Meet The Shaggs! As you know, we frequently refer to the 1960’s as “Thee greatest decade of music in all of history.” There is no question that the musical battle cry for the decade was Quality and Innovation! The Beatles re-set the bar for popular songwriting and composition, while The Beach Boys built an empire on 5 part harmony. as Motown records emerged, giving a new and powerful voice to black music! In the background, soon to be icons, like Clapton, Hendrix, Elton and Stevie are emerging and re-writing the book of quality! The 1960’s was Ground Zero for “The best of the best” and WE, the audience and new generation would tolerate nothing less!
However, no commentary or retrospective of the 1960’s would be prudent and complete if it didn’t acknowledge the one band, the one “UNBELIEVABLE band, that personified the antithesis of all the greatness and quality that populated the music world in the 1960’s!
Have you ever heard, The Shaggs? A band and a story that reads like one of those “Whoppers” your friend who likes to inflate the facts and embellish a story, might try to convince you about. But, The Shaggs are for real!
The Shaggs were an American girl group formed in Fremont, New Hampshire, in 1968. The band was composed of three “plus size” sisters, Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin (vocals/lead guitar), Betty Wiggin (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Helen Wiggin (drums). So far, so good, right? But stay with us dear reader, cuz it does get weird. Among the Wiggin sisters there was ZERO interest and even less ability to pursue any kind of music or performance together or individually! No! The Genesis Of The Shaggs is rooted in their fathers childhood experience. As the story goes, their father, Austin Wiggin was taken to see a Gypsy palm reader one day with his mother and the Gypsy told the young Austin that one day he would grow up to marry a strawberry blonde haired woman and have three daughters who would become a famous musical act, so as Austin grew up, met “The Strawberry Blonde” and had three daughters, the rest was quite simply DESTINY! Whether his girls had any talent or interest or not! And they had neither, But Austin set about making the Gypsys’ prediction come true, he withdrew his daughters from school, bought them instruments, and arranged for them to receive music and vocal lessons. The Wiggin sisters themselves never planned to become a music group, but as Dot later said, “Dad was something of a disciplinarian. He was stubborn and he could be temperamental. He directed. We obeyed. Or did our best.”Austin named The Shaggs after the then-popular shag hairstyle and as a reference to shaggy dogs.In 1968, Austin arranged for the girls to play a regular Saturday night gig at the Fremont, New Hampshire Town Hall, where the sisters actually developed a following of mostly older folks! Undaunted, Austin, persisted and met a local “studio owner”, where he made a deal, paying the man $1000 for a couple of days of studio time and 1000 pressings of their recording. Once the record was finished, the “Studio owner” mysteriously disappeared and has never been heard from, however he left behind 100 copies of The Shaggs first studio attempt, called “Philosophy Of The World” Austin proceeded to spend the coming weeks traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard playing philosophy Of The World to every radio station/ record retailer or anyone who’d listen. Sadly, for Austin, no one could believe what they heard or had any interest in The Shaggs! Austin died in 1973 and, not surprisingly Dorothy, Betty and Helen disbanded The Shaggs as soon as Austin was gone!
However, as you can imagine, even with only 100 copies of the original record in existence, the myth and legend of The Shaggs took off like Wildfire. Their story initially gained national attention when in the mid Seventies a local L.A. Disc Jockey, Dr. Demento had Frank Zappa on his show and Zappa played “Philosophy Of The World, professing his love for it! Rolling Stone heard about the girls and included a full length article on them, summarizing by saying The Shaggs were the embodiment of a lobotomized Trapp Family. ( Cruel, but clever)
before his death Kurt Cobain praised The Shaggs and claimed that Philosophy of the World was one of his top five favorite records! ( really Kurt?)
Yes, we know there is a long list of “Bad bands and artists” from the 60’s but The Shaggs top our list cuz they were “The worst of the worst” and you’ll never quite understand until you have seen and heard The Shaggs! And that’s why we’re here! Take a listen and tell us what YOU think!
Live off the floor, or overdubs? What do you think folks? And have these people not heard of Pro Tools?
First and foremost Welcome to SMS! As to your question, the Shaggs appeared in 1968, so at that point “Pro Tools were merely some Tech guy’s dream! The girls father did claim he put them in a local studio, so overdubs were possible, but I believe it was as you said “Live on the floor”!
Great to have you join in the conversation! Please don’t be a stranger!
Rick / SMS
Thanks Rick, and just for the record, I was being facetious about the Pro Tools thing. Cheers!
I guess all I have to say about The Shaggs recording is bad, bad, and worse! Hard to even get through 1 minute.
But, here’s the weird irony about
The Shaggs, Of course you hated them! THEY ARE AWFUL! But, admit it, you actually are interested in going back and listening to them again, arn’t cha?
Yeah, it happens to everyone!
I think the tape’s running backwards.
Funny you should say that, if you Google The Shaggs, you can find a site that plays The Shaggs backwards!
But, you probably know that!
No Rick, I hadn’t seen that; but now that you’ve mention it I found it on Youtube. From the comments there a lot of people have had the same impression. The drumming improves a little bit, but the rest of it sounds about the same, forward or backward.
The “Magic” that is The Shaggs!