Mickey Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool was an American duo, which recorded under the title of Mickey and Sylvia. In late 1956, the pair released the song, “Love Is Strange”. The recording rose to No.1 on the rhythm and blues chart and No.11 on the pop chart. In doing so the single sold in excess of a million copies.
“Love Is Strange” was introduced to a new audience when, in 1987, it was included on the soundtrack to the motion picture, ‘Dirty Dancing’. In 1993, it appeared in the British television series, ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’, and, two years later, the movie, ‘Casino’. Pitbull’s hit of 2012, “Back In Time”, from the film, ‘Men In Black III’, is based upon “Love Is Strange”.
Mickey and Sylvia’s only other entry to the Top Ten also came in 1957 in the form of “There Oughta Be A Law”. While the duo continued to record it could not replicate the success generated by these first two singles and, by the end of 1961, the entries to the charts were no more.
Regardless, Sylvia, who by then bore the surname of Robinson, unexpectedly reappeared on the scene, in 1973, when her recording, “Pillow Talk”, just like “Love Is Strange”, sold more than a million records.
Sylvia died in September of 2011, at the age of seventy-five.
Thurston Theodore Harris was born in July of 1931, in Indianapolis, Indiana. However, it was in Los Angeles that he was to achieve success as a recording artist, most notably with “Little Bitty Pretty One”, in 1957.
“Little Bitty Pretty One” sold more than a million copies and reached No.6 on Billboard’s pop chart. It had been written by Bobby Day, who was, himself, to take “Rockin’ Robin” to No.2 in the following year. Thurston achieved lesser success with his self-penned “Do What You Did”, in 1958, which reached No.14 on the rhythm and blues chart.
Frankie Lymon, Clyde McPhatter, The Jackson 5 and Huey Lewis and The News are among those artists who have recorded “Little Bitty Pretty One”. Thurston Harris drove public buses, in Los Angeles, for twenty years from 1965 and died, an alcoholic, in April of 1990, at the age of fifty-eight.
Lloyd Price is a songwriter, talented performer, bandleader, arranger and an astute businessman, who was born in New Orleans, in March of 1933. He was one of eleven children, whose parents were devout Baptists.
The thirteen lived in the suburb of Kenner, where his mother owned a small restaurant. When patrons activated its juke box, Lloyd found himself exposed to the music of Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, Amos Milburn, and Joe and Jimmy Liggins, as well as many others of their ilk.
A local disc jockey, Okey-Dokey Smith, used the expression, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, and, after he and a younger brother, had formed a band, Lloyd set about developing a tune to this saying. Once lyrics were added the song caught the attention of bandleader, Dave Bartholomew, who had the nowadays famous Fats Domino devise an introduction to it on the piano, and, in 1952, the single became a national hit. It spent seven weeks atop Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart, on which it would remain for six months.
That following year, Lloyd was drafted into the United States’ Army, in spite of the fact that five of his brothers were apparently already in it. There supposedly was a rule that not more than five members of any one family would be required to enter the military simultaneously.
Lloyd was shipped to Korea, in 1953, but had the good fortune to be moved to Japan where he was assigned to a unit that specialised in entertaining soldiers who were stationed there.
Upon his release from the Army, in 1956, Lloyd based himself in Washington D.C. where, with a promoter by the name of Harold Logan, he formed KRC Records. In 1957, Lloyd recorded “Just Because”, however, its success was moderate when compared to that of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”.
ABC-Paramount Records engulfed KRC and Lloyd’s first single on this label was his own composition, “You Need Love”, which contained “Stagger Lee” on its reverse. The latter song contained lyrics put to traditional folklore in New Orleans. In 1950, a local musician, Leon T. Gross, under the pseudonym, Archibald, had released his version of ‘Stackolee’, calling it “Stack-A-Lee”.
Whilst “You Need Love” did not succeed, “Stagger Lee” certainly did! It stood atop Billboard’s pop chart for four weeks, following its release in late 1958. However, when television’s censors would not permit Dick Clark to play the recording’s graphically violent lyrics on ‘American Bandstand’, a diluted version was recorded especially for television.
Nineteen fifty-nine marked the climax of Lloyd Price’s recording career: “Stagger Lee”, spent its four weeks at No.1 from February; “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)? reached No.23; his self-penned — he included Harold Logan’s name on the labels of his recordings merely out of his sheer respect for the man — “Personality” became his largest-selling single, in spite of it reaching its zenith at No.2; “I’m Gonna Get Married” ascended to No.3 and “Come Into My Heart” rose to peak at No.20. “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)? reappeared, in 1999, when it was included in the soundtrack to the film, ‘Runaway Bride’, only on this occasion it was performed by Billy Joel.
In Britain, “Stagger Lee” peaked at No.7; “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)?”, No.15; “Personality”, No.9; and I’m Gonna Get Married”, at No.23. Whilst in Australia, Lloyd’s only three hits, full stop, were “Stagger Lee” (No.4), “Personality” (No.1) and I’m Gonna Get Married” (No.4).
Unlike in the current era where fans are seemingly entertained by a plethora of recordings that bear warbling, electronically altered voices that monotonously echo the often same scant lyrics to an equally monotonous unchanging electronic beat, fans demanded change and freshness and artists who could not or would not offer this often rapidly fell by the wayside.
Nineteen sixty marked the beginning of the end of Lloyd’s meaningful entries to the charts. “Lady Luck” reached No.14 and “Question” No.19. He left ABC-Paramount and recorded for a succession of labels without achieving mentionable success.
After Harold Logan was murdered, in 1969, Lloyd decided to move to Africa. He worked at assisting American companies to invest in his adopted continent. A fan of boxing, in 1974, Lloyd partnered Don King in promoting the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’, in Zaire, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, as well as the ‘Thrilla In Manila’ between Ali and Joe Frazier, in 1975.
Lloyd Price returned to live in the United States, in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, he returned to the stage, touring with other vintage rock stars, such as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, James Brown, Dion, The Righteous Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Conway Twitty, Ricky Nelson, Tommy Roe, Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond and Nick Cave are just some of the recording artists to have covered material written and recorded by Lloyd Price.