest, and went on to release a solo album, imaginatively entitled Solo.
The sisters also toured with German orchestra leader James Last during the 1970s.
In 1981 Sue fronted the group Unity in Britain’s national final to choose a song for the Eurovision song contest. Sadly, the group’s entry, For only a day, finished eighth. Out of eight.
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