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The Shaggs

The Shaggs are an American musical group. Its membership includes:

  • Betty Wiggin Porter - rhythm guitar
  • Dorothy Wiggin Semprini - lead guitar and vocals
  • Helen Wiggin - drums
  • Rachel Wiggin - bass guitar

The idea of the Shaggs is older than the girls themselves. When the girls' father, Austin Wiggin, was young, his mother made three predictions: he'd marry a strawberry blonde, he'd have two sons she would not live to see, and his daughters would form a famous musical group. After the first two became true, Austin set out to get the third to happen.

In the mid-1960s, Austin pulled his daughters out of school, bought them instruments, and got them music lessons. They named themselves the Shaggs after their 1960s hairstyles. In 1968, Austin arranged for the girls to play a regular Saturday night gig at the Fremont, New Hampshire Town Hall. The next year, the girls went into the studio and recorded their first album, Philosophy of the World. It is clear from the sound of the records that the band wasn't ready to capture their sound on tape, but Austin persisted.

Reviews of POTW range from original and expressive on the positive side to "Somebody stop the wailing sound of these banshees!" on the negative side.

At this point, the man who'd promised to press 1000 copies of POTW absconded with 900 of them. The rest were circulated to New England radio stations but attracted little attention, and the girls' dreams of superstardom were dashed.

In 1975, Austin Wiggin died of a heart attack, and the Shaggs died with him. Rumor has it that Austin died immediately after hearing the girls do a finally decent version of the title track to POTW.

But the corpse of the Shaggs refused to rest. In 1978, a group called NRBQ[?] found one of the original 1000 copies at a Boston radio station and, after hearing it, got their record label to rerelease POTW. Then, POTW was rereleased again, this time on a major label, RCA Victor. (In the interim, Dorothy Wiggin rediscovered the lost masters of POTW, which were hiding in a closet. The sound was improved.) RCA also released POTW on CD in the 1980s.

In 2000, NRBQ celebrated their thirtieth anniversary with a concert in New York City. Their opening act was the Shaggs. Helen, who had been suffering from depression for years, declined to attend, so NRBQ's drummer was faced with the challenging task of attempting to play Helen's parts.



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