Famous 1950s Singer Passes Away After Long Battle with Dementia

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May 09, 2018May 09, 2018

Gayle Shepard, who was best known as a member of the vocal quartet "the Shepard Sisters," died on Monday morning at a care facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

The 81-year-old passed away after a long and difficult battle with dementia, according to her daughter, Dina Miller. 

The New York Times writes that Sheperd was the youngest of eight siblings. She grew up in Middletown, Ohio, where she and her two sisters would often perform locally as the Shepard Sisters while teenagers. Her sisters, Martha and Marylou, would often sing back up while Gayle would sing lead. 

It was in the 1950s that their group had a major breakthrough. This happened while they performed on the variety show "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts," which pits young musicians against each other. The group had a very harmonious style, typical of popular girl groups during the 1950s, which viewers absolutely loved. 

Their first regional hit was in 1956 — they sang the 1937 song "Gone with the Wind," which garnered the attention of Dick Clark. The sisters then went on to appear repeatedly on his television show "American Bandstand." 

By the 1960s, the sisters stopped performing and began to settle down.

Joyce Shepherd was born in Middletown on May 31, 1936, to Douglas and Pearl Sheperd. Joyce's father was s steelworker and her mother was a homemaker. She graduated from Middletown High School before her singing career took off. 

Sheperd married record producer Jimmy Miller, who worked with the Rolling Stones, in the early 1960s. Their marriage eventually ended in divorce, and about a decade later Sheperd married Martin Vale, from whom she eventually separated. 

She is survived by her sister Marylou Brooks. 

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