National News

Gayle Shepherd of the Singing Shepherd Sisters Dies at 81

Posted May 8, 2018 7:37 p.m. EDT

Gayle Shepherd, a member of the vocal quartet the Shepherd Sisters, best known for the 1957 hit “Alone (Why Must I Be Alone),” died on Monday at a care facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was 81.

Her daughter, Dina Miller, said the cause was dementia.

Shepherd, the second youngest of eight siblings, grew up singing in church in Middletown, Ohio. She and two sisters, Martha and MaryLou, performed locally as the Shepherd Sisters beginning when they were teenagers, with Gayle often singing lead.

Their group had their breakthrough in the mid-1950s performing on the variety show “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” which pitted young musicians against one another.

They had a harmonious style typical of the popular girl groups of the 1950s and ‘60s. Their first regional hit, in 1956, was a version of the 1937 song “Gone With the Wind” (not related to the film or novel of the same title). The song drew the attention of Dick Clark, and the sisters went on to appear repeatedly on his TV show “American Bandstand.”

They added a fourth sister, Judith, to the group in 1957 and released their biggest hit, the yearning but upbeat “Alone,” written by Morty and Selma Craft, which reached No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. The song was later recorded by the Four Seasons and Petula Clark.

The Shepherd Sisters went on to perform on Alan Freed’s “America’s Greatest Teenage Recording Stars” concert tour, alongside rock ‘n’ roll luminaries like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. They recorded more than 20 more singles, among them “Congratulations to Someone” and “Don’t Mention My Name,” and performed at the Apollo Theater in New York and nightclubs and casinos in Reno, Nevada, and Las Vegas.

They stopped performing and recording in the mid-1960s after they decided to settle down.

Joyce Gayle Shepherd was born in Middletown on May 31, 1936, to Douglas and Pearl Shepherd. Her father was a steelworker, her mother a homemaker. She graduated from Middletown High School before her singing career took off.

Shepherd married record producer Jimmy Miller, best known for his work with the Rolling Stones, in the early 1960s. That marriage ended in divorce. About a decade later she married Martin Vale, from whom she later separated.

In addition to her husband and daughter, a singer and producer who spells her professional name Deena, Shepherd is survived by her sister MaryLou Brooks. Her sister Martha died in 1992, her sister Judith in 2009.