While Dusty Springfield is best remembered for the iconic pop singles she released in the '60s and her masterful 1969 album Dusty in Memphis, she first found fame with the trio the Springfields, whose canny blend of light pop and folk earned them a handful of hits in both Great Britain and the United States. The Springfields featured Mary O'Brien and her older brother Dion O'Brien; Mary began singing while a student at St. Anne's Convent in West London, and later became a member of the vocal group the Lana Sisters. Dion, meanwhile, played with a variety of groups while a student, and after a hitch in the British military he formed a folk duo with Tim Feild. Looking to expand the group's sound, Dion invited Mary to join the group, and they adopted new stage names; Mary became Dusty Springfield, while her brother became Tom Springfield. Harmonizing on folk standards with the accompaniment of two guitars and a set of conga drums (usually played by Feild), the group adopted the name the Springfields and soon found an appreciative audience playing the Butlins holiday camp circuit. The Springfields were spotted by an A&R man for Philips Records, and released their first single in 1961; "Dear John," adapted from an old folk tune with a pop-friendly arrangement, was a major chart hit, and by the end of the year the group had landed two more singles in the charts, "Breakaway" and "Bambino," as well as their own music series of BBC television. In 1962, their debut album Kinda Folksy was a British hit and their recording of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" was released in the United States by Mercury Records; it became a surprise chart success in the U.S. 18 months before the Beatles officially launched the British Invasion. Late in 1962, Feild left the group after his wife developed a serious medical condition; he quit the music business and would later become a devout Sufi Muslim, writing a number of books on the faith under the name Reshad Field. Mike Hurst (aka Mike Longhurst-Pickworth) took over as the third member of the Springfields, and in early 1963 the group landed their biggest British hit, "Island of Dreams." The group's success in the United States led the Springfields to record their album Folk Songs from the Hills in Nashville, TN, where Dusty first discovered the soul music that would soon become her passion. While the group enjoyed several more British hits in 1963, Dusty wanted to record soulful pop material while Tom insisted the group retain its folk-oriented sound, and rather than compromise, the siblings opted to fold the group, announcing the split on an October 1963 installment of the wildly popular British variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. A few final sides were released in early 1964, shortly after Dusty Springfield's first solo single, "I Only Want to Be with You," had become a smash. Tom Springfield went on to a successful career as a songwriter and recorded a pair of solo albums in the '70s, while Hurst would briefly front a band called the Method before establishing himself as a producer. ~ Mark Deming, RoviPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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