Archive for the ‘Rock n Roll Music 1961 Part 1’ Category


by Robert Seoane

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed.”
–John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961.

The first year of the decade began with a promise from a young President. His message was universal and timeless, despite the fact that his own time left on earth was close to ending. In his Inaugural Address lives too, the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll; a style of music invented by this new generation of Americans born in this century that Kennedy spoke about.

Rock ‘n’ roll at the dawn of 1961 was a watered down beat, still years away from a recharge that by now it so desperately needed. In 1961, this excitement for the future was embodied in the country’s young President and rock ‘n’ roll was just the soundtrack heard on everyone’s portable transistor or car AM radio, and in glorious monophonic sound no less. The music was becoming the foundation for a revolutionary youth movement, developing looser styles and delivering them to the older generation, ultimately to worldwide acceptance.

New dance crazes popped up soon after the Twist exploded into global consciousness just the year before. In 1961, an R&B group called the Vibrations recorded the first in a string of songs about the next dance craze, “The Watusi”.

Soon, rock ‘n’ roll artists of the day like Chubby Checker, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and the Isley Brothers recorded their own versions of “The Wah-Watusi”.

In 1961, rock ‘n’ roll was still establishing its sound, developing their groups and staking out new musical genres, still testing the shaky ground that would outrageously blossom in the years to come once the British Musical Invasion exploded in 1964. By ‘66, conventional wisdom dropped the “roll” and just called it rock. Rock music then continued to branch out further, into different sub-genres, led and demonstrated by the musical experimentation of the Beatles, the poetry of Bob Dylan and the uncensored funk of James Brown. The trunk and branches of the tree had grown strong. By 1970, the leaves would begin to sprout.

But I get ahead of myself.



“The Shirelles had a ‘sound’, a word that people from the Sixties vocal-group era use with a lot of reverence. Shirley Alston Reeves, who did most of the group’s lead vocals, wasn’t a gospel shouter like Arlene Smith of the Chantels. Shirley was more sentimental and street. When she said, ‘Baby, it’s you,’ you thought, ‘Baby, it is me.’” -Paul Schaffer; Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Since 1955, the year when rock ‘n’ roll burst into the world scene, the new musical genre had been the realm of men only. That ended in 1961 when three young high school girls got together to form the basis for scores of girl groups to come.

The Shirelles hold the distinction of being the first successful all-girl group in rock ‘n’ roll history. There had been a handful of other lesser known variations before, but the Shirelles cemented their reputation in 1961 when their single “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” made it to Number One in Billboard’s Pop chart, the first rock ‘’n roll girl group to do so.

Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Addie Harris and Beverly Lee were high school friends at Passaic High in New Jersey when they won a talent show in 1957, calling themselves the Poquellos. Still minors, they were at first reluctant to sign on to any record label that would want them for an act, but by the following year, they relented. Their fellow classmate, Mary Jane Greenberg, who heard them at the talent show, was responsible for the launch of their career. Mary Jane’s mother Florence happened to own a record label named Tiara, and Mary Jane insisted that her mother listen to her three high school friends. She did, and immediately recognized their talent for blending their voices together and their penchant for doo-wop and pop.

Florence Greenberg believed in the quartet and became their manager for the long haul. Once under contract with Greenberg and touring on a regular basis, they changed their name to the Shirelles, coming up with it by taking the lead vocalist’s first name, Shirley, and adding an “elle” suffix, much like a lot of other popular groups at the time, such as the Chantels.


“They wrote their very first hit, ‘I Met Him on a Sunday,’ themselves, when they were still high school students in New Jersey. It was on this song that the group combined doo-wop with very accessible pop melodies.” -Paul Schaffer; Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Their first single did well enough in the local area where the record was distributed in, so Tiara licensed it to Decca for national release. It made it up to Number 49 in Billboard’s Pop chart.

The Shirelles’ doo-wop sing-a-long in this tune, “Doo ronday ronday ronday papa doo…”, established their distinctive sound; a strong female lead vocal backed by three background vocals that harmonize the doo-wop hook. That formula soon became a blueprint for Sixties girl groups to come, such as the Chiffons, the Crystals, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Marvelletes, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes, the Supremes, right on down the alphabet to the Velvelettes.

“I Met Him On A Sunday” was written by all four Shirelles for the talent show at their high school in Passaic, New Jersey that got them a record contract. It’s ultimately just a simple, repetitive melody, similar to something children would sing while playing patty cake. Still, once they were signed to Greenberg, it was the first song they committed to vinyl and ultimately, it gave the Shirelles national footing by 1958, however small.

Tiara Records was sold to Decca that same year along with the Shirelles’ contract for $4,000 (approximately $32,500 in 2015 dollars) and Greenberg stayed on as their manager, consistently booking them to establish their name as they struggled for recognition. The meager success of their first single was helpful in getting them booked to bigger venues.


Their second single was a remake of a song recorded in 1957 by the 5 Royales. The Shirelles’ version didn’t do much better on the charts than the original upon its first release, not climbing any higher than Number 83 in Billboard’s Pop chart. Decca quickly gave up on them, labeled them a one-hit act, and returned their contract back to Greenberg. Certain that it was a hit, Greenberg re-released the song that same year through her new label, Scepter Records, but it again stalled, this time at Number 89. It would be another two years before it would be released again to make a serious dent in the charts.


Their third single did much better than the first two. Produced by “16 Candles” songwriter, Luther Dixon and co-written by him and Shirley Owens, “Tonight’s the Night” climbed to Number 39 in the Billboard Pop chart and Number 14 R&B. The song’s success, having cracked the coveted Pop Top Forty in late 1960, gave the Shirelles a bigger boost in their ability to draw a crowd, and Greenberg found she could start booking them as supporting acts for bigger names such as Little Richard and Etta James. Still barely out of their teens, the Shirelles’ parents consented to touring only if a designated person would oversee them. Both Etta James and Ruth Brown, legendary singers and older peers to the young quartet, saw to it that the young girls were chaperoned regularly while they were all on tour.

Like “I Met Him On A Sunday”, “Tonight’s the Night” holds the distinction of having been co-written by Shirley Owens, the lead performer of the group, something pretty much unheard of in the dawn of the Sixties by anyone, let alone a member of an all girl group.

The song’s lyrical content was controversial in that it spoke of a young’s woman’s excited expectancy of losing her virginity. Some radio stations went as far as to ban the playing of the record outright because of such a scandalous topic for 1961.

“You said you’re gonna make me feel all aglow, well I don’t know, well I don’t know right now, I might love you so, I might love you so much you may break my heart, I may want you so much and all my dream been torn apart.” Tonight’s the Night – The Shirelles

Laced with the Shirelles’ unmistakable doo-wop style, “Tonight’s the Night” got them that much closer to national recognition, but it would be the following single that not only would shoot them into stardom but also cement their position in rock ‘n’ roll history.


After Buddy Holly’s untimely and tragic demise, rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop acts were mostly made up of artists who needed songs written for them by professional songwriters. As a result, these songwriters churned song after song out daily, like link sausages to an ocean of acts thirsting for material. The Shirelles would have their first Number One hit thanks to one of these songwriters.

Determined to make the act a success, Florence Greenberg contacted record producer Don Kirshner for assistance in selecting the next single for the Shirelles. Don Kirshner’s legacy for forming the sound of early Sixties rock ‘n’ roll looms large. Based in New York’s famed Brill Building, Kirshner ran a hit factory that included legendary songwriters who were just at the start of their brilliant musical careers. Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weill, Barry Mann, Burt Bacharach and Hal David all passed through the Brill Building in New York City, still standing on 49th Street and Broadway. Each of these future legendary composers was paired up in a room with a piano, churning out song after song to compete with the other composers in the adjacent rooms. At the end of the day, they would perform their compositions to Kirshner and he would select the one he liked best to present to a current recording artist in need of material.

Goffin and King, as well as Weill and Mann, were two teams who wrote together and eventually married; both couples becoming close friends at the same time that they were competitive rivals. When Kirshner approached them both to write a song for the Shirelles, King and Goffin’s “Tomorrow” was chosen to present to the group.

King auditioned the song for the Shirelles. The original version was slower than the final Shirelles recording, and she played it for them on piano, much like the version in Carole King’s landmark album “Tapestry” (1971). Upon first listen, Shirley Owens didn’t like it, saying it sounded too country to fit the Shirelles’ sound, so King and Goffin added a string arrangement to the melody and sped up the tempo. Owens gave it another listen and changed her mind. Lengthening the title to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, then later to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, the Shirelles finally had the first career hit they had coveted all these years. Ironically, the song’s lyrics also dealt with the subject of having sex, much like their previous single, “Tonight’s the Night”, and as a result also got banned from airplay at some radio stations, but it wouldn’t be enough to tamp down the song’s staying power, simply due to the sheer loveliness of the tune and sweetness of the words.

“Is this a lasting treasure or just a moment’s pleasure? Can I believe the magic of your sighs? Will you still love me tomorrow?” Will You Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” has a special place in rock ‘n’ roll history, especially after Carole King included it in “Tapestry” and returning it to its melancholy roots.


“Ringo always used to do a song in the show. Back then he had ‘Boys’. It was a little embarrassing because it went, ‘I’m talking about boys – yeah, yeah – boys’. It was a Shirelles hit and they were girls singing it, but we never thought we should call it Girls, just because Ringo was a boy. We just sang it the way they’d sung it and never considered any implications.” –Paul McCartney; Beatles Anthology

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’s” B-side, “Boys”, also holds a special distinction. It was given the seal of Rock Royalty approval when the Beatles selected it for their debut album “Please Please Me” in 1963. It was the first song by the group to showcase drummer Ringo Starr as lead vocalist, a chore Ringo was usually given once per album. “Boys” was selected for Ringo’s lead vocal debut primarily because ex-Beatle drummer Pete Best also used to sing it during their live performances.

“Any one of us could hold the audience. Ringo would do ‘Boys’, which was a fan favourite with the crowd. And it was great — though if you think about it, here’s us doing a song and it was really a girls’ song. ‘I talk about boys now!’ Or it was a gay song. But we never even listened. It’s just a great song. I think that’s one of the things about youth — you just don’t give a shit. I love the innocence of those days.” –Paul McCartney; Rolling Stone

The Beatles’ version of the song replaces the Shirelles’ sax solo with George Harrison’s plucky guitar, introduced by a hearty “Alright, George” from Ringo. The song has much more urgency than the Shirelles’ version, with the British group turning a mid-tempo classic into a raucous rocker.

After the sudden success of their last single, Greenberg released “Dedicated To The One I Love” a third time and her long-time hunch was proven right. The song was a hit, climbing to Billboard’s Number Three Pop and Number Two R&B. The song was remade in 1967 by the Mamas and the Papas with Michelle Phillips singing lead vocal. It made it up to Billboard’s Number Two Pop, thanks to the group’s arrangement of the song, showcasing their harmonies and asserting the song’s reputation as a rock ‘n’ roll classic.


The Shirelles were at the height of their success when their next Top Ten single, “Mama Said”, was released. It’s a fun, catchy song with lyrics that became a colloquialism not long after the record’s release.

“And then she said someone will look at me like I’m looking at you one day, then I might find I don’t want it any old way, so I don’t worry ’cause…
…Mama said there’ll be days like this, there’ll be days like this, my mama said.”
Mama Said – The Shirelles

Written by Luther Dixon and Willie Denson, “Mama Said” reached Number Four Billboard Pop in the Spring of 1962. Even today, you’ll hear it occasionally played on films, commercials and TV series, and not necessarily reminiscent of its time, but as a still potent commentary on life.


The Shirelles’ next Top Ten single was written by future MOR Sixties composer, Burt Bacharach. It seems that Shirelles’ manager Florence Greenberg went back to the music factory that gave the group their first hit and asked Don “The Man With the Golden Ear” Kirschner for another nugget.

In 1957,Kirshner introduced composer Bacharach to Hal David, the young lyricist who would join Bacharach as songwriting partner for the rest of their mutual careers. Together, the duo went on to collect six Grammys. Bacharach also won an additional three Academy Awards, two of them for best score and best song from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Ironically enough, the lyrics of “Baby, It’s You” weren’t written by Hal David but by his brother Mack. It was one of the first compositions by Bacharach and a complete departure from the music he would later write. This was a torchy rock ‘n roll ballad.

“Many, many, many nights roll by. I sit alone at home and cry over you. What can I do? I can’t help myself. ‘Cause baby it’s you (sha-la-la-la la-ah). Baby it’s you…”
Baby, It’s You – The Shirelles

Luther Dixon produced the composition for the Shirelles and credited himself on the song as well, calling himself Barney Williams on the label along with Bacharach and David. It made Billboard Pop at Number Eight and got to Number Three in Billboard’s R&B chart in late 1961. The song was tailor-made for the Shirelles, particularly because of the doo-wop background vocals.

In early 1962, the Shirelles released their fourth album and called it “Baby, It’s You” to capitalize on the song’s popularity. The album did fairly well, rising only up to Number 59 in Billboard’s Album chart. It was the first of only two of their albums to even make a mark on the chart. A collection of songs that were mostly forgettable, it did contain two other songs that made the charts, “Big John (Ain’t You Gonna Marry Me)” and “Soldier Boy”.

In 1963, the Beatles recorded their debut album Please Please Me and chose “Baby, it’s You” to be one of the tracks. As they did with all the other songs the Beatles ever covered, they would either match it in quality or surpass it. In this case, the Beatles recorded the definitive version of the song, with John Lennon’s earnest vocals delivering the lyrics from the heart and Paul and George accompanying him in a very tongue-in-cheek manner with the ‘sha-la-las’.


Co-written by their favorite songwriter Luther Dixon and manager Florence Greenberg, “Soldier Boy” was the Shirelles’ second and final Number One hit, released in 1962.

By ’62, The United States had not seen armed conflict since the Korean War that ended nine years earlier. We weren’t at war with anyone, but there was beginning to be an involvement in Vietnam. Despite this lack of warfare, “Soldier Boy” still managed to become a hit. As a melody, the song is pleasant enough, although more evocative of an era than a stand-alone recording. The lyrics are exceedingly devotional, with an elementary corniness to it, and the organ playing in the background during the unimaginative guitar solo betrays its age. Yet it does have the quality of longing inherent in the recording that’s undeniable, not to mention the fact that there will always be someone who has lost a soldier boy and this song may provide some, if little, solace. For those two reasons, “Soldier Boy” is deserving of a niche in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Soldier boy, oh, my little soldier boy, I’ll be true to you. You were my first love and you’ll be my last love. I will never make you blue, I’ll be true to you…” Soldier Boy – The Shirelles

By 1962, the Shirelles were riding high on their success, appearing often as guests of famed DJ Murray the K on his “All Star Rock Shows” radio broadcast from WINS in New York City. In 1963, lead singer Shirley Owens and Doris Coley temporarily left the band due to a sudden epidemic of marriage. Then unknown singer, Dionne Warwick subbed for them during that time. Later that year, the original Shirelles sang in a hit comedy film of the era called “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

In early 1963 they released the song that would prove to be their last Top Ten Single.


“Foolish Little Girl” miraculously made it to Number 4 Pop and Number Nine R&B. The song is mediocre at best, and sounded the death knell for the group’s life on the national music charts.

By 1961, most of the black artists that were considered dangerous by White Establishment were gone from the airwaves. Little Richard had given up the “devil rock ‘n’ roll” to become a preacher. Chuck Berry was in jail for three years, guilty of transporting an underage female across state lines, a violation of the Mann Act. Even white rock ‘n’ roll acts with black influence had been either eliminated or watered down considerably. Jerry Lee Lewis’ career went south fast when it was revealed that he was married to his thirteen-year-old cousin. Even Elvis had returned from the Army with a totally revamped, cleaned up image, and over a dozen sound-alikes and lookalikes had sprung up during his stay in the Army. The following handful of singles by artists who had a brief fling with the spotlight were some of the musical highlights of 1961.



Charles Weedon Westover took his stage name, Del Shannon, from both a local wrestler and a shortened version of his favorite car, the Cadillac Coupe DeVille. He and keyboardist Max Crook, who had developed a precursor to the synthesizer that Crook called a Musitron, wrote a handful of songs together and recorded a demo that Crook played for Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik of Talent Records in Detroit, Michigan. One of those songs recorded that put Crook’s Musitron to good use, was a tune called “Little Runaway”.

Westover and Crook were signed to become recording artists and composer to the Bigtop record label in 1960. It was Balk who suggested changing Westover’s name to Del Shannon. On January 21, 1961, the day after President Kennedy was inaugurated, Shannon and Crook re-recorded “Runaway” using the Musitron as the lead instrument. It was released the following month. By April, it reached Number One in Billboard’s Pop chart.

Showcased in the film “American Grafitti”, “Runaway” has a more Fifties feel to it, despite having been recorded and released in 1961.

Del Shannon never duplicated that early success again in his career. In the Seventies, like many musicians, he battled alcoholism as his star faded. Suffering from depression, Shannon committed suicide on February 8, 1990, killing himself with a .22 caliber rifle in his home. He was 55 years old.



The song “Blue Moon” has a long and varied trajectory that began when it was first written in the 1930s and reached its peak three decades later when rock ‘n’ roll dug its claws into it and made it into one of its own.

Despite doo-wop’s inevitable decline after a very popular ride hitching onto the rock ‘n’ roll beat since its inception in 1955, it left not with a whimper but with a bang with a few choice tunes, such as the aforementioned “Runaway” by Del Shannon. The other shot across the bow of rock ‘n’ roll history however, was the Marcels’ “Blue Moon”.

The music for “Blue Moon” was originally written in 1934 by famed film and theater composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It premiered in the movie “Manhattan Melodrama” that same year as the title song, with stars of the day William Powell and Myrna Loy. Although the melody was the same, the lyrics were totally different.

After the film’s release, Jack Robbins, head of MGM Studios’ publishing company, heard the commercial potential of the theme music of the movie, but he felt it needed a new title and more romantic lyrics. Hart had already changed the lyrics to that song more than once before and was reluctant to tackle it again, but ultimately he did.

“Blue moon/you saw me standing alone/without a dream in my heart/without a love of my own”. –Lorenz Hart

Hart chose the title “Blue Moon” because of the American term once in a blue moon, implying that the love he was singing about was a rare thing. In 1935, female singer Connie Boswell was the first to popularize it as a commercial record.

“Blue Moon” continued its journey through the American psyche when Billy Eckstine recorded it in 1949, peaking at Number 21 in March of that year.

It was Elvis Presley who pulled it into the rock ‘n’ roll genre when he recorded it for his debut album in 1956. His version was soft and spare, showcasing mainly Elvis’ vocal.

The Marcels’ took the famous doo-wop open of their version of “Blue Moon” from another song they performed in their act and sped it up, modernizing the tune for its day and making the composition their own with their thoroughly original take on it. Today, it’s another one of those tunes considered to be a typical Fifties song, even though it was recorded and released in 1961, proving that the pop music at that time hadn’t progressed much since the death of Buddy Holly two years earlier.

The Marcels’ “Blue Moon” made it to Number One for three weeks in the Billboard Pop chart and Number one R&B as well, sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc. It’s featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll”.

A version similar to the Marcels, but looser and sloppier sounding, was also released by a group called the Classics at around the same time, but that version stalled at Number 50 on the Billboard Pop chart.

Since its conception, “Blue Moon” has been performed and recorded by the likes of Benny Goodman, Julie London, Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Mavericks, Cowboy Junkies and many more. It’s been showcased in television and in films like Grease (1978) and Jim Jarmusch’s “Mystery Train” (1989).

The song has held its own in the 21st century as well. A rap version of “Blue Moon” plays during the opening credits of the abysmal film “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” (2002) with Eddie Murphy. Although this version copies The Marcels’, there’s a rap in the middle of the tune performed by Art Hodge and 40 Watt Hype, a one hit wonder whose career wasn’t helped much performing this song in a film considered to be one of the worst ever made.

The latest popular recording of “Blue Moon” occurred in 2011 when lead guitarist Noel Gallagher quit the group Oasis two years earlier, leaving the rest of the group, including his brother Liam, to continue the band without him. They renamed themselves Beady Eye and recorded “Blue Moon” as one of the tracks from their debut album. Their recording of the tune was meant as a tribute to Manchester City Football Club’s new 2011/2012 kit in England. It seems that Manchester City fans had been singing “Blue Moon” at matches for years during games, belting it out with gusto as if it were a heroic anthem. Gallagher sings it more like the Elvis recording.

“’Blue Moon’ is a top tune and has been City’s song for as long as I can remember. It’s been covered by loads of people but the only good one until now was the one Elvis did. I hope the fans buzz off our version and sing along to it at the stadium.” –Liam Gallagher

“Blue Moon” is one of those songs that will probably continue to be played, sung and remembered around the world for generations to come, largely because it has already been permanently woven into the pop culture fabric, with a helpful boost from Rock ‘n’ Roll.


Ernest Kador Jr.’s claim to rock ‘n’ roll history was this song, that made it to Number One for one week in the Billboard Pop on May 22, 1961. It’s a humorous look at the bane of every husband’s existence, the mother-in-law.

“Satan should be her name, to me they’re ‘bout the same. Every time I open my mouth, she steps in, tries to put me out, how could she stoop so low… mother in law…” Mother-in-Law –Ernie K. Doe

The comical demonization of the mother-in-law goes back to film and particularly television, when Fifties sitcoms like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners used the idea of a visit from the mother-in-law as a fountain of comedic annoyance.

“Mother-In-Law” was written by Alan Toussaint, a legendary “behind the scenes” songwriter and record producer that wrote many hits in the Sixties and Seventies, including “I Like It Like That”, by the Beatles’ first copycat band the Dave Clark Five in 1965, “Working In The Coal Mine” (1966) recorded by Lee Dorsey and “Southern Nights” made popular by Glen Campbell in 1975. As producer, he worked with Dr. John on “Right Place, Wrong Time” (1973) and Patti Labelle on “Lady Marmalade” (1975). He played guitar in Paul McCartney’s “Venus & Mars” album that same year when the ex-Beatle produced his album in New Orleans, Toussaint’s hometown.

Toussaint was still touring at age 77 and was scheduled to play alongside old friend Paul Simon on December 8, 2015 at a benefit concert in New Orleans when he died of a heart attack in Madrid, Spain less than a month earlier, on November 10, following a performance that evening.

Like Toussaint, Kador was also born in New Orleans. In 1954, he changed his last name to the sound-alike moniker with an imaginary middle name “K.Doe” and became a member of the group the Blue Diamonds. A year later, he began to record solo albums, but it wouldn’t be until six years later that “Mother In Law” would become his one and only Number One Song.

It almost didn’t get recorded either. After take after unsuccessful take, writer Toussaint crumpled up the music and stormed out, giving up on the tune Doe was attempting to record. Fortunately, back-up singer Willie Hopper persuaded Doe to stay and try again, ultimately convincing him that it was a good song. Apparently, he was right.



“Tossin’ & Turnin” is one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll songs that define the genre. It can be found in probably every oldies compilation of that era, as it was also one of the biggest hits of all time in rock ‘n’ roll history. When it came out on April 24 1961, it climbed steadily but slowly for twelve weeks until it hit Number One in the Billboard chart on the Fourth of July. There it spent another seven weeks, one of only six songs released during the Sixties that stayed in that position for that length of time or longer. It was the soundtrack for the Spring and Summer of ’61. Billboard also named it the Number One song of that year, as well as the 27th biggest song of all time that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, having sold in excess of three million copies.

“Jumped outta bed, turned on the light, I pulled down the shade, went to the kitchen for a bite. Rolled up the shade, turned out the light, I jumped back into bed, it was the middle of the night.” Tossin’ & Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis

The artist who recorded the song, came upon it by happenstance. Bobby Lewis’ childhood was anything but normal. He was brought up in an orphanage in Indianapolis. By age six he was playing the piano. He moved to Detroit, Michigan and into a foster home at age 12, only to run away and back to Indianapolis two years later. There, he started working at carnivals. Soon, he took a gig singing with the Leo Hines Orchestra.

He went out on his own throughout the Fifties and did a lot of touring. He managed to cut a record called “Mumble Blues” and tour with big stars of the time like Jackie Wilson, making a name for himself at the same time. His career peak occurred in 1960 when he played at the Apollo in New York City. On the bill with him was a singer-songwriter named Ritchie Adams. Ritchie had written “Tossin’ & Turnin’” with another struggling singer/songwriter named Malou Rene. Adams was associated with a small, independent record label named Beltone. When Lewis went to visit the Beltone offices in Manhattan, they urged Lewis to record the song. Adams played guitar on the record.

Beltone put a Bobby Lewis album together quickly to ride on the coattails of “T&T’s” success. Lewis had one more Top Ten hit after that, also in 1961 and from that album, called “One Track Mind”, an unmemorable tune that climbed to Number Nine. After that, Bobby Lewis fell into obscurity. As of the writing of this in 2015, he is still alive and is 82 years old.



The Regents were one of a shrinking handful of doo-wop groups touring in the late Fifties and early Sixties. One of its members, Fred Fassert, wrote “Barbara Ann” for his sister, Barbara Anne Fassert. They recorded it in 1958, but it wasn’t released for three years, until 1961, where it climbed to Number 13 on the Billboard Pop chart.

Its doo-wop style is more closely associated to the Fifties, so it remains a Fifties classic despite its 1961 release. What took it over the top however, was the Beach Boys’ remake of it. The Beach Boys recorded it four years later on September 23, 1965 for their “Beach Boys Party” album, where it was released as the lead single. The Beach Boys’ version made it to Number Two Billboard Pop.

Dean Torrance, half of the Beach Boys’ copycat band Jan & Dean, sang lead vocal along with Brian Wilson on this recording. They recorded it very loosely, and added party songs in the background to give it an overall “party animal” feel. The result is a great rock ‘n’ roll song.