The Murmaids resurface with Yesterday's Legends
Look up the expression "one-hit wonders" in the American Songbook Dictionary — if there were such a thing — and the Murmaids will be staring back at you.
Back in November, 1963, their catchy little ditty called "Popsicles and Icicles" hit the pop charts with — as they used to say — a bullet, peaking at an astonishing No. 3. This was in a year when "Surfin' USA" by The Beach Boys, "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis and "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons were also swimming the a.m. airways.
The Murmaids — consisting of sisters Carol and Terry Fischer and friend Sally Gordon — were just California teenagers who loved to sing and hear the sound of their voices blending together.
The Murmaids in 1963.
"Popsicles and Icicles," was recorded on the long-out-of-print label of Chattahoochee Records, who billed the 45 rpm as "The Original Flavored Hit!" It was written by a friend of a friend, 17-year-old David Gates, who would later go on to form Bread.
As the story goes, the trio of girl singers went into the studio, recorded the single and two of them (Terry and Sally) headed back to college, while the youngest, Carol — all of 15 — picked up her books and returned to high school.
OK, so they make the record. It gets all kinds of airplay, which means recording a follow-up. That's called "Heartbreak Ahead." Unfortunately, the fates are not so kind the second time around. The tune sinks, The Murmaids break up and swim to the shores of their separate lives.
Here's the hook: 35 years later they resurface at the opening of a friend's nostalgic record store to sign autographs and, to their surprise, they're popular once more. That was nine years ago. The Murmaids are still together and appear in an oldies show this weekend at Mechanics Hall.
The event is presented by promoter Kevin Huard of Yesterday's Legends, and portions of the show will benefit the Jessika Hayes Children's Fund. He says he booked The Murmaids because he loves how the vocal group sounds and wanted an all-girl group on the bill.
"My godchild, Jessika, used to play ‘Popsicles and Icicles.' That was her favorite song," Huard says. "So after she passed away, I said, ‘I'm going to try and bring them in.' I thought, ‘What's better than The Murmaids?'"
Now, Carol Morrell of the Fischer sisters says, "In a way it was just a blip in my life. There were so many years between when it happened. At the same time, it's amazing. We had no idea. We knew the record went to No. 3. We didn't really understand the impact of that."
The newly constituted Murmaids have had a rotation of "third" singers since Gordon left. These days Suzi Robertson fills that chair. When the group first got back together it was like waterskiing.
"Our voices really haven't changed that much," Carol says. "It's one of the comments we always get: ‘Oh, my god, it sounds just like the original record.'"
The Murmaids have that magical, in-the-blood-harmony. Terry sings lead. Carol hits the high-reaching soprano parts and Suzi's alto tucks in nicely.
"She fits right in," Carol says. "One of the biggest compliments we get is that nobody can pick out who is singing what part."
Cathy’s Clown (right) perform at Yesterday’s Legends with The Murmaids.
Then again, the Fischer sisters come with a pretty serious musical pedigree. Their mom was the first girl singer with The Stan Kenton Orchestra and their grandmother and great aunts were The Locus Sisters, a vaudeville act. Their dad was songwriter Carl Fischer, who penned standards like "You've Changed," first sung by Billie Holiday and "We'll be Together Again," made popular by Frankie Laine.
To this day, The Murmaids don't remember how they came up with the name or why it's spelled that way. Carol once cracked that it may have been because the teenagers didn't really know how to spell "mermaids."
Forty years after recording their hit, the sisters still have no idea how much money "Popsicles" made.
"We had to go to court five years later and ended up getting a pittance," Carol says. "You've heard a million of these stories, but in those days the accounting was a little funny. There was nothing left at the end."
No matter, Carol says — she and her sister have no regrets. "It has enabled us to sing again. That one little record has allowed us to do what we are doing and we are grateful for that. And, we were lucky. We got a pretty good song."
Yesterday's Legends is also working on a Nov. 1 show at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts featuring Fabian, Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland and The Chiffons, among others. o