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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tommy Edwards born 17 February 1922

Tommy Edwards (February 17, 1922 — October 22, 1969) was an African American singer and songwriter. He delivered one giant hit in the late 50's for which he is known to this day, and several smaller hits, before he died at a young age.

He was born Thomas Edwards in Richmond, Virginia. By age nine he was performing locally. He learned to play the piano and tried his hand at songwriting, beginning  began his
professional career in 1931.

Louis Jordan recorded Tommy's composition of That Chick's Too Young To Fry and it went to #3 on the R&B chart in the late 40's. In 1949 he moved to New York City and began recording demos to earn a living. He signed with the Top label but by 1950 had moved on to MGM. In 1951 he put two songs in the top forty, The Morning Side Of The Mountain and It's All In The Game. He had a few other minor hits but his career went into decline and he met with some financial problems.

The song he had recorded titled It's All In The Game is one with a curious history. It had been written in 1912 as Melody In A Major by Chicago banker Charles Gates Dawes. Dawes would later become the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
and served as Vice President of the United States from 1925 to 1929 under Calvin Coolidge. Songwriter Carl Sigman added lyrics to Dawes' composition in 1951 and it became It's All In The Game.

By 1958 Tommy Edwards was still with MGM but the label was getting ready to drop him. At the suggestion of the record label he worked with producer Harry Myerson on a new arrangement for It's All In The Game and recorded it at what is alleged to have been scheduled as his last session at MGM. In August of 1958 the reworked version, sung by Tommy in his smooth velvety voice, entered the charts and became an immediate sensation. It went to number one and held its position for six solid weeks. As well as topping the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the song also got to number one on the R&B chart, and in the UK Singles Chart. The single sold over 3.5 million copies globally, earning gold disc status. Tommy appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show that September and his career was in high gear. The gold disc was presented in November 1958.

Edwards made it a point to pay off all his debts. He re-recorded some of his other songs from the early 50's, including The Morning Side Of The Mountain, and met with some chart success over the next couple of years. One of these records was Edwards' version of Johnnie Ray's Please Mr.

Sun. His final top forty entry was I Really Don't Want To Know in 1960. "I Really Don't Want to Know," "Don't Fence Me In," and "It's Not the End of Everything" were as smooth and affecting as anything he had ever done, but subsequent releases faltered. Experimental LPs, featuring Hawaiian and string-oriented sounds, did nothing to reverse his downward career spiral.

 Tommy Edwards returned to his native Richmond, where he suffered a brain aneurysm and died on October 22, 1969, at age 47. The liner notes of his 1994 Eric Records release The
Complete Hits of Tommy Edwards, claim his death was caused by alcoholism. While the two may be related, there is no confirmation of this.

His record It's All In The Game was recorded by many other artists and returned to the top forty in versions by Cliff Richard in 1964 and the Four Tops in 1970. It sold over 3-1/2 million copies, and to this date is the only record ever to make the top forty that was written by a Vice President of the United States. Edwards received a Virginia Highway Marker in 2008, erected near Pemberton Elementary School, off Quioccasin Road, in Henrico County. In July 2008, Richmond mayor L. Douglas Wilder signed a proclamation declaring 15 October 2008 "Tommy Edwards Day."
(info edited mainly from Wikipedia & Tom Simon)

I managed to find one rare clip of Tommy Edwards singing "I've Been There" taken from the TV show Dick Clark Beechnut Show from August 1959. Quality poor but better than nowt!


Joski said...

He was truly one of the greatest voices of his time.

boppinbob said...

For the Best of Tommy Edwards go here:

boppinbob said...

Hi Joski, Long time no see. Thanks for the comment.