Singer Bonnie Pointer, who co-founded the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters in 1969 with her sister June, died Monday at 69 years old. Expanding to a quartet with the addition of Anita and Ruth Pointer, the group’s early days were notable for their campy chic attire, their vocal style a throwback to the Thirties and Forties. But in 1974, after scoring a hit with the bouncy Allen Toussaint-penned “Yes We Can Can,” the Pointers released the twangy “Fairytale,” which earned them their sole entry on the country chart at Number 37.
The defiant breakup tune, written by Bonnie and Anita, was recorded at Nashville’s historic Quadrophonic Studios and placed alongside the quartet’s jazz, blues and r&b numbers on the group’s That’s a Plenty album. Music City studio stalwarts including bassist Norbert Putnam, piano player David Briggs, drummer Kenny Buttrey, guitarist Bobby Thompson, pedal steel player Weldon Myrick, and fiddle legend Buddy Spicher provided the stone country accompaniment for the track, which peaked at Number 13 on the pop chart and also became a hit in Canada and Australia.
The song’s crossover success also earned the group an invitation to the Grand Ole Opry in October 1974, with Bonnie, Anita and Ruth (June was recuperating from illness and could not attend) becoming the first female African-American vocal group to appear on the long-running radio show. They also made appearances at that month’s DJ convention (known now as Country Radio Seminar) earning an enthusiastic response for their lively performance. “Fairytale” would also inspire an Elvis Presley cover and would earn Bonnie and Anita a Grammy nomination as writers in the Best Country Song category. In addition, the group would win the Grammy for Best Country Group Vocal Performance, another significant first in the genre.
Bonnie would leave the Pointer Sisters to go solo in 1977, earning a huge disco hit with her cover of “Heaven Must Have Sent You” and another with the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).” The Pointers would continue as a trio, scoring major hits throughout the Eighties, including “Slow Hand,” which would also become a Number One country hit for Conway Twitty in 1982. Meanwhile, sister Anita would be the only one to make a return to the country chart with the 1986 Earl Thomas Conley duet “Too Many Times,” which reached Number Two.