American Lead Singer in Chart Topping Girl Band has Passed Away

Red Bird Records

Back in the 1960s, Mary Weiss was the lead singer of the girl band the Shangri-Las. The band was best known for their hit songs including “Leader of the Pack” and “Heaven Only Knows.” In addition to performing with the Shangri-Las, Weiss also released one solo album, “Dangerous Game,” in 2007 through Norton Records.

Miriam Linna, who works for Norton Records, confirmed the sad news to Variety that Mary has died. She was 75 years old. Miriam did not mention a cause of death.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Mary was at her home in Palm Springs, California, at the time of her death. Miriam told EW, “It was an honor to work with Mary on her solo album with my record label Norton Records. Her sound and style live forever in the catalog of New York City cool.”

The Shangri-Las were at the peak of their success in 1964 and 1965 before the British invasion. Their songs have been covered by other groups over the years including Blondie and the New York Dolls.

Mary was born and raised in Queens in New York City. She and her sister Betty attended school with twin sisters Margie and Mary-Ann Ganser who would end up forming the Shangri-Las. In 1963 they had their first record deal, releasing “Simon Says.”

“Remember (Walking in the Sand)” propelled them into the spotlight by reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1964. Later that year, “Leader of the Pack” made it to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

At the time of their success, the Shangri-Las were considered to have a tougher image than other girl groups. In response to that, Mary once said, “I’ve heard we were tough, and I just find that so hilarious.” She added, “If you look at the old tapes, I don’t think that word would even come up. Maybe it was the boots.”

Mary was only 15 years old when the band recorded “Remember.” She was only 19 when the group broke up in 1968. Due to lawsuits, she was unable to perform and switched careers, working in architecture and getting married.

Mary explained, “My mother kind of signed my life away when i was 14. There’s a storeroom of litigation up to the ceiling. That’s one of the reasons I walked away. I couldn’t go near another record label for 10 years.”

In 1976, the band got back together, but they didn’t like the songs they recorded and never released them. Learn more about Mary and the Shangri-Las in the video below.