Give It Up Girl: Story Of The Allan Sisters
The Allan Sisters were originally from Edmonton, Alberta. They began singing in their youth; Jackie began first, at the age of 7 and Coralie followed soon after. They'd start doing shows in their hometown under the "Allan Sisters" moniker and as their popularity grew locally, across Alberta; slowly making a name for themselves. In their early/pre-teen years they'd briefly join a singing group known as "The Four Tops" (before the famous U.S. group would get their start). The group tried to garner a following and record but after disappointments at every turn; the Sisters would leave and regroup under their previous name.
Barely out of their teens, Jackie and Coralie saw little opportunity for themselves left in Edmonton. After little debate they'd move to Canada's musical hub at the time, Toronto; hoping to find success as a Country duo.
Soon after getting settled in Toronto in the early 1960's, the sisters would be introduced to local music mogul Art Snider. Art was musical director on CBC's Country Hoedown show as well as running his own label, Chateau Records. He saw promise in the girls and quickly set to work getting them studio time. Their first recording would be done in the US for Shell Records. They were billed on the label of their lone 45 for the company as "the Allen Sisters" rather than "The Allan Sisters." Both sides would be written by Gary Klein and Henry Hoffman.
Their debut recording "Larry/Never On Saturday" was released on June 15th 1964. The Country-tinged, girl-group ditty "Larry" on the A-Side managed to climb to #35 on the CHUM Charts late that summer; as well as in a few other markets. This minor success gave them the cushioning to start their professional career.
Art Snider signed them to his newly founded ACT (All Canadian Talent) label in August 1964. From the start, Art and Jackie began a courtship that would quickly turn into marriage. They would go on to have 3 children before the end of the 1960’s.
After watching the minor success of "Larry" Art frustratingly came to the conclusion that the single may have performed better if it were not for the current "Beatlemania" craze ravaging the world. The explosion of the British music market worldwide, with other groups like The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermit's The Animals and so many others as a result, would give Art the idea to bring the girls along with Pat Hervey (who he'd also recently signed) to the UK to record a number of singles. With the 3 girls in tow, they'd jet off to England in October to record twelve songs in a three-hour span, making them the first Canadians to record there.
This would be the Allan Sisters introduction to Canadian songwriter Al Rain, who would work with the girls a number of times throughout the mid-to-late 1960’s. Al would become known to the world in later years as Canada's top purveyor of "Northern Soul," but would never get his proper due in his years of action. He's wrote singles for Pat Hervey, Bev Marie, 2 of the 3 singles by The Tiaras, Grant Smith & The Power, and many others.
Upon their arrival back in Canada in early November, a press statement was made regarding the newly recorded material. On November 30th an official press release would come out announcing that "Mr. Special/Wherever You Are" had hit store shelves. The single would perform well across Canada charting in multiple markets. The follow-up on the label, Pat Hervey's "Think About Me/I'll Count Every Hour," released on December 21st 1964, would also perform well on the charts.
The early months of 1965 would see Art Snider's ACT label merge with Stan Klees' Tamarac label and Duff Roman's Mostoway Productions to form Red Leaf Records. This would serve as a place to release most of the remaining 6-8 singles recorded by Pat Hervey and The Allan Sisters. With the unified release and distribution methods, many of these singles would see national chart success.
The Allan Sisters would release "Remember The Face/In My Diary" followed by "Your Kind Of Love/Lonely World" in 1965. Both would have chart success in various markets across the country. They'd tour briefly throughout Canada in the latter part of the year. Their greatest success would come the following year with a pair of singles for Quality Records, as well as numerous TV show appearances across Canada.
In early 1966 they'd get off to a rocky start, at least compared to their previous successes. Their first single for Quality Records "Dream Boy/Devil To Angel" failed to chart, leaving the girls in a bit of a bind; but it wasn't to last.
Their following single “I’m In With The Downtown Crowd/Give It Up Girl” would go on to become a minor hit, but more importantly, would go on to be one of the best examples of Canadian produced Northern Soul. It caught the ear of a few Northern soul obsessives over in the UK, where its rarity and quality have it trading for nearly 1000USD. These collectors and DJ’s, interestingly, are the main reason that The Allan Sisters have any notoriety outside of Canada and let’s be thankful for that.
Before the end of the year, The Allan Sisters would have a chance to appear on CTV's A Go-Go '66. Their appearance caught the attention of Tommy Hunter, who would feature them on his popular Tommy Hunter Show for nearly 12 years. Also, Art Snider would use the minor success of a few of his signed acts to found Canadian recording studio and company “Sound Canada Recording Centre.” The studio was located at 1262 Don Mills Rd. in Toronto.
The next two years would be fairly uneventful for the girls; in terms of music. Coralie would go on to marry future Rockadrome bassist Paul LaChapelle in early 1967; having two kids. They’d release no singles, and would only make a few small TV and live performances; focusing on their families.
The latter half of 1968 was one of planning and scheming for Art. He wanted to take another stab at starting a label and would found OP-ART in September 1968. He was after that elusive big hit; one that would continue to evade him for the rest of his career. This was a short-lived label that released only a few singles in 1968 and early 1969. On the roster was Wayne McGhie, The Tiaras, Ron Russell and finally The Luv-Lites (backing band for the Tiaras). Their only single on the label “Silly Jilly/Drummer Man” sunk like a stone upon release. This was most likely due to the fact that Silly Jilly, at least compared to its B-Side, is not a good song. If the sides were flipped, it’s likely the single could have had some minor success. Drummer Man is a powerful tune; featuring wild dual-man drumming on top of funky strutting guitar and booming bass. Originally recorded by Nancy Sinatra, their version blows Nancy’s out of the water; hands down!
Art refused to give up and after growing tired of OP-ART, would perhaps crazily, start another record label. Sound Canada was founded in early-1969 and would become the flagship label for his studio/company “Sound Canada Recording Centre.” As with all other labels he’d lead, The Allan Sisters were always his first priority. He wasted no time getting them into the studio to record their debut album “Jackie & Coralie.” 11 songs were recorded using the excellent musicianship of local psych-rockers Rockadrome; formed in 1968 and would soon record their impossibly rare album for the same label.
The first release on the newly founded Sound Canada label, was The Allan Sisters “Lily The Pink/Jinny Jo.” This single was heavily promoted and would go on to be a minor hit in some markets across the country. The album would follow about two months later, but would fail to have similar success. It’s quite rare to come by these days and commands three-figure sums.
Before the end of the decade, Art would temporarily license their material to Jack Boswell’s Paragon Records. A compilation of previously-released material was quickly cobbled together; featuring both Quality Records singles, as well as individual songs from their numerous releases on other labels.
Their successes had caught the attention of Tommy Hunter who thought they’d be a good fit for his show. The Tommy Hunter Show, began in 1960; replacing the show “Happy Gang.” After his prominence on the CBC-TV “Country Hoedown” show for four years, Tommy was given his show. His, much like the show before it, was a country variety show featuring comedy and various musical performers. It went on to replace Country Hoedown on CBC Television in 1965; Hunter's show was picked up by TNN in 1983 and ran on CBC until 1992.
The show eased their return to their country roots; allowing them to get comfortable in the genre again. By 1971 they had fully tilted towards country music, signing with Arpeggio Records. They’d go on to release two singles and an album for the label in 1972, having minor success. This would garner them notoriety from the CBC and they would host their own Christmas Special in 1972 “The Allan Sisters Christmas Special.”
The following years would see them continue to perform on the Tommy Hunter Show, as well as do minor tours throughout Ontario, Alberta and the Maritimes. 1976 would see them release a pair of singles for the Snocan Studios label.
Around this time they would begin their association with the Edmonton vocal pop group Cloudburst. This consisted of vocalist and keyboardist Rob Bryanton, vocalist/piano/synth player Roberta Nichol, guitarist and vocalist Jack Semple and drummer Brent Burlingham. They would become the girls backing band; touring, contributing backing vocals, playing the instruments and even writing some of the songs on the girls’ albums over their brief time together.
The sisters left the Tommy Hunter Show in March 1977 to again pursue their solo career. They’d go on to self-release two albums with Cloudburst throughout the late 1970’s; the pop oriented Smile in 1978, and the gospel tinged double album Precious Moments in 1980. They’d tour to support these releases with Cloudburst until 1983, but this is where their releases stop.
In 1983, they decided to go their separate ways for a number of reasons. After nearly two decades in the business, it seems enough was enough. Jackie continued to tour western Canada until cancer was diagnosed later that yea; she’d pass away in 1984.
Coralie did some touring around Ontario that year, but stopped to establish herself in a business career. She’d establish herself and joined Splendid Entertainment in 1986 with Peter Glen for the show "Hits Of The Blitz". She continued with Splendid Entertainment doing various nostalgia dinner/cabaret shows around Muskoka, Toronto and the northeast U.S. until moving to North Vancouver in 2000.
Throughout their career, the girls would have moderate success throughout Canada and even had brief success in the UK where they were able to tour and record. They represented the pop meets soul, girl group aesthetic that has grown in popularity over the decades. A few of their releases now command huge amounts due to rarity and quality. They were truly one in a million.
WRITTEN & RESEARCHED BY: AARON LUSCH