Sweet Inspirations were founded by Cissy Houston’ [mother of Whitney Houston, and sister of Lee Warrick ‘herself the mother of well-known Dionne Warwick’). And Sylvia Shemwell
Myrna Smith. Estelle Brown joined the team soon after, and the line-up that was to become an Atlantic recording
group was set.
The group sang backup for many stars, including
Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Esther Phillips and Aretha Franklin.
In a recording session on March 28, 1967, The Sweet Inspirations provided the back up vocals for Van Morrison on his classic hit "Brown Eyed Girl". It was released in June 1967 and rose to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. In October 2007, Morrison was awarded a Million-Air certificate by BMI for 8 million air plays of "Brown Eyed Girl"
The Sweet Inspirations recorded by themselves for the first time in April 1967 for Atlantic Records. That session produced the first two singles released by Atlantic, a version of "Why (Am I Treated
So Bad)," a song previously recorded by The Staple Singers and a soulful version of "Let It Be Me", a French song which had been a pop and R&B hit
for Betty Everett & Jerry Butler in 1964.
Though their first singles lacked
much chart success, Atlantic was committed to the group, and an August session in Memphis yielded the bulk of songs used for the group’s self-titled debut album, released in the late
fall of 1967.
Within a month of their chart climb,
the group began work on their second album - a gospel record entitled Songs Of Faith & Inspiration. It was released
in 1968 Shortly after cutting the gospel set, the group was back in Atlantic’s studios
to record their third album. The late April session yielded a version of The Bee Gees’ "To Love Somebody", which became the group’s fourth R&B chart hit, and a
version of The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody," which surprisingly gave the group a charted, though minor hit.
In 1968, the group did studio work on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland
album, performing backing vocals for the track "Burning of the Midnight Lamp."
In 1969, The Sweet Inspirations began working with Elvis Presley as both background singers and his warm-up act, as well as doing occasional ‘live’ dates
with Aretha Franklin.
The Sweet Inspirations’ fourth
album was recorded in February 1969 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section, who had played on hit recordings by a number of acts including
Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter.
recording session with The Sweet Inspirations was in October 1969, since she wanted to pursue a solo career and concentrate on her family. The session produced the group’s
biggest R&B hit in some time. A Gamble & Huff composition, "Gotta Find Me A Brand New Lover" appeared on
the group’s fifth album (Sweet Sweet Soul).
of the album was recorded in November 1970, with Sylvia, Estelle, Myrna and new member Ann Williams, a friend of Estelle’s who stayed for
what turned out to be the group’s last full Atlantic album. Also included from that set are "That’s The Way
My Baby Is", and "Flash In The Pan". Ann disappeared during a tour with Elvis Presley and did not return to
A final Atlantic session in June 1970 brought the group (now a trio with Estelle, Myrna, and Sylvia) its last two singles for the label:
"This World" (from the musical "The Me Nobody Knows"), and "Evidence".
In 1973, Estelle, Myrna, and Sylvia recorded an album for Stax Records. By 1979, Estelle had quit the group and was replaced by Gloria Brown, who toured with them but didn’t
sing on The Sweet Inspirations’ last LP, Hot Butterfly, on RSO, with singer Pat Terry featured on the actual recording. They group broke up shortly thereafter.
In 1978, the group sang backing vocals on Frankie Valli's No.1 hit "Grease" from the film of the same name.
The Sweet Inspirations (Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia) got back together again in 1994, with new member Portia Griffin. They perform at Elvis Presley convention and tribute shows none more
bigger than the ‘Elvis the concert experience’ where past members of Elvis’s group perform live on stage
with Elvis on the big screen. Soon to be back on tour in europe in 2010.
suffered a stroke in 2001 that kept her from performing with the group. and on February 13, 2010 Sylvia passed away.
In 2004 Kelvin Ford of ‘yesterday once more’ invited the
sweet inspirations over to the uk to perform back up vocals for Colin Paul and the persuaders. And on the 15th
september live in great yarmouth’ Colin Paul and the persuaders and the sweet inspirations took to the stage to what
was to become a memorable show. So much so that the following year at the same venue on the same date' a packed house
witnessed a second and far superior show.b oth shows were filmed and On returning to the united states, myrna smith personally
phoned Colin paul and told him that out of everybody they had worked with’ he had the most sincere and closest
voice to Elvis. Then thanked him for a wonderful show. Colin has remained in contact with the girls and plans are in place
to work with the sweets again soon.
in 2009 Portia’ Myrna and Estelle recorded a new album 'in the right place' and an Ep of
six classic Elvis songs. entitled The Sweets sing Elvis.
In February 2010 while on tour with Elvis The
Concert in the uk Myrna took ill and On Christmas Eve 2010
69-year-old Myrna Smith passed
away in a hospital in Los Angeles.
on a personal note The best shows
I ever did were with The Sweets, I will eternally be grateful for their friendship and the wonderful shows I did with them.