Rock Flowers

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-72)

- Debra Clinger (aka Heather) -- vocals

- Rindy Dunn (aka Lilac)-- vocals

- Julia Ardelia "Ardie" Tillman (aka Rosemary) -- vocals


  supporting musicians (1971)

- Max Bennett -- bass

- Hal Blaine -- drums, percussion

- Dennis Budimir -- guitar

- Mike Melvoin -- keyboards

- Louis Shelton -- guitar


  line up 2 (1972-73)

- Debra Clinger (aka Heather) -- vocals

- Julia Ardelia "Ardie" Tillman (aka Rosemary) -- vocals

NEW - Jacquie Wiseman -- vocals (replaced Rindy Dunn)







- The Brothers and Sisters (Ardie Tillman)

- The Cattanooga Cats (Debra Clinger)

- The Clinger Sisters (Debra Clinger)

- The Darlings (Ardie Tillman)

- The Dynels (Ardie Tillman)

- The Goldman Girls (Ardie Tillman)

- Kaptain Kool and the Kongs (Debra Clinger

- Sugar (Ardie Tillman)

- The Waters (Ardie Tillman)

- The Waters Sisters (Ardie Tillman)





Genre: pop

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Rock Flowers

Company: Wheel

Catalog: WLS-1001

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $40.00


The Rock Flowers bring together an interesting discussion of music as art form versus music as product.


The group was apparently initiated as a marketing effort by Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey (yes the circus folks).  Interested in cashing in on  the youth market's interest in bubblegum and pop music, Ringling Brothers initiated a partnership with RCA Records, starting the Wheels imprint.  Producer Wes Farrell was tasked with finding talent for the label and apparently came up with The Rock Flowers concept.


The Rock Flowers showcased three you women - Debra Clinger, Rindy Dunn and Ardie Tillman.  Clinger had been a member of The Clinger Sisters who had been working and recording MOR-pop since the early 1960s.  she'd also been one of the voices in the Saturday Morning cartoon show The Cattanooga Cats and participated in the resulting album.   Tillman had recorded some early-'60s Gospel material with The Dynels and The Darlings and briefly been in Sugar.  With that background The Rock Flowers were the first act signed to Wheel Records.  Perhaps not a surprise, The Rock Flowers were very much a studio entity.  Producer Farrell made all the decisions.  He was responsible for cultivating the group's image; he selected the songs; he decided on the arrangements and he hired the studio musicians.  Clinger, Dunn and Tilllman were essentially hired guns.  The results showed in terms of an album that had little artistic merit and surprisingly little commercial appeal.  Showcasing tunes like 'Gettin' Together', 'Heaven Help the Non-Believer' and 'It was Always Always' the set was heavy on big bland ballads.  Adding to the problems, Farrell's insistence on "group" vocals meant none of the women were allowed to show off their individual talents. It also served to give most of the album a dull, muffled feel.   With the possible exception of the single 'You Shouldn't Have Set My Soul On Fire' and the goofy 'Mother You, Smother You' both which sounded like late inning Supremes tunes, none of these songs had much going for them.  This was music as a disposable product like toothpaste, or cosmetics.  All in all the album was a disappointment.


And then there's the issue of the dolls.  More than eager to squeeze disposable income out of young girls, Ringling Brothers entered into a marketing arrangement with Mattel Toys to market Rock Flower dolls (more about the dolls below).  What I've never been able to figure out is whether the dolls came first, or the music group.  Somebody out there will know.


"Rock Flowers" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) (You're) My Kind of Music (Larry Weiss) - 2:49   rating: *** stars

Darn, talk about a '70s vibe.  '(You're) My Kind of Music' sounded like something that was written for an appearance on a mid-day '70s variety program.  "Hey let's have some young people singing a "rock" song to pump up are Nielsen ratings."  I'm guessing Tillman was handling the lead vocals and from that perspective the tune was far better than most of the other songs featuring "group" vocals.  

2.) You Shouldn't Have Set My Soul On Fire (Rudy Clark - Ken Williams - J.R. Bailey - 2:58   rating: **** stars

Much to my surprise 'You Shouldn't Have Set My Soul On Fire' was actually enjoyable with a highly commercial chorus. Sporting one of the album's heavier arrangements, this one has always reminded me of a post-Diana Ross Supremes performance.  Again, I'm guessing Tillman was handling lead vocals and she was darned good.    Inez Foxx's version may have been better, but it wasn't as commercial.  The song was tapped as the album's second single:






- 1972's 'You Shouldn't Have Set My Soul On Fire' b/w 'Sunday Dreaming' (Wheel catalog number 32-0033)






3.) Uptight World (Rudy Clark - Ken Williams - J.R. Bailey) - 2:22  rating: ** stars

Wow, the opening section sounded like the ladies had just stepped into the 'Shaft' soundtrack.  The song then took a strange turn trying to meld a funky rhythm with a very MOR pop chorus.  The shrill vocals sounded like Clinger was handled lead vocals on this one.  This one reminded me of a bad post-Diana Ross Supremes performance.

4.) Shake It, Wake It (Larry Weiss) - 2:14    rating: ** stars

'Shake It, Wake It' found them falling back into MOR pop territory.  All but buried in heavy orchestration, the group vocals reminded me of Germany's Silver Convention.

5.) Heaven Help the Non-Believer (Toni Wine - Carole Sayer) - 2:58   rating: ** stars

The album's oddest performance, I've always wondered if 'Heaven Help the Non-Believer' was a nod to Clinger's Mormon roots.  The lyrics weren't exactly religious since they seemed to be addressing people who don't believe in the power of love.  At the same time it wasn't hard to take this as a non-secular statement.  To my ears the tune also underscored how poorly the women's voices blended together.  It just sounded like a shrill and irritating mess.

6.) Sunday Dreamer  (Rudy Clark - Ken Williams - J.R. Bailey) - 3:11   rating: *** stars

Opening up with a big horn arrangement, 'Sunday Dreamer' sounded like something Holland-Dozier-Holland might have recorded in the early-'70s for their Invictus, or Hot Wax labels.  The track was soulful, but had also had a highly commercial pop content - in this case the chorus "church bells I was never to chime, a white gown I was never to wear ..."


(side 2)
1.) Mother You, Smother You
(Larry Weiss) - 2:31  rating: *** stars

Not sure, but I think Clinger handled the lead on 'Mother You, Smother You'.  The bad news is the song reflected a slice of formula pop without a single original thought or note.  Still, as much as I wanted to dislike it, I have to admit it was mildly catchy.  The song was released as a single in Spain:





- 1972's 'Mother You, Smother You' b/w 'Number Wonderful' (RCA Victor catalog number 3-10691)







2.) Gettin' Together (Toni Wine - Ellie Greenwich) - 3:13  rating: ** stars

The album's prettiest composition, 'Getting Together' was spoiled by their flat group vocals, the mid-song spoken word section and some irritating uplifting lyrics.  How many times can you sing "together we're getting together"?

3.) Number Wonderful (Irwin Levine - Lawrence William Brown) - 2:22   rating: * star

Naturally Farrell picked the album's most saccharine tune as the lead-off single.  I'm a big fan of pop music, but 'Naturally Wonderful' was just dreadful.  Had it been released in Europe it would have been labeled "Schalger".  How the single managed to get into the top-100 charts is a mystery to me.

- 1971's 'Number Wonderful' b/w 'Mother You, Smother You' (Wheel catalog number 32-0032) #95 pop

4.) It was Always Always (Tony Romeo) - 2:40  rating: ** stars

I never thought I would hear a song that made The Carpenters sound like heavy metal ...  Well here you go.  'It was Always Always' was so sickly sweet that it was a danger for diabetics.

5.) And Then He Says He Loves Me (Toni Wine - Irwin Levine) - 2:49   rating: **** stars

Much to my surprise ' And Then He Says He Loves Me' was another enjoyable performance with a great and  highly commercial chorus. Sporting one of the album's heavier arrangements, this one was

my pick for the album's guilty pleasure.  The song started out as another painful ballad, but when it hit the chorus it turned into an ABBA clone, complete with stilted deliver and unintentionally funny lyrics.



Back to the dolls - I'm not a doll expert, but The Rock Flowers dolls appeared to be similar to Barbies, but with cooler clothing and a musical tie-in.  The big selling point was each doll came with a plastic 45 record containing a pair of Rock Flower songs.  The songs were all different than the material on the two albums and didn't sound like they were sung by Clinger, Dunn and Tillman.  


You could put the plastic 45 of your turntable and then stand the doll on the spindle and watch them spin around and around and around until you got bored, or threw up.  I'm not sure if that description makes a lot of sense, so here's a YouTube clip that shows one of the dolls in action:


You could also buy accessories like other clothing and there was even an on-stage case with speakers and a microphone.  In addition to the three original characters (Heather (Debra Clinger), Lilac (Rindy Dunn) and Rosemary (Ardie Tillman), Mattel introduced  two other characters - Iris and Doug.



I haven't spent much time on this, but there were seven different doll packages, meaning there were seven Rock Flowers singles.  None of these were featured on the two Rock Flowers LPs:

- 'Sweet Times' (featuring Lilac, Rosemary and Heather)

- 'Good Company' b/w 'Sing My Song' (featuring Lilac - this was the yellow 45)

- 'Sing My Song' b/w 'Sweet Times' (featuring Heather - this was the orange 45)

- 'Mixin' Matchin' Day' b/w 'Sweet Times' (featuring Rosemary - this was the purple 45)

- '3 To Get Ready' b/w 'I Wish I Had a Monkey' (featuring Doug and Iris) 

 -'I Just Wanna Make You Dance' b/w '3 To Get Ready' (featuring Doug on the "A" side and Iris on the flip side - this was the green record)

- 'Your Music 'n' My Music b/w 'I Just Want To Make You Dance' (featuring Iris - this was the pink record)






Genre: pop

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Naturally

Company: Wheel

Catalog: WLS-1002

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $50.00



As unknown as the first Rock Flowers LP was, the trio's second release was even more obscure.  With Jacquie Wiseman replacing original member Rindy Dunn, like the debut, 1972's "Naturally" was released on Ringling Brothers and Barnum's RCA affiliated Wheel label.  Also like the debut, their second album was produced by Wes Farrell.  While members Debra Clinger, Ardie Tillman and new member Jacquie Wiseman could sing, the fact of the matter is they were just hired help.  Producer Farrell again made all the decisions.  He selected the songs, decided on the arrangements and hired the studio musicians.  The only difference from the debut appeared to be that Farrell went for a slightly hipper image this time around.  Just compare the debut album cover with "Naturally." This time around the women don't look like members of a religious cult.  One other difference, new member Wiseman was actually allowed to contribute a song to the album - the Motownish 'Stop Light'.  Unfortunately the results had even less commercial appeal than the debut.  Farrell's insistence on group vocals meant none of the women were allowed to show off their talents and it gave the entire album a dull, muffled feel.   With the possible exception of the single 'See No Evil' and the bouncy 'Double Scoop', nothing here was particularly interesting.


"Naturally" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Double Scoop (Johnny Cymbal - Peggy Clinger) - 2:47   rating: *** stars

Ah the joys of nepotism ...  'Double Scoop' was co-written by Debra's sister Peggy.  With all three ladies sharing vocals, the song sounded like a heavily orchestrated slab of late-'60s bubblegum.  Actually, it reminded me of a shakedown cruise for one of those European disco outfits that briefly ruled top-40 radio - think Silver Convention, or perhaps Boney M without the irritating male member.  All three members were talented singers, but when you combined them you ended up a lowest common denominator scenario where the song just didn't make much of an impression.  Not that it stopped their label from releasing it as a single:





- 1972's 'Double Scoop' b/w 'Don't You Ever Give Up On Me Baby' (Wheel catalog number 32-0039)







2.) A Little At a Time (Toni Wine) - 2:55

3.) You Loved Me Once (Toni Wine - Ellie Greenwich) - 2:49

4.) Don't You Ever Give Up On Me Baby (Tony Romeo) - 2:57

5.) What's So Good About Goodbye (Johnny Cymbal - Peggy Clinger) - 2:58

6.) Stop Light (Jacquie Wiseman) - 2:49   rating: ** stars

Penned by new member Jacquie Wiseman, musically 'Stop Light' wasn't a bad tune, reminded me of a post-Diana Ross Supremes tune.  The problem with this one was the song's key.  All three singers sounded uncomfortable in the range, resulting in one of the shrillest songs you've ever heard.  Almost painful at times.


(side 2)
1.) Sticks 'N Stones (Appel - Cretecas) - 2:47
   rating: ** stars

As on many of the other tunes the combination of the group vocals and hackneyed arrangements drained whatever energy 'Sticks 'N Stones' had.  What a waste of talent.

2.) See No Evil (Irwin Levine - L. Russell Brown) - 2:55





- 1972's 'See No Evil' (mono) b/w 'The Image of You' (stereo) (Wheel catalog number 32-0037)







3.) I Ain't Supposed To Feel This Way (Toni Wine - Irwin Levine) - 2:49   rating: *** stars

While the song wasn't great, at least 'I Ain't Supposed To Feel This Way' let Debra Clinger get a moment in the spotlight.  Technically I guess that wasn't a true statement since this was another "group" vocal.  Regardless, at least Clinger's voice stood out in the mix.  I liked the harpsichord arrangement ...

4.) The Image of You (TOny Romeo) - 3:01

5.) It Takes a Real Man (To Bring Out the Woman In Me) (Irwin Levine - Lawrence William Brown) - 2:46






There was one posthumous non-LP 45:


- 1973's 'Put a Little Love Away' b/w 'Always Call Me Up When You Are Lonely' (Wheel catalog number 32-0042)








The trio undertook a brief tour opening for Tim Jones and that was the end of the story. 


Clinger's next project was Kaptain Kool and the Kongs where she played the role of "Superchick".  She then turned her attention to acting including  a string of television commercials and the short-lived CBS television series "American Girls" where she played television report Amy Waddell.  That was followed by a small part in the 1980 film "Midnight Madness".


Tillman remained active in music and now records with her siblings in The Waters.