Aired on Treasure Island Oldies – March 2020
Here’s a record that made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1962. How it got there and who got it there is quite a story.
Early in 1962, Gene Pitney wrote a song for the Shirelles. However, the girls turned down the opportunity to record it. Phil Spector, an old friend of Pitney’s, had heard the demo and believed the song would be a hit.
Finding out that the song was now being earmarked by Liberty Records for up-and-coming singer Vicki Carr, the race was on for Spector to get his version released as soon as possible.
With two Top 20 hits already under his belt with a new east coast girl group, Spector set the wheels in motion to produce the song in Los Angeles. You can just imagine how shocked he was when his east coast girls balked at coming to Los Angeles because of a fear of flying. But that did not stop Spector. He got the premiere female backup singing group in Los Angeles, a trio at the time, to provide the vocals.
This trio of artists – Darlene Wright, Fanita James, and Gracia Nitzche – were known as the Blossoms, a group that had a few personnel changes over the years. During the 50s and 60s, they made a career out of singing backup for many artists from Paul Anka to Elvis Presley. Their versatility enabled to be a choral group one minute for Ed Townsend on “For Your Love” and to produce a surf sound for many of Jan & Dean’s hits. However, it was this Phil Spector production in the summer of 1962 that made them the ultimate uncredited group of the 60s.
You see, when the song was released, it erroneously came out as being sung by the Crystals, who were most surprised. In fact, it caused a challenge for the east coast group because lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match the singing voice of Darlene Wright of the Blossoms on the record. It also propelled fifteen-year-old Dolores “LaLa” Brooks of the Crystals to take the lead on the song when the group toured.
Darlene Wright, motivated by Phil Spector, changed her name and went on to become Darlene Love.
Looking back on this story, you can readily see that the title of the #1 record aptly describes Phil Spector because “He’s A Rebel,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
This “Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.