One of the most interesting things I discovered whilst writing the feature on André Cymone was that he had also helped form a group called The Girls, and Cymone’s drummer hooked me up with their album ‘Girl Talk’. Two tracks immediately stood out – ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ and ‘S.E.S.E.X.’ (included below). Germain Brooks, one of the members of this group, got in touch with me via the comments section of that Cymone piece, resulting in this little interview. In order to add some extra background I’ve also included some quotes from all three members of the group from a feature written at the time in Rock ’N Soul magazine – these old quotes are highlighted in pink.
‘S.E.S.E.X.’, The Girls, Columbia, 1984
Following the success of The Mary Jane Girls and Vanity 6, forming a sexy girl group must have seemed like the logical next step for André Cymone. But instead of being yet another lingerie-clad group, the members of The Girls had other ideas; Doris explained, “unlike Apollonia 6, we can sing; and though we sing about sexual things we do it with more taste than they do.” Germain agreed, “we don’t have to come out in negligees or in our underwear to get people excited. We can sing in blue jeans and still get off. See, we’re not nasty girls or nasty anything. We’re singing from the heart.”
Sheila Rankin, Germain Brooks and Doris Ann Rhodes, who were 17, 18 and 19 respectively when they formed the group, had all been singing since childhood. Germain remembers; “we all started out as solo artists. I was singing with local bands in clubs and several of the local musicians would come and listen. André would often come out as well and he told me he was working with Doris, whom I had not yet met. However, I expressed interest in working with him as well. A while later, Sheila moved to Minneapolis, and began singing with me in The Style Band. She and I had great chemistry so I thought it would be a good idea to form a group. I brought up the idea to André and he was cool with it so we tried it.”
Sheila (in black) and Germain, with Gerry Hubbard on bass
At that time, Doris was already in her own all-girl group called Fantasy. Cymone had originally intended to produce her as a solo act, but saw the potential of getting all three singers together, and the result was ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ which, like most of The Girls’ songs, was co-written by Cymone with his keyboardist Craig Thomas, and recorded at American Artists Studios in Minneapolis. “We collaboratively brought our vocal abilities to the mix. We were always sure of our sound and image, and we understood André and where he was going with his music, and that was to be different and eclectic. We always had his back and believed in him.”
One of The Girls’ best tracks was ‘S.E.S.E.X’, a taut piece of electrofunk that ranks amongst the best that Cymone ever produced. Controversial at the time, The Girls were unapologetic; “We sing about what people our age are talking about and doing,” said Sheila, Germain adding, “the reality of a girl wanting to get as much out of a sexual experience as a boy shouldn’t offend anybody.”
All three girls also provided backing vocals for the André Cymone-produced cuts on Evelyn “Champagne” King’s 1983 album, ‘Face To Face’. The Girls project lasted approximately two years, from 1983-85, and they only released one album through Columbia Records, ‘Girl Talk’. “Our career as a group was very short lived. When the first single came out the label seemed a bit excited, but they didn’t promote us. Our management was also lacking and things just dissolved and we all went our separate ways. We never shot any video footage; sad huh?”
Germain (hanging on to the rails), Sheila (in leopard vest) and fellow Minneapolis scenesters
Whilst it’s a shame that no video and very few photos exist, the main thing is the music and their important contribution to Minneapolis funk history. “At that time the Minneapolis scene was hot and people were moving here to get discovered. I am very proud to have been a part of it. Most of the groups hung out and supported each other; we never really saw any other girl groups as rivals. We were different and just wanted to be ourselves.”
Club photography by Charles Chamblis.