Nedra Talley Ross' life has not followed the path of the typical rock star.
Although she is an original member of the groundbreaking trio The Ronettes, her career as a chart-topping pop singer was essentially over by 1966 - a mere three years after the group's first single "Be My Baby" reached No. 2 on the pop charts.
This past Tuesday, "Be My Baby" was among several songs selected for the National Recording Registry, a sound archive.
The group she formed in New York City with her cousins Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett and Estelle Bennett called it quits in 1966 - at least partly due to the pressures applied by the group's famous producer Phil Spector, who was indicted for murder in 2003 in the death of actress Lana Clarkson and is still awaiting trial.
Today, she is a businesswoman working in real estate and a grandmother. She and her husband, Scott Ross, live in Virginia Beach, just across the line from Chesapeake. At least a few times a year she sings - either as part of oldies revues or at Christian music shows organized through CBN.
But the national spotlight is about to shine on her once again.
On Monday in New York City, she and her fellow Ronettes will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.We recently sat down with Ross at The Founders Inn to talk about the honor, her life here in Virginia and her early years as a trend-setting rocker.
Daily Press: You grew up in New York City. What exactly brought you to Virginia?
Nedra Talley Ross: I came to Virginia at age 21 to join Pat Robertson ... I came with my husband, Scott Ross, a disc jockey out of New York. I was a rock singer out of New York. I had had an encounter with the Lord. We wanted to get out of the city and we wanted to do something that way, kind of get our footing. Pat and Scott, they hit it off right at the beginning.
DP: How did you feel when you heard The Ronettes would be inducted into the hall of fame?NTR: I'm walking through to my sitting room and Scott says, "Darling, did you hear the good news?" I said, "What good news?" He said, "You're inducted." I let out this scream that rattled the house. I didn't know I had it in me. And then I broke down and cried. So I guess it was all there. But it had been emotions and feelings that I had just sort of been put to the side. You know, not everybody gets it the first time up.
We had been hearing rumors for the last couple of years that Phil [Spector] was stonewalling us, out of his bad blood with his ex-wife, my cousin Veronica We knew that he was really pulling a lot of strings But you know what? Timing is the main thing. God must have wanted it to be at this time in my life, not five years ago. So I'm very, very excited about it now.
DP: Will the group reunite for the ceremony?
NTR: I really don't know what we are doing yet. I've been in touch with them and they're trying to work some things out. So, at this point, I'm getting material for the video that they're putting together which they'll play the night of the event, live performance pictures ... But as far as a reunion, a true reunion, if we're singing, what we're doing, I'm not sure. We're working on that. [Since this interview took place, Ross has said that she will reunite and sing with her fellow Ronettes at the ceremony].
DP: What video did you find?
NTR: There's an early home movie of us at the Brooklyn Fox Theater, where they had the big New York rock 'n' roll shows. That's not public, it's not been out there. That's going to be new. I knew we could shake it, but I didn't think we shook it that fast!
DP: The Ronettes have been described as the first bad girls of rock. How did you get that reputation?
NTR: It wasn't that we were bad, it was just that we were the ones with the big beehives. We developed our hairstyle, the beehive, the dark eye makeup ... We set the mode for the big hair, we set the mode for the dark eye makeup. Then, we were dancers, too. So we wore a lot of dresses that had a slit on the side. In the '60s, a lot of the dresses were very tapered down at the leg. We had to have a slit for dancing. We were the first to do the shaking, with the fringe. We had the outfits that had the fringe. Also, our songs sang to boys, where other girl groups sang about boys.
DP: I understand you met the Beatles in England early on.
NTR: The record company was like, "There's a group here, The Beatles, and they really want to meet you." So they gave us a party when we went there. We had a great time and hung out. They sort of welcomed us to England. We didn't know who they were except that they were a group in England ... We were on tour with The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones. We headlined. It was really funny, coming from America where everybody dressed really sharp, the guys wore the sharkskin suits. We go over there, and we were hanging out with the Stones, and it's getting close to showtime. We said, "We're going to go get dressed." They were like, "Oh, we're ready." They had on street clothes, looking quite shabby. We were like, "Don't you need to change?" They were like, "No."
DP: Did you have a favorite Rolling Stone?
NTR: I dated Brian [Jones] for actually just a short period of time. It was nothing major. Actually, we went on a double date with the man who is now my husband ... It was like this: You didn't get a chance to date the boy next door because you were never home. The only people you could even look at were those who you would maybe see on a tour ... Brian was very, very easy going, soft-spoken, gentle. He had a moody side. But he was just a very nice guy. It was very devastating when he died. He was so young.
DP: What was your impression of Phil Spector?
NTR: I liked Phil. Phil has a very likable side. He is and was a boy genius. But with that came that side that could be the crazy side, too. The crazy side was maybe us going out, him having body guards.Phil was small in stature. I think he had issues with his smallness. So he would travel with bodyguards. He would literally pick a fight and then have the bodyguards appear, you know ... I did not agree with the involvement that happened between him and my cousin [Ronnie], because he was married. To this day, I believe, when somebody's married you don't get involved ... Then, I began to see the possessive side. On tour, he would call my cousin all through the night. These are the signs. Now they say, be aware, when someone is calling you all night long, you should see that as a problem.
DP: Do you miss your rock 'n' roll days?
NTR: I've got the best of everything now. I love being married. I love being a mother. It's wonderful being a grandmother. I do business, I buy, sell, trade I do it all. I have everything, a great core of friends who have been my friends for 40 years. You can't do better than that.The Lord keeps me very grounded. I know that it's all temporary. It's not show business. It's living life with people who care about you, and living life for other people. I hold dear to history and memories and sharing life. My approval comes that way. I appreciate any acknowledgement of who I am, but I don't need it to make me happy.
In a ceremony Monday at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct The Ronettes along with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, R.E.M, Patti Smith and Van Halen.
The ceremony will be broadcast live starting 8:30 p.m. on VH1 Classic and MHD, MTV Networks' new high-definition music channel. The festivities will be simultaneously streamed on AOL at spinner.aol.com/rockhall.
An edited version of the program will air on VH1 at 9 p.m. Saturday.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times