Saturday, 31 January 2015

Chuck Willis born 31 January 1928

Harold "Chuck" Willis (January 31, 1928 – April 10, 1958) was an American blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll singer and songwriter. His biggest hits, "C. C. Rider" (1957) and "What Am I Living For" (1958), both reached No.1 on the Billboard R&B chart. He was known as The King of the Stroll for his performance of the 1950s dance the Stroll.

Willis was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Willis was spotted at a talent contest by Atlanta radio disc jockey Zenas Sears, who became his manager and helped him to sign with Columbia Records in 1951. After one single, Willis began recording on a Columbia subsidiary, Okeh. During his stay at Okeh, he established himself as a popular R&B singer and songwriter. In 1956, he moved to Atlantic Records where he had immediate success with "It's Too Late (She's Gone)", "Juanita" and "Love Me Cherry".

His most successful recording was "C.C. Rider", which topped the US Billboard R&B chart in 1957 and also crossed over and sold well in the pop market. "C.C. Rider" was a remake of a twelve-bar blues, performed by Ma Rainey in Atlanta before Willis was born. Its relaxed beat, combined with a mellow vibraphone backing and chorus, inspired the emergence of the popular dance, The Stroll. Willis's follow-up was "Betty and Dupree", another "stroll" song, which also did well. Willis' single "Going to the River", a song by Fats Domino, was a prototype for his "stroll" sound, reaching No.4 on the R&B chart.

Willis, who had suffered from stomach ulcers for many years, died during surgery in Chicago of peritonitis while at the peak of his career, just after the release of his last single, "What Am I Living For?", backed by "Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes". "Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes" was actually the A side of the single but upon his death "What Am I Living For" became the most popular of the two songs. "What Am I Living For?" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It was also the top R&B disc of 1958.

His hit, the blues ballad "It's Too Late (She's Gone)" was covered by other artists, including Otis Redding, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominos and the Jerry Garcia Band. In 2005, it was heavily sampled by Kanye West on Late Registration's "Gone". Elvis Presley covered "I Feel So Bad" and "C. C. Rider" and Ruth Brown and Conway Twitty had hits with "Oh What a Dream". Willis's cousin is Chick Willis. 
(Info from Wikipedia)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sacha Distel born 29 January 1933

Sacha Distel (29 January 1933 – 22 July 2004) was a French singer and guitarist who had hits with a cover version of the Academy Award-winning "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" (originally recorded by B. J. Thomas), "Scoubidou", and "The Good Life". He was born in Paris.

Sacha Distel, born Alexandre Distel, was a son of Russian White émigré Leonid Distel. Sacha's uncle, Ray Ventura, was a founder of the Original Dixieland Jass Band. In the 1930s Ventura promoted and participated in the development of swing in France. When his uncle settled in Paris with his orchestra, “Les Collégiens”, Distel gave up his piano for the guitar.

In 1948, Ventura invited Distel to listen to Dizzy Gillespie perform with his orchestra, along with Bruno Coquatrix, Paul Misraki and André Hornez. Distel's efforts led to the orchestra's split, which gave birth to two rival bands: Guy Wormser's New Orleans die-hards and the cool jazz and bebop aficionados led by Distel. After meeting Hubert Damisch, a saxophone player, Sacha founded the band that would allow him to be up with the leaders.

With help from Jean Marie Ingrand (bass), Mimi Perrin (piano) and Jean Louis Viale
(drums), the band won the Coliseum's Night of Jazz “Meilleur Petit Orchestre Moderne” award, with Damisch and Distel winning prizes as musicians on the same night. Distel became a professional jazz guitarist. Over his career he worked alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Bennett and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950s after establishing himself as a French crooner.

A short-lived romance with Brigitte Bardot in 1958 put his photograph on the cover of every French fan magazine, and shortly afterwards he began his career as a vocalist. One of his first singles was a tribute to Bardot, entitled Brigitte À Jamais.  Distel reported that she ended the affair in a press release in 1959. He married championship Olympic skier Francine Bréaud in 1963. Sacha Distel remained faithful to his wife. He said, "Anything I want in a woman I can get at home." They had two sons and he doted on his family

It was the French version of an American hit, Scoubidou, in 1959 that catapulted Distel to the top. The song became what one historian called "L'hymne de la jeunesse en France". Dozens of other songs followed, among them O Quelle Nuit, Personnalités, Mon Beau Chapeau, Le Boogie Du Bébé, Scandale Dans La Famille, Ces Mots Stupides and L'Incendie À Rio. In 1967, he recorded Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine with Brigitte Bardot, as Le Soleil De Ma Vie.

In the 1960s, he composed "La Belle Vie", a tune that made its way across the Atlantic as "The Good Life", most famously performed by Tony Bennett. French lyrics were added in the 1970s and it became Distel's signature tune. During the 1960s, he had his own variety show on French television. During the 1970s, he became popular outside France, and once hosted the Miss World contest in London. During this decade, he spent more time in the UK than in France.

In August 1980, in honour of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Distel performed at Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen Mother's 80th birthday. The Queen Mother was said to have been impressed by Distel's moving voice and later in the night she requested "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", a song that had been recorded by Perry Como, one of her favourite singers. It moved many members of the Royal family to laughter as the old Queen sat with amusement.

In 1985 Distel's Porsche went out of control as he was driving to a stock-car championship with the actress Chantal Nobel. The actress was in a coma for a month. Distel was fined and given a suspended sentence and, racked with guilt, became very depressed.

Distel remained reasonably popular in France in the 1980s and 1990s, including a new show named after his song La Belle Vie. In 2001, Distel appeared as the crooked lawyer Billy Flynn in the London production of Chicago, and he brought out two new CDs. True to form, one was a collection of American standards, in which he was joined by Liza Minnelli, the other a new set of French songs, which won him a final accolade from the French music industry. He was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1997. He did have an ambition to make a musical about the life of Maurice Chevalier, but this remained unfulfilled at the time of his death.

Sacha Distel died on July 22 2004 in Rayol-Canadel, southeast France after a long battle with cancer.

(Info edited mainly Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fausto Papetti born 28 January 1923

Fausto Papetti (28 January 1923 – 15 June 1999) was an Italian alto saxophone player. 

He was born at Viggiù in Lombardy. His career began in 1957 when, having been part of some jazz orchestras, began playing with the group “I Campioni” (The Champions), which at the time was accompanying on disk and in concert the singer Tony Dallara.

He left the group in 1959, signing a contract for the Durium as a session man, then playing in disks of various artists of that recording house. One day, however, the director of the big orchestra, of which he was part, did not want to record the B side of a single (45 rpm) record because the piece chosen, "Estate violenta" (Violent summer) from film Homonymous, had not a satisfactory arrangement. The producer, eager to finish, then decided to do without the orchestra and to convene immediately the rhythm section of the same formation, which consisted of four parts: bass, drums, guitar and sax.  

The young saxophonist to whom the song of the film was entrusted, was indeed Fausto Papetti who during the tests improvises a personal elaboration of the melody, which the rhythm section highlighted with perfect intuition. After the test Papetti claims to be ready to start but the registration had already been made, without the four boys knowing it, during the test itself. 

The single "Estate violenta" was published in 1960 under the name "Fausto Papetti Sax and rhythms", and had such a successful sale, exceeding that of the original soundtrack of the film, convinced Durium to let him record, in the same year, his first album, simply titled "Raccolta" (Collection). Starting with this disk, all his other ones will have the same title, changing only the numeration. Among the musicians accompanying him there was the famous drummer Pupo De Luca, who, in the years following, will play with Adriano Celentano and Enzo Jannacci. 

                      Here's "Intermezzo" from above album.

Papetti became well known for all the 1960s and 1970s, and all his new albums reached the top of the hit parade; he was also popular in the Latin American market. During the 70's Papetti also produced two collections a year, the best-selling being the 20th one, which was released in 1975. His recordings, sometimes under the pseudonym "Fausto Danieli", are also characterized for the sexy covers on which girls posed rather scantily clothed or nude. 

He became a founder of a genre, and in the 70s had many imitators, like Johnny Sax and Piergiorgio Farina. As well as his famed Collections, he recorded many other albums including "Old America", "Evergreen", "Bonjour France", "Made in Italy", "Rhythms of Latin America", "Cinema anni '60","Cinema anni '70". His performance of the song "Love's Theme" (originally by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra) was featured on the break beat compilation "Ultimate Breaks and Beats".

In 1985, after 25 years, he left the Durium to go to CBS, which from 1988 onwards was acquired by Sony Music; since 1989 he recorded for the Fonit Cetra. Fausto continued working until his death in San Remo (Italy) on Jun.15th 1999, at the age of 76. He is buried in Ospedaletti, where he lived for over twenty-five years. (Info edited from various sources mainly

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Skitch Henderson born 27 January 1918

Lyle Russel “Skitch” Henderson (January 27, 1918 – November 1, 2005) was a pianist, conductor, and composer. His nickname ("Skitch") reportedly derived from his ability to quickly "re-sketch" a song in a different key. 

Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson was born on a farm near Halstad, Minnesota, to Joseph and Josephine Henderson, both of Norwegian descent. His mother died shortly after his birth, and he was then sent to live with his aunt Hattie Henderson Gift and uncle Frank Gift, who raised him. She taught him piano, starting at the age of four.  

Although he didn't receive formal conservatory education in music, Henderson received classical training under Fritz Reiner, Albert Coates, Arnold Schoenberg, Ernst Toch and Arturo Toscanini, who invited him to conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Henderson would later recount his learning the ropes by playing in taverns with popular singers of the day. 

He started his professional career in the 1930s playing piano in the roadhouses of the American Midwest, his major break being as an accompanist on a 1937 MGM promotional tour featuring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Henderson later said that as a member of MGM's music department, he worked with Garland to learn "Over the Rainbow" during rehearsals for The Wizard of Oz and played piano for her first public performance of the song at a local nightclub before the film was finished. However this account is at odds with the memoirs of the tune's composer, Harold Arlen, who said he first performed the song for the 14-year-old Garland.

After the war, he worked for NBC Radio, where he was the musical director for Frank Sinatra's Lucky Strike Show. He was also accompanist on Philco Radio Time with Bing Crosby on the new ABC network. Henderson also played on Bob Hope's Pepsodent Show.

The origin of his nickname is often traced to this period, with Henderson crediting the invention to Bing Crosby who said he (Henderson) should have a nickname. Crosby settled on "Skitch", which came from "The Sketch Kid", referring to Henderson's ability to quickly transcribe music to a written score. Other reports, however, claim that the name came from something that a young Skitch and his buddies would say to act cool and hip, "skitchadudawawa", long before he met Crosby.

Between 1947 and 1949, he toured with his own dance band, and from 1961 was the musical director for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) and a guest conductor for a number of symphony orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic. He was also music director for the New York opera "Street Scene" and made many recordings. Joining ASCAP in 1958, his instrumental compositions include "Skitch's Blues," "Minuet on the Rocks," "Skitch in Time," "Come Thursday," and "Curacao."

      Here's "In a Sentimental Mood" from above 1957 album

He was indicted on July 2, 1974, on charges of tax evasion for the years of 1969 and 1970 for claims about the value (allegedly $350,000) of a music library he donated to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He further claimed that he had consulted on the value of his collection with Leonard Bernstein and Henry Mancini, both of whom denied the claims. A signature on an acceptance letter from the library director was also deemed a forgery.

Henderson was sentenced on January 17, 1975 to 6 months in prison and fined $10,000. He began serving his sentence at a minimum-security Federal prison on April 9, 1975 and was released after four months, on August 4, 1975.
In 1983, he founded The New York Pops orchestra, which makes its home at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He served as the music director and conductor of the orchestra until his death in 2005. Henderson also conducted numerous symphonic orchestras throughout the world.

Among his hundreds of recordings, spanning the era of 78s to DVDs, were two recent releases as pianist for Arbors Records. The two albums were Swinging With Strings and Legends (with Bucky Pizzarelli). He also served as conductor of The New York Pops with Maureen McGovern on With a Song in My Heart: The Great Songs of Richard Rodgers for Reader's Digest and Centaur Records. (Info from Wikipedia)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Huey "Piano" Smith born 26 January 1934

Huey "Piano" Smith (born Huey Pierce Smith, January 26, 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana) is an American rhythm and blues pianist whose sound was influential in the development of rock and roll.

His piano playing incorporated the boogie styles of Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons; the jazz style of Jelly Roll Morton; and the piano playing of Fats Domino. At the peak of his game, Smith epitomized New Orleans R&B at its most infectious and rollicking, as showcased on his classic signature tune, 'Don't You Just Know It.

Smith was born in New Orleans' Garden District, and was
influenced by the innovative work of Professor Longhair. He became known for his shuffling right-handed break on the piano that influenced other Southern players.

Smith wrote his first song on the piano, "Roberson Street Boogie" (named after the street where he lived), when he was only eight years old, and performed the tune with a friend. They billed themselves as Slick and Dark. Smith attended McDowell High and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. When Smith was fifteen he began working in clubs and recording records with his flamboyant partner, Eddie Jones, who rose to fame as Guitar Slim. When he was eighteen, in 1952, he signed a recording contract with Savoy Records, which released his first known single, "You Made Me Cry". In 1953 Smith recorded with Earl King. 

In 1955, Smith turned 21, and became the piano player with Little Richard's first band for Specialty Records. The same year he also played piano on several studio sessions for other artists such as Lloyd Price.Two of the sessions resulted in hits for Earl King ("Those Lonely Lonely Nights"), and Smiley Lewis ("I Hear You Knocking"). 

In 1957, Smith formed 'Huey 'Piano' Smith and His Clowns' with Bobby Marchan, and signed a long term contract with former Specialty record producer, Johnny Vincent at Ace Records. They hit the Billboard charts with several singles in succession, including "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu". The lyrics were written by John Vincent, and the record sold over one million copies, achieving gold disc status. 

In 1958, Vin Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records, released a popular single "Little Chickee Wah Wah" with Clowns singer Gerri Hall, under the billing of Huey and Jerry. Meanwhile, Ace Records released several more singles from 'Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns', including "We Like Birdland", "Well I'll Be John Brown", and "Don't You Know Yockomo." (Later, in 1964, New Zealand artist Dinah Lee took her cover version of this last song to number 1 in both New Zealand & Australia.) 

The Clowns' most famous single, released in 1958, was "Don't You Just Know It" b/w "High Blood Pressure." This hit number 9 on the Billboard Pop chart and number 4 on the Rhythm and Blues chart. It was their second million seller. 

In 1959, Ace Records erased Huey Smith's vocal track from the now classic single Smith composed, arranged and performed entitled "Sea Cruise", and replaced it with a vocal track by white singer Frankie Ford. The tune was a huge hit for Ford. 

Smith left Ace Records for Imperial Records, to record with Fats Domino's noted producer (and fellow Louisianan) Dave Bartholomew, but the national hits did not follow. Instead, Ace Records again overdubbed new vocals by Gerri Hall, Billy Roosevelt and Johnny Williams on another one of Smith's unreleased tracks, to produce the last hit single credited to Huey "Piano" Smith, entitled "Pop-Eye". 

Smith spent part of the '60s recording for Instant and touring not only with the Clowns, but alternate groups the Hueys and the Pitter Pats as well. Unable to return to the charts, he eventually converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses and left the music industry permanently. In 2000, Smith was honored with a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.  (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Barbara Carroll born 25 January 1925

Barbara Carroll (born Barbara Carole Coppersmith on January 25, 1925 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is a jazz pianist, composer and vocalist who has long been regarded as one of the most fascinating purveyors of swinging jazz piano and rhythmic, expressive vocals.

She began her classical training in piano at age eight, but by high school had decided to become a jazz pianist. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music for a year, but left it as it conflicted with working for bands. In 1947 Leonard Feather dubbed her "the first girl ever to play bebop piano." In the following year her trio, which had Chuck Wayne on guitar and Clyde Lombardi on bass, worked briefly with Benny Goodman. Later Charlie Byrd replaced Wayne with Joe Shulman replacing Lombardi. After Byrd left she decided to have it be a drums, bass, and piano trio.

In the 1950s she did noteworthy solo work as well as work with her trio. She also began to cross-over doing a jazz-waltz and her trio worked on Me and Juliet by Rodgers and Hammerstein. That stated, the end of the decade saw her career ebb. This occurred because of changing musical tastes and personal concerns.

In September 1954 Barbara married Joe Shulman, a member of the trio. The marriage lasted less than three years as he died of a heart-attack in 1957 at 33. She later married former bandleader Bert Block and had a daughter. She decided in 1965 to retire from jazz and devote her time to her family.

        Here's 'S Wonderful from above album. Recorded 1957. 
In 1972 she revived her career due to a renewed interest in her work. In 1975 she was asked by Rita Coolidge to work on a session for A&M. Then in 1978 she toured with Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. In the following two decades she became known as a cabaret musician.
Her work over the past 50 years has spanned everything from appearances on Broadway with her trio in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Me and Juliet to performances in concert halls, jazz clubs, on major TV shows and festival stages throughout the world. She has performed for President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House and has made more than thirty major label recordings with an array of jazz legends including Art Farmer, Claudio Roditi, Bucky Pizzarelli and John Pizzarelli.
Ms. Carroll, whom many regard as New York’s “first lady of jazz piano,” recently completed a record-breaking run at the famed Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, where she appeared annually for two extended engagements for 24 consecutive years. Now performing nearly every Wednesday at Birdland (with bassist Jay Leonhart and Joe Cocuzzo on drums), Ms. Carroll has returned to the kind of jazz clubs that made her famous in the 1950s.
Her 2005 release of “Live At Birdland,” showcases her extensive repertoire coupled with her intimate knowledge and presentation of jazz piano at its best. She has gained new appreciation in the cabaret world, and continues working to the present. 

In the current decade she’s been awarded a Lifetime Achievement award and the “Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz.”(Info edited from Wikipedia & All about jazz)
Legendary jazz pianist Barbara Carroll at the Algonquin Hotel, May 25, 2008. With bassist Jay Leonhart, she performs her signature closing song, "Old Friends" by Stephen Sondheim.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Peggy DeCastro born 24 January 1921

Peggy DeCastro (b.24, Jan 1921 - 6, March 2004) was the lead singer of the female-sister group DeCastro Sisters. Originally they consisted of Peggy DeCastro (1921–2004), Cherie DeCastro (1922–2010) and Babette DeCastro (1925–1992). When Babette retired in 1958, a cousin, Olgita DeCastro Marino (1931–2000) replaced her and when Peggy later left the group to go solo, Babette re-joined Cherie and Olgita. Peggy eventually returned and Babette once more retired.

The three original DeCastro Sisters—Peggy, Cherie and
were raised in Havana in a family mansion that was seized by Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution and is now used as the Chinese Embassy. Their mother, Babette Buchanan, was an Chicago-born Ziegfeld Follies showgirl who married the wealthy Cuban aristocrat Juan Fernandez de Castro, owner of a large sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic, where first daughter Peggy was born. De Castro later developed radio and television in Cuba with David Sarnoff, who was often a guest at their home and was also in charge of a planned project under the Batista regime to build a canal through Cuba, which never materialized.

The family moved to New York, where Cherie was born, then to Havana, Cuba, where Babette was born and all three girls were raised. In one of their first public performances as children, they wore white dresses, carried U.S. flags and sang the U.S. National Anthem. They also performed at parties and church socials, singing American ballads.

As teenagers, they imitated the Andrews Sisters and eventually became known as the Andrews Sisters of Cuba. Soon they were playing in Cuban nightclubs billed as the Fernandez-DeCastro Sisters. They came to the United States in 1945 for a tour that began in Miami, went through New York's Radio City Music Hall and finished in California, where they were discovered in a small nightclub called the Club Brazil by famed actress and singer Carmen Miranda. Miranda gave the sisters small roles in her films "Dynamite Wrapped in Glamour" and "Copacabana." The trio's hit recording got them gigs in Las Vegas showrooms.

As their careers took off, their act became more flamboyant and they worked across the country including the Palladium in Hollywood, where they sang with Tito Puente’s band and made their first recordings. In 1946, they provided several of the bird and animal voices for Walt Disney’s animated "Song of the South", including the Oscar-winning "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah".

They appeared on screen with Carmen Miranda and Groucho Marx in the 1947 film Copacabana, the same year that they joined Bob Hope and Cecil B. DeMille on the live premiere broadcast special launching KTLA in Los Angeles, the very first telecast west of the Mississippi. The sisters were introduced by Hope and sang “Babalu,” which was filmed by a Paramount newsreel cameraman and is the only surviving footage of the original three-hour show.

The DeCastro Sisters had just one hit song, the 1955 Sammy Kahn-penned standard "Teach Me Tonight," (#2 in 1955) which has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr. and Al Jarreau, among others. They also had minor hits with "Boom Boom Boomerang" and "It's Yours". Their recording career actually spanned about 10 years, from the early 50's to about 1962.

Over the years they performed with many industry giants, including Bob Hope and George Burns. In recent years the DeCastro Sisters featured Peggy, Cherie and Lois Denny, who is not related to the sisters but has been a longtime replacement member.

The DeCastro Sisters appeared on most major TV shows including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Perry Como Show. They also made numerous film shorts including Universal's "Swingin’ and Singin’" with Maynard Ferguson and Riot in Rhythm with Harry James. At various times Peggy and Babette took leave from the act and were replaced by a cousin Olgita, so Cherie was the only sister who was part of every appearance and recording that the group ever made. 

In 1997, they were part of KTLA's 50th anniversary broadcast in Los Angeles and headlined at the Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill. Three years later, they were inducted in the Casino Legends Hall of Fame as “Las Vegas Living Legends.“ Cherie continued to perform until shortly before her illness and sang "Teach Me Tonight" on the 2006 PBS special, "Moments To Remember: My Music", which is still periodically shown and is out on DVD.
The original trio included Peggy, Cherie and sister Babette. When Babette left the group to raise a family, she was replaced by cousin Olgita DeCastro. Babette died of cancer in 1992. Olgita died of asthma on February 14, 2000. Peggy retired once from the trio in 1996 when her second husband, California veterinarian John Carricaburu, became ill. He died two years ago. Her first husband, longtime group manager Bob Lilley, also preceded her in death. After Carricaburu died, Cherie traveled to Peggy's then-home in Northern California and successfully got her back into show business. Peggy died at her home in Las Vegas from lung cancer on March 6, 2004 in Las Vegas. Cherie, the only sister to appear on every recording, film, TV and stage appearance, died of pneumonia on March 14, 2010. (Info edited from various sources, mainly Wikipedia)

Friday, 23 January 2015

Joe Dowell born 23 January 1940

Joe Dowell (born January 23, 1940, Bloomington, Illinois) is an American pop singer.

Playing the guitar and writing songs from the age of thirteen, Dowell made his debut in an amateur talent show in the ninth grade, and later attended the University of Illinois. Joe had, what he calls, his "fourteen-and-a-half-minutes of fame," when his first recording session yielded a number one hit, "Wooden Heart", in 1961.
Elvis Presley had included the song, a centuries old German folk tune, on the soundtrack of his film, GI Blues, and it had become a big hit in Europe, but, RCA Victor had failed to release it as a single in the United States. Recorded at the suggestion of country producer Shelby Singleton, Dowell's version, featuring Ray Stevens on organ, became a phenomenal success. The first single to be released on Mercury's Smash subsidiary, "Wooden Heart" reached the top slot on the Billboard charts within ninety days.

"Wooden Heart", the first single released on Smash Records, shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Joe was a senior at the University of Illinois when "Wooden Heart" topped the charts. In the wake of his success, Dowell wanted to become a songwriter in his own right, but due to contractual obligations, he was required to sing music owned by Smash's parent company, Mercury Records. He had two further hits, "The Bridge of Love" (US #50) and "Little Red Rented Rowboat" (US #23) in 1963.

Dowell was a victim of the music industry's darker side. Although he prided himself on being a "singer-songwriter", he was forced to record inferior material owned by Mercury. Thus, his debut album, Wooden Heart, was a disappointing showcase of cover tunes. When he rebelled against the practice, Dowell's recording contract was dropped.
Dowell went on to record one single for Monument Records and a folk album in the 1960s, and a number of singles and a gospel album for his own Journey label in the 1970s and 1980s. He also recorded a bicentennial EP for the Boy Scouts of America and radio jingles.
The popularity of Dowell's version of "Wooden Heart" allowed him to remain active as an entertainer. Launching a radio commercial production company, he built an extremely successful career as spokesperson for banks and financial institutions across the United States.
Bear Family Records released a CD on Joe Dowell's music, including unreleased recordings.
 (info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)