The ABBA story began in June 1966 when Björn Ulvaeus (born 1945) met Benny Andersson (born 1946) for the first time. Björn was a member of the Hootenanny Singers, a very popular folk music group, while Benny played keyboards in Sweden’s biggest pop group of the 1960s, The Hep Stars.
The pair wrote their first song together later that year, and by the end of the decade they had established a regular partnership as composers. By that time, Benny had left The Hep Stars, while the Hootenanny Singers only existed in the recording studio. The Hootenanny Singers released their records on the Polar Music record label, owned by Stig Anderson (1931–1997), who was to become ABBA’s manager. Stig also contributed lyrics to many ABBA hits during the first years of the group’s career.
In the spring of 1969, Björn and Benny met the two women who were to become not only their fiancées but also the other half of ABBA. Agnetha Fältskog (born 1950) had been a successful solo singer since releasing her first single in 1967. She and Björn were married in July 1971. Anni-Frid Lyngstad (born 1945), also known as Frida, started her recording career shortly before Agnetha. Frida was of Norwegian origin, but had moved to Sweden at a very early age. Benny and Frida didn’t get married until October 1978
At first, the four members collaborated musically mainly by contributing songs, instrumental backing, production work or backing vocals to the recordings they each made as solo or duo acts. In 1970, the attractive sound of their four voices combined gave them the idea to put together the cabaret act Festfolk (which had the double meaning “engaged couples” and “party people”). This first attempt failed, but in the spring of 1972 they recorded a song called ‘People Need Love’, garnering a medium-sized hit in Sweden. At this time they called themselves Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.
Encouraged by this success, they entered the 1973 Swedish selections for the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Ring Ring’. They finished third, but the single and the album of the same name competed for the top positions on the Swedish chart. ‘Ring Ring’ also became a hit in several other European countries.
The group entered the selections again in 1974, this time with ‘Waterloo’, which took them all the way to the finals in Brighton, England. By this time they had changed their name to ABBA, an acronym of their first names. ABBA was also the name of a Swedish canned fish company, which luckily agreed to lending their name to a pop group. The Eurovision Song Contest on April 6, 1974 turned out to be the most famous moment in ABBA history, when the group won the international juries over with ‘Waterloo’.