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The Flirtations (previously The Gypsies) are an all-female musical group who have recorded since the early 1960s.

Members And Past Members
    Ernestine Pearce
    Shirley Pearce
    Viola Billups
    Past members
    Leslie Johnson
    Loretta Noble

In 1962 in New York, four women from South Carolina formed The Gypsies. They were Lestine Johnson and sisters Ernestine Pearce, Shirley Pearce and Betty Pearce.

In 1964 they signed to Old Town Records, where they released their debut single "Hey There, Hey There". The song achieved airplay only on local radio stations, but their next single — the J.J. Jackson-written "Jerk It" — was more successful, reaching 111 (pop) and 33 (R&B) in the spring of 1965. Flirtations Despite the relative success of "Jerk It", Lestine Johnson left the group, replaced by Viola Billups. The Gypsies released only two singles on Old Town Records in 1966, giving them a total of four.

Now on Josie Records, the four women renamed themselves The Flirtations and released the well-regarded northern soul dancer "Change My Darkness Into Light". It was ignored by DJs and sales suffered. The quartet then moved to Festival Records, where they released "Stronger Than Her Love" and "Settle Down" as a single, which failed to spark much interest.

Betty Pearce left the group, reducing the Flirtations to a trio. After winning a small local talent contest in 1968 to see who could sound the most like the Supremes, they packed their bags and headed for England, where they signed to the Parrot label, joining artists like Tom Jones. Their only release was "Someone Out There" backed with "How Can You Tell Me?". Although the song received more airplay and recognition than their other singles, it did little.

In late 1968 the trio signed with Deram Records and released what would become their signature recording: "Nothing But A Heartache" — a dense, dynamic, earth-shattering melodrama produced by Englishman Wayne Bickerton and written by Bickerton with Tony Waddington. The B-side was a Christmas song, "Christmastime Is Here Again". In early 1969 the record was released in the United States, but with "How Can You Tell Me?" as the B-side. In March "Nothing But A Heartache" entered the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 34 in May and remaining on the Hot 100 for a then-impressive 14 weeks. The single also reached 31 in Cash Box. Reminiscent of mid-60s Supremes – particularly "Stop! In the Name of Love" — the single is now generally regarded as a pop and northern soul classic.

The Flirtations

The follow-up was less of a dance tune than the previous single. "South Carolina" was a ballad that reached only 111 pop in July 1969. In 1970, "Keep On Searching" was released and did nothing. However, this may have been due to confusion over whether the newest single was "Searching" or "What's Good About Goodbye My Love". The latter rocketed to 17 R&B in early 1970, but failed to make a dent in the pop charts. In July 1970 the trio scored another hit with the original version of Tom Jones's "Can't Stop Loving You". The song made 96 in Cash Box.

1971 saw their sixth and last Deram single, "Give Me Love" (not the George Harrison song). Taken from their 1970 LP Sounds Like the Flirtations, it did not do well in the charts. The rest of their singles were not released in the U.S. Loretta Noble replaced Viola Billups in 1972. Viola Billups embarked on a solo career as Vie and as Pearly Gates. During 1971 & 1972, the group were the resident vocal band on the long running BBC TV series The Cliff Richard Show, backing Cliff on various numbers, performing their own songs and supporting other guests on the show.

The Flirtations sang high energy songs such as "Earthquake" (1983), "Read All About It" (1986) and "Back On My Feet Again" (1989), the latter reuniting Viola with the Pearce sisters.

The band were rediscovered in the disco and northern soul circuits of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the U.S.. In the UK "Nothing But A Heartache" was used in an advertising campaign for KFC and in 2007 was covered by The Freemasons. Ernestine Pearce can be seen at various venues along with Clem Curtis and Jimmy James as part of "The Soul Explosion" tour.

With Ian Levine forming his label Centre City Records, 2007, the ladies recorded regularly for the label compilations. In 2009, they released their first single in 20 years, Roulette, produced by Soren Jensen for Night Dance Records, including mixes and a music video. The track peaked at 10 in Music Week's Commercial Pop Club Chart by December 2009.

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