Passings: Shirley Gunter of the Queens and the Flairs

Shirley Gunter, who was an early groundbreaking female singer, died on Tuesday in Las Vegas at the age of 82.

Gunter was born in Coffeyville, KY in 1934 and move to Los Angeles with her family at the age of eight. In 1953, she began her professional music career when her older brother, Cornelius Gunter, took took to Flair Records who recorded and released two solo singers.

The next year, Gunter formed her own group, The Four Queens, credited as being one of the first in R&B that was made up of all women. The four members wrote the song Oop Shoop and took it to their label who arranged the tune and recorded it, releasing the record in August 1954 under the name Shirley Gunter & the Queens.

The song was a major R&B hit, rising to number 8 but, before it could cross over to the pop charts, the Crew Cuts recorded it much like they had previously released the song's inspiration, Sh-Boom.

Gunter stayed with the Queens for four more singles, none of which charted, and a couple of tours before leaving to join her brother's group The Flairs although the new version of the group didn't produce any hits.

In 1958, Gunter left the music business except for an occasional show through the years. She later suffered from blindness but continued to be involved in music through her church in Las Vegas.

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