Girls groups, never really died, and groups of young women took easily to the doo-wop and rock sounds that started emerging in the 1950s. But it took a scandal to really get girl groups going. In 1959, revelations that some radio hosts and other national DJs had accepted cash bribes (“payola”) to play some records on the air and not others led political changes in the commercial landscape of pop.
Instead of allowing local DJs freedom to play what they wanted, radio stations quickly developed “top 40” formats that put pressure on labels to play to the national market. This is how a more standardized, homogenized music was developed, often at the expense of male artists, labels hastened to “clean up” rock music. In their quest to find “cleaner” music that would appeal to a mass, teen audience, they turned to artists they saw as less threatening young women, often black or of mixed race.
Young women appealed to other young women, who could be counted on to spend their money on hit records. They were also cheap to hire and easy to exploit. The malleability of adolescent female singer was attractive to young male producers seeking to establish themselves in the music business…