Music History

If the Name “The Shaggs” Means Anything to You, You MUST Read This!

Ah, The Shaggs, perhaps the greatest, weirdest story in the history of outsider music, the most alternative of any kind of music. Something wonderful has happened. But before we get into the story, let’s all enjoy the band’s greatest hit.

Unbelievably, lovably weird. And the Shaggs story has just taken an amazing turn. From Dangerous Minds:

Of all outsider music, none is further outside than The Shaggs. Three young sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire whose harrowing story is like no other pop music story in history, is known at this point far and wide. Their father took them out of school, harassed and abused them to force them to “make music,” hoping to hit it rich off that new rock and roll fad. Since they didn’t have one iota of knowledge about music, the girls invented their own music.

An amazing otherworldly music like nothing anyone’s ears have ever experienced! And being that they were young girls, this music had a great innocence to it, coming through guitar bass and drums. Now I don’t just mean they wrote songs, but that they reinvented music almost in an autistic way. Not knowing their back story early on, it’s amazing that this was created under duress. Everyone that heard it thought it was just the bizarre childish ramblings of the weirdest teens on earth! And they were, but still…

To implement their father’s bizarre plan, these girls (Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin) were also forced to play every weekend at Fremont Town Hall where, it is said, that they were endlessly abused by rotten kids for doing the “Shaggs’ Own Thing,” yet they soldiered on weekend after weekend because they had to. Next was to record an LP and here is where their magic was set in stone. Released in 1969,The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World came and went and legend tells of them being thrown in a dumpster by the studio owner/co-producer (with their dad, Austin Wiggin). Either way 900 of the thousand LPs disappeared, so right off the bat it was incredibly rare. Being the most famous weirdo of his time the record made its way into the hands of none other than Frank Zappa who went on a radio interview in 1970 with the Shaggs LP under his arm and famously during the interview proclaimed “this band is better than the Beatles” and then made them play a song—the first public mindblower the band created. They kept playing until the day their father died of a massive heart attack in 1975 and then just stopped.

So where is this going? It turns out some film has surfaced of a Shaggs gig at the Fremont Town Hall. My God. It’s the Holy Grail! Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38150 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “If the Name “The Shaggs” Means Anything to You, You MUST Read This!

  • Holy Grail is right. I’m not a fan but I’ve heard the Shaggs work since the seventies and they’re likely the one act I never expected to see in live performance. I just hope the video release isn’t one of the seals to be broken that they talk about. Life continues to amaze.

    • Aw, crap. Who was this harming? Who was losing money from this?


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