Thursday Inspiration #109 Johnny Angel

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word away, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘Johnny Angel’, or by going with any Elvis Presley song, or a Ricky Nelson song or any song that features the Wrecking Crew.  Songwriters Lyn Duddy and Lee Pockriss wrote ‘Johnny Angel’ while trapped in Duddy’s apartment during a blackout.  They each had other songwriting partners (Pockriss, with Paul Vance, wrote ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’) but while scrambling to figure out what to do with their time during the blackout and having nothing else to do, they decided to brainstorm some ideas and this song was the result.  They wrote this song from the point of view of someone who waited on the corner every night for someone to pass by.  Duddy said that he always wanted to write a soliloquy (a song written where you speak your thoughts aloud when you are by yourself, or regardless of any one who hears).  He had the idea for this song which he called ‘Seven-thirty’, but changed it to ‘Johnny Angel’ when Pockriss suggested it should be a guy’s name.  They produced this chart-topping hit, but they never worked together again.  Lyn Duddy mostly wrote with Jerry Bresler, but he also wrote episodes for the Jackie Gleason show, the Merv Griffin show and the Ed Sullivan show.  In this song a girl is hung up on a guy named Johnny, so much that she rejects dates from any other guy, but Johnny has no idea who she is.

‘Johnny Angel’ was first recorded in January 1960 by Georgia Lee, followed in April by the release of a version by Laurie Loman, but neither of the recordings charted.  This Shelley Fabares version of this song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1962.  It features members of the Wrecking Crew Glen Campbell, Bill Pitman and Howard Roberts on guitar, and Carol Kaye on bass, Hal Blaine on drums, and Darlene Love, Fanita James and Jean King an American girl-group from California known as the Blossoms sang backup vocals.  Fabares did not consider herself to be a singer and she thought that the voices of her backup vocalists were so “beautiful” that it frightened her to try to be a recording artist and it was obvious that her acting career was stronger.  Fifteen takes were spliced together by Stu Phillips and the parts of the song that she had a difficult time singing were handed off to the Blossoms.  She did have another Top 40 hit, with the sequel ‘Johnny Loves Me’, which was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, but her singing career ended in 1966.

On the Donna Reed show episode Donna’s Prima Donna from March 3, 1962, Mary Stone played by 18-year-old Shelley Fabares wants to sing and her mother Donna Stone played by Donna Reed has never heard Mary sing, so she attends Mary’s school performance to hear her sing.  Mary is considering skipping college to pursue a singing career, and her mother is skeptical until she hears Mary sing ‘Johnny Angel’.  Fabares left The Donna Reed Show in 1963, when her character went off to college.  Shelley Fabares successfully transitioned into an adult actress despite needing a liver transplant later in her life.  Shelley Fabares starred with Elvis Presley in the 1965 movie Girl Happy, and she was in two other movies with him Spinout and Clambake.

The producers of the Donna Reed show noticed the ratings of The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet show spiked whenever Ricky Nelson sang at the end of the show, and they decided that they must have somebody sing on their show.  Tony Owen co-producer of the show and husband of Donna Reed approached Paul Petersen who played Jeff Stone on the show and Shelley to sing on the show.  Paul Petersen jumped at the chance, as he was an original Mouseketeer back in 1953.

I get carried away
I dream of him and me
And how it’s gonna be

21 thoughts on “Thursday Inspiration #109 Johnny Angel

  1. Donna Reed was one of the few celebrities I ever met. She lived on Mercer Island in the late 1970’s and attended a party in Seattle where I certainly was not expecting to see her. While I was listening to Johnny Angel on the computer, the television music started playing All I Have To Do Is Dream by the Everly Brothers. I was suddenly in a vortex of nostalgia.

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