Cover of 1963 Skeeter Davis album, “The End of The World,” also the title of her hit single that year. RCA label.
In early 1963, a song with the title “The End of the World” was doing something no other recording had done then or since then: making its way into the Top Ten of four of the nation’s music charts.
During March of 1963, the song, performed by country singer Skeeter Davis, hit No. 2 on both the Billboard country and pop charts. The Davis song also hit No. 4 on the Billboard R&B chart and went to No. 1 for four weeks on the Billboard adult contemporary chart. The song, about a lost love or personal bereavement, also rose into the Top 20 on the U.K. music charts.
Davis, then in her early 30s, was a country recording artist, and had started out singing as a teenager in the late 1940s as part of The Davis Sisters duo. She later began recording as a solo artist for RCA Records. By the late 1950s, she had become mostly a country star with some crossover to pop music.
Skeeter Davis in a promo ad for her song, "What Am I Gonna Do Without You", October 1964.
“The End of the World” was written by composer Arthur Kent and lyricist Sylvia Dee; the latter drawing on sorrow from her father’s death, writing the lyrics when she was 14 years old. Skeeter Davis recorded the song on June 8, 1962 at the RCA Studios in Nashville, produced by Chet Atkins, and featuring Floyd Cramer on piano. Released by RCA Records in December 1962, “The End of the World” began its historic four-chart, Top Ten accomplishment in March 1963. An album featuring the song, along with other Skeeter Davis tunes, also reached the Billboard 200 album list in 1963. (cover shown above).
“The End of The World”
In later years, “The End of the World” came to be regarded as something of a modern standard, subsequently covered by acts as diverse as Loretta Lynn, the Carpenters, Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and John Cougar Mellencamp.
The Skeeter Davis version, however, the original “End of The World,” has been featured in a number of films, including: Girl, Interrupted, Riding In Cars With Boys, Daltry Calhoun, An American Affair, and others. It has also been used on television, including episodes of Mad Men and Under the Dome. Davis’s recording of “The End of the World” was also played at Chet Atkins’s funeral in an instrumental by Marty Stuart, and at Davis’s own funeral in 2004 at the Ryman Auditorium.
“The End of The World”
Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world,
‘Cause you don’t love me any more?
Why do the birds go on singing?
Why do the stars glow above?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world.
It ended when I lost your love.
I wake up in the morning and I wonder,
Why everything’s the same as it was.
I can’t understand. No, I can’t understand,
How life goes on the way it does.
Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world.
It ended when you said goodbye.
Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world.
It ended when you said goodbye.
Skeeter Davis – Mary Frances Penick – was born in a two-room cabin at Dry Ridge, Kentucky near Glencoe in 1931. She was the first of seven children, and she grew up on a farm. Her grandfather, impressed by her energy, nicknamed her “Skeeter.” After 1947, the Penick family moved to Covington, Kentucky, and it was there that Skeeter began singing with high school classmate Betty Jack Davis. Adapting the name the Davis Sisters – when Skeeter Penick became Skeeter Davis – the two girls gained momentum in the early ’50s working at Detroit’s WJR radio station on the “Barnyard Frolics” show. The girls’ harmonies came to the attention of RCA’s Steve Sholes, who signed them to a recording contract in 1953. They were just a year or two out of high school by then. That summer, as their “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” headed to No. 1 and million-seller status, a violent car crash left Betty Jack dead and Skeeter injured. Betty’s stage mother, reportedly then coerced Skeeter into performing with Betty’s sister, Georgia, through 1956. Skeeter then married, in part to escape Mrs. Davis, and begin a solo career.
Chet Atkins had played guitar on nearly all the Davis Sisters’ RCA sessions. By 1958 Atkins ran the RCA Nashville recording shop. Suspecting Skeeter’s voice had broader potential, he multi-tracked her vocals to echo the Davis Sisters sound. Skeeter also joined the Grand Ole Opry as a solo act in 1959. Between 1959 and 1962, she had a series of Top 10 and Top 20 hits on the Billboard Country chart including: “Am I That Easy To Forget” (1960); “(I Can’t Help You) I’m Falling Too” (1960), “My Last Date (With You)” (1961), and “Where I Ought to Be” (1962). Some of these latter recordings were “answer songs” to popular country recordings of the time.
Skeeter Davis on later copy of her single, “The End of the World” with “Blueberry Hill” on the B-side.
During the 1960s, Skeeter Davis became one of RCA’s most successful country artists, charting 38 country hits, 13 of which crossed over to the pop charts. Among these was “The End Of The World” which became her best-known song and a million-selling recording. It was released by RCA Records in December 1962.
Radio DJs, however, had initially been playing the B-side of the record, which was the old pop standard, “Somebody Loves You.” But New York City disc jockey Scott Muni of WABC flipped it over and began playing Davis’s sentimental ballad. In the next week, it sold 100,000 copies. And with that, Skeeter Davis was on her way to becoming a big crossover star, as the “The End of The World” climbed the Billboard pop chart.
The song reached it’s peak in March 1963, rising to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.2 on the Billboard country chart.
Skeeter Davis performing, likely in the 1970s.
The song also enjoyed international success, topping out in the U.K. at No. 18 after thirteen weeks on the chart. She also received special recognition for the song in Norway (Silver Record) and South Africa (Gold Record).
But Davis expressed frustration when some of her country music fans accused her of selling out when the song became a big hit on the pop charts. For Davis, that only meant a broader audience, and the likely prospect that those listeners would spend more time with country music. “I know they began listening to my other albums and those of a lot of other country artists,” she would say in later interviews. “I looked upon these events as just another way of getting country music heard.”
In 1963, Davis achieved another country pop hit with the Carole King-penned song “I Can’t Stay Mad At You,” which became a Top 10 pop hit, peaking at No. 7.
During her career, Davis received five Grammy Award nominations, including four for Best Female Country Vocal Performance — in 1964 for “He Says the Same Things to Me;” 1965 for “Sunglasses;” 1967 for “What Does It Take;” and 1972 for “One Tin Soldier.”
The cover of Skeeter Davis’s 1993 book, “Bus Fare to Kentucky,” uses a country quilt motif.
Skeeter Davis was also an accomplished songwriter, penning nearly 70 songs and earning two BMI awards. Davis made several appearances on the pop music show American Bandstand in the early 1960s, and a decade later was one of the first country artists to appear on The Midnight Special TV show, a 90-minute late-night variety series on NBC. During the 1970s and early 1980s, The Midnight Special show followed the Friday night edition of Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.
In 1973 during a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, Skeeter dedicated a gospel song to street evangelists that had been arrested by Nashville police. For her “political” commentary, Davis was barred from the Grand Ole Opry for a time, but was later reinstated. In the 1970s, Davis was active singing with religious ministries and spent some time evangelizing in Africa.
In the mid-1970s she returned to the recording studio briefly with Mercury Records in 1976, producing two single releases, including her last song to chart nationally, “I Love Us.”
In 1985, New York Times pop music critic, Robert Palmer, noting an upcoming appearance by Skeeter Davis in December with the band NRBQ at New York’s Lone Star Café, called her “an extraordinary country-pop singer,” albeit one, he noted, who had faded from popularity and was then seldom seen. Palmer added, however, that on the basis of her NRBQ songs and recording history, “Miss Davis is still an exceptional singer” and her appearance in New York was “eagerly awaited.” Davis and NRQB that year had released the album She Sings, They Play.
Back cover of “Bus Fare to Kentucky” shows Skeeter Davis performing.
Jeff Tamarkin, on assignment with Goldmine magazine in late 1985, saw Davis perform with NRBQ in New York that December and noted: “Watching Skeeter and the boys sing together at New York’s Bottom Line and Lone Star Cafe, it’s obvious that what both parties say is true: This is a match made in heaven. Skeeter sounded and looked great and NRBQ is right at home with her style and experience.”
In her career as a solo artist, Skeeter Davis placed a total of 43 singles on the Billboard Country Chart between 1957 and 1976. She also recorded some 30 studio albums and 14 compilation albums. Davis was an acknowledged influence on Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. Throughout much of the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Davis continued to perform. Her autobiography, Bus Fare to Kentucky – named after a 1971 Davis hit – was published in 1993 with a hardback print run of 40,000 copies and $40,000 for promotion. In 1998 she wrote a children’s book, The Christmas Note, with Cathie Pelletier. In 2001 she became incapacitated by the breast cancer that would later claim her life. While Davis remained a member of the Grand Ole Opry until her death, she last appeared on the program there in 2002. She was 72 when she died from breast cancer on September 19, 2004.
Article Citation: Jack Doyle, “The End of the World, Skeeter Davis:1963″ PopHistoryDig.com, May 28, 2014.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
“WABC-Top Hits” January 22, 1963
1. Go Away Little Girl – Steve Lawrence
2. Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers
3. Tell Him – The Exciters
4. Up On the Roof – The Drifters
5. Hey Paula – Paul and Paula
6. The Gypsy Cried – Lou Christie 7. The End of the World – Skeeter Davis
8. Pepino the Italian Mouse – Lou Monte
9. Night Has a Thousand Eyes – Bobby Vee
10. Two Lovers – Mary Wells
11. Remember Then – The Earls
12. My Coloring Book – Kitty Kallen
13. Telstar – The Tornadoes
14. Our Day Will Come – Ruby & Romantics
15. Hotel Happiness – Brook Benton
16. He’s Sure the Boy I Love – The Crystals
17. Fly Me to the Moon…– Joe Harnell
18. Walk Like a Man – The 4 Seasons
19. …Really Got a Hold On Me – Miracles
20. Loop de Loop – Johnny Thunder
21. Don’t Make Me Over – Dionne Warwick
22. Limbo Rock – Chubby Checker
23. Ruby Baby – Dion
24. Bobby’s Girl – Marcie Blane
25. Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah – B B. Soxx & BJs
____________________________ Source: WABC Radio (NY, NY) Silver
Dollar Sound Survey, Week of 22 Jan 1963.
The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
The song that really helped kick start the Beatles’ rocket ride to international fame and fortune in the early 1960s was “Please Please Me.” In the U.K. fifty years ago, in February 1963, “Please Please Me” was the song that first sent the Beatles’ music to the top of the music charts — their first No. 1 hit. It was also the song that energized “Beatlemania” in the U.K. – the screaming crowds that began besieging the Beatles at their stage appearances, generating media attention far and wide. “Please Please Me,” in fact, was the tipping point – the take-off song that changed everything. Within a year of this song’s release, the Beatles would be a worldwide phenomenon, their music selling practically everywhere.
True, the Beatles’ first hit song was “Love Me Do,” which rose to No.17 on the U.K. charts in November 1962. But “Please Please Me,” their second single, was the Beatles’ first popular “hard rocking” song; the song that captured their youthful exuberance and musical drive. It was also the song that first offered that unique “Beatles’ sound”– an appealing mix of young male vocals in sync with driving guitars. “Please Please Me” captured that sound in an aggressive and engaging way. It was feel good music that was fresh, open, and hopeful. The public ate it up.
Music Player “Please Please Me”-1963
John Lennon sang lead and played harmonica on the song, George Harrison played lead guitar, Paul McCartney was on bass, and drummer Ringo Starr delivered the back beat. McCartney and Harrison also supplied the harmony and background vocals. It was a sound the world hadn’t quite heard before – and a sound, as time would tell, that would turn music to gold.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
Initially, however, “Please Please Me,” as originally written by John Lennon, didn’t have the chops to make it as a No. 1 hit – at least not in the eyes of George Martin, the person then in control of the Beatles’ fate in their first London recording sessions. In fact, “Please Please Me” almost didn’t make it at all.
In the U.S., meanwhile, this song also had something of a tortured history. Although it was released in America in early 1963 as it had been in Britain, it went largely unnoticed. “Please Please Me” would not fully emerge as a U.S. hit until more than a year later, in March 1964, when it would join four other Beatles’ songs to occupy the top five positions on the U.S. Billboard charts. But the story of “Please Please Me” in America captures some of the confusion, bungled business opportunities, and the general whirlwind that came with the Beatles euphoria in those crazy early days. More on that in a moment.
Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
“Please Please Me” was a John Lennon composition. Lennon described the inspiration for the song as coming from a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby influences. He wrote the song at his aunt Mimi’s house, having been listening at the time to some Roy Orbison tunes. Lennon was also taken with a line from Bing Crosby’s 1932 song, “Please” – the line being, “Please lend your little ears to my pleas…” Lennon said he loved “the double use of the word ‘please’.”
Paul McCartney pointed back to Orbison’s style. “If you imagine [Please Please Me] much slower,” McCartney said of the song, “which is how John wrote it, it’s got everything. The big high notes, all the hallmarks of a Roy Orbison song.”
In 1962 Lennon’s song was offered initially at the Beatles’ first London studio session in its slower form. George Martin, the studio engineer and manager of EMI’s Parlophone label, and the guy who had signed the Beatles in 1962, did not like Lennon’s song when he first heard it. He found it too slow and reportedly called it “a dirge” at one point. He suggested the song’s tempo be sped up and that the Beatles try a different arrangement. Reportedly, Martin also played a sped-up taped version of the song from an earlier recording that served as something of an “ah-ha” moment for the group. But Martin wanted the Beatles to record another song at their next session at Abbey Road studios on November 26th, 1962, one the Beatles had not written themselves.
Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
However, the Beatles prevailed on Martin to let them take another crack at “Please Please Me.” They had taken Martin’s suggestions on the song, sped it up, and added Lennon’s harmonica to the arrangement. “We lifted the tempo, and suddenly there was that fast Beatles’ spirit,” McCartney later recalled. The song was now much better. Still, it went through a series of more than a dozen studio takes before Martin was satisfied – and this time, he liked what he heard. “Gentlemen,” he is reported to have said from the recording booth to the group after the new version was completed, “I think you’ve got your first Number One.” After the Beatles’ first national TV appearance on U.K.’s Thank Your Lucky Stars show on January 19, 1963– which featured “Please, Please Me” – the song began its rise on the U.K. singles charts, hitting No. 1 on February 22nd, 1963.
In the U.S., meanwhile, George Martin had sent a copy of “Please Please Me” to EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, in January 1963, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S. They declined, saying famously: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Atlantic Records was also offered a chance to distribute “Please Please Me” in the U.S., but they also declined. At that point, other record labels began looking at the Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release. One of these labels was Vee-Jay out of Chicago, an African American-owned label founded in the 1950s specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
On January 25, 1963, Vee-Jay obtained a U.S. contract to release a limited number of Beatles records for short time period. Sometime in February 1963, “Please Please Me,” w/ “Ask Me Why” on the B side, was released as a single on the Vee-Jay label. The song was played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it rose to No. 35 on WLS music survey in March 1963. But “Please Please Me” did not chart nationally on Billboard at the time. The record, in fact, was a commercial flop at that point, selling fewer than 7,500 copies.
Back in Britain in 1963, “Please Please Me” was doing so well that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein pulled the Beatles off their tour schedule to record their first album, naming it Please Please Me to capitalize on the popularity of the single. Some 14 songs – including “I Saw Her Standing There” as the lead track – were compiled for that album in one day after nine hours of recording over three sessions. The new Please Please Me album was released in late March 1963. Within four weeks it would be No.1 on the U.K. albums chart, remaining in that position for 30 weeks. New Beatles’ singles were also released in the U.K. through 1963, and these resulted in three more No. 1 hits: “From Me to You” w/ “Thank You Girl” in April 1963; “She Loves You,” w/ “I’ll Get You” in August 1963 ( which achieved the fastest sales of any record in the U.K. up to that time, selling 750,000 copies in less than four weeks); and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” w/ “This Boy” in November 1963, which had 1 million advance U.K. orders.
April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, Brian Epstein in November 1963 phoned Capitol Records president, Alan Livingston, about the label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America. Epstein played the Beatles’ latest U.K. hit song for Livingston over the phone — “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – and also mentioned to Livingston that the group was scheduled for February 1964 TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Livingston agreed to begin spending some serious money distributing and promoting Beatles’ songs in the U.S. On December 4th, 1963, Capitol announced it would begin selling “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in mid-January 1964. But after a few radio DJ’s in America began playing the song, Capitol undertook a rush production schedule to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” then targeting release for the day after Christmas, December 1963.
Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
On January 3, 1964, Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” aired a filmed segment of a Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England. It was the first complete Beatles song aired on American TV, and for many Americans, the first time they had seen or heard the Beatles. Meanwhile, Capitol Records’ early release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” proved wildly successful. By January 10, 1964, two weeks after the release, the single has sold 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.
Vee-Jay records, for its part, seeing the rising tide for all things Beatles, decided to take another shot at “Please Please Me,” and in mid-January 1964 re-issued the single, this time, with “From Me To You” on the “B” side. Some of Vee-Jay’s promotional record sleeves for the single featured headlines printed on the jacket that read: “The Record That Started Beatlemania,” and other text description noting the Beatles’ clip on The Jack Paar Show, their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and press coverage in Time, Life and Newsweek magazines. “This Is The Record That Started It All,” said the Vee-Jay record sleeve. By January 25, “Please Please Me” finally entered the American Billboard chart at No. 69, soon rising to No. 1. Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies of “Please Please Me” in its second offering, and would also sell at least four other Beatles’ singles, as well as the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles, which came out ten days before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles!, also in January 1964.
Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
“Please Please Me,” however, was just the beginning of the Beatles’ phenomenal rise in America during 1964. After their first national TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 8th when more than 70 million tuned in, their songs dominated the American music charts. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. In fact, between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. Fifteen of their recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums – each sold one million or more copies, representing total Beatles’ record sales that year of more than 25 million copies.
“Please Please Me” may not be regarded as the Beatles’ best song ever by music critics or many of their fans, but it is certainly among the most important for launching their career, energizing their early style, and showing how adaptable and creative they could be when faced with criticism in the studio. In a special Rolling Stone magazine supplement of November 2010 reviewing the Beatles’ 100 greatest songs, “Please Please Me” is ranked at No. 20. Today, the song is still sold and downloaded by fans via Amazon.com, Apple’s iTunes music store, and other music sellers. For other stories on the Beatles at this website see “Beatles History: Eight Stories,” a sub-directory page with other Beatles’ story choices. Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle
Article Citation: Jack Doyle, “Please Please Me, 1962-1964,” PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.” Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.
“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.
Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.
Frederick Lewis, “Britons Succumb to ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, December 1, 1963.
Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.
Jack Gould, “TV: It’s the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah); Paar Presents British Singers on Film,” New York Times, Saturday, January 4, 1964, Business, p 47.
CBS, Inc., Press Release, “The Beatles to Make Three Appearances on Sullivan Show,” February 3, 1964.
Richie Unterberger, Beatles Song Review, “Please Please Me,” AllMusic.com.
Dick Clark on the "American Bandstand" TV show from Philadelphia, appears with teens around him as he reads mail. AP photo.
In 1963, American Bandstand, the popular Philadelphia-based TV dance show with Dick Clark, was still going strong, having been broadcast nationally since August 1957. The show was still seen mid-afternoons five days a week on the ABC television network. However, by 1963, Bandstand’s format had been shortened to 30 minutes per show. Not long thereafter, it began broadcasting taped shows rather than live broadcasts. Then, in September 1963, ABC moved Bandstand to Saturdays-only for one hour. But even with those changes, American Bandstand was still a place where many aspiring recording artists came for national exposure to help launch and/or advance their careers.
During 1963, there were more than 200 guest appearances on American Bandstand, with a number of artists making their national television debuts. Among some of the more notable performers appearing in 1963 with one or more hit songs were: Dionne Warwick, Paul & Paula, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, Peter Paul & Mary, Franki Valli & The Four Seasons, The Chiffons, Dion, Bobby Rydell, Skeeter Davis, Nancy Sinatra, Lesley Gore, Frankie Avalon, Gene Pitney, Dee Dee Sharp, Jan & Dean, Neil Sedaka, Darlene Love, Bobby Vinton, Link Wray, and others.
Cover sleeve for Dionne Warwick’s single, “Don't Make Me Over,” a hit song in 1962-63.
In January 1963, Dionne Warwick made what may have been her first national TV appearance on American Bandstand performing her hit song, “Don’t Make Me Over.” Released in October 1962, Warwick’s song had broken through nationally after receiving heavy radio play in San Francisco. It debuted on the Billboard chart December 8, 1962, rising to No.21 on that chart and to No. 5 on the R&B chart in January 1963. Warwick would follow this hit with others, including, “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” released in December 1963 and “Walk On By” in April 1964, a major international hit and million seller. Warwick went on to stardom and a long career of many hits, including those in collaboration with the writer/producer team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David during the 1962 -1971 period. Warwick, in fact, would put 56 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1962 and 1998, making her one of the that era’s leading female recording stars.
Frank Valli & The Four Seasons appeared twice on “American Bandstand” in 1963.
The Four Seasons, a quartet of singers from New Jersey with front man Franki Valli and his famous falsetto voice, appeared on American Bandstand at least twice in 1963. These “Jersey Boys” as they would come to be known years later from a famous stage production of that name, formed their group in 1960 as The Four Lovers. They eventually became The Four Seasons, with Frankie Valli on lead, Bob Gaudio keyboards and tenor vocals, Tommy DeVito on lead guitar and baritone vocals, and Nick Massi on bass guitar and bass vocals. By the time they appeared on American Bandstand in 1963, they were already stars, having released their first album in 1962 with the No. 1 hit single “Sherry,” followed by their second No. 1 hit, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” – both million-sellers. The Four Season appeared twice on Bandstand in 1963 – once in February and once in March – performing “Walk Like a Man” on both occasions. That song had been released in January 1963, but by March 2nd that year it had hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining there for three weeks and in the Top 40 for 12 weeks. The Four Seasons would go on to become one of the more popular musical groups of that era, and for years thereafter, selling some 175 million records worldwide.
Lesley Gore, shown at 1964 TAMI concert, appeared on Bandstand, May 1963, singing “It’s My Party.”
In late May 1963, a 17 year-old New Jersey teenager named Lesley Gore (Lesley Sue Goldstein) made her first appearance on American Bandstand singing her soon-to-be No.1 hit, “It’s My Party.” Just three months earlier, she was virtually unknown, performing locally at a Manhattan nightclub. That’s when Quincy Jones, a producer with Mercury Records, had caught her performance. By late February 1963, Jones came to Gore’s family home where she chose a demo song named “It’s My Party” to record for his label. Six weeks later, the recording was finished and sent to record stores.
But by June 1, 1963, after Gore made her national TV debut on Bandstand performing “It’s My Party,” the song shot to No. 1 on the pop charts, remaining there for two weeks. Gore would also have big subsequent follow-up hits, including “Judy’s Turn To Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me.” And years, later, she would also be nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1980 song, “Out Here On My Own” from the movie Fame.
The Righteous Brothers appeared on Bandstand in June 1963, but this was before their major stardom, coming at a time when they worked with a small recording company and then using the Moonglow label. Under that label, they produced two moderate hits: “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and “My Babe.” Their big hit – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” produced with studio wizard Phil Spector – would not come until 1965.
The Righteous Brothers duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. Click photo for separate story.
Among others appearing on Bandstand in June of 1963, were: Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Bobby Vinton, and Nancy Sinatra. James Brown also appeared that month performing his “Prisoner of Love,” as did Barbara Lewis with her hit, “Hello Stranger” and The Essex, with their hit,”Easier Said Than Done.” The Essex were an interesting group for that time, composed as they were of five U.S. Marines: Walter Vickers, Rodney Taylor, Billy Hill, Rudolph Johnson, and female Marine, Anita Humes. Stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, they cut a demo that landed them a contract with Roulette Records. Their hit song, “Easier Said Than Done,” was written by William Linton and Larry Huff, recorded by the group in 20 minutes, and released in May 1963. To the group’s surprise, it soared to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on July 6, sold more than one million copies, and garnered a gold disc from the recording industry. In September1963, The Essex had another hit, “A Walkin’ Miracle,” which rose to No.12 on the pop charts. The group appeared on American Bandstand June 7th, 1963.
Little Stevie Wonder appeared on Bandstand July 8, 1963. Click photo for separate story.
Stevie Wonder, a young blind teenager out of Detroit, made his network television debut on American Bandstand on July 8, 1963, with a performance of his harmonica-with-vocals song, “Fingertips, Part 2.” Wonder would go on to become a very popular music artist for decades, winning many Grammy awards, and continuing his success into the 21st century. Major Lance appeared on Bandstand in September 1963 with a popular dance song called “Monkey Time,” written by Curtis Mayfield, a song that had risen to No. 8 on the pop charts that August.
In the latter part of 1963, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand had a contingent of “girl group” recording artists on the show– i.e., groups that were girl-led, all-girl composed, or had a “girl group” sound. Among these were the Jaynetts, the Chiffons, Darlene Love, Dee Dee Sharp, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and the Ronettes. Clark also gave local groups continued opportunity on his show such as The Dreamlovers, a Philadelphia doo-wop group that once backed Chubby Checker on “The Twist” and other songs. This group appeared several times on Bandstand in 1963.
Dick Clark interviewing a young Little Richard on American Bandstand sometime in 1963 or 1964.
Although American Bandstand was still an important force in the music industry of that day, its power wasn’t what it had been in the 1950s. By September 1963, when the show went to its Saturday-only format, it wasn’t playing new recordings every day, which had been one of Bandstand’s big selling points in the music industry. With its reduced air time and song plugging, the show lost some of its influence in the industry. Still, through 1963 American Bandstand was the place where aspiring artists came to launch or enhance their music careers. Bandstand would have many years remaining as a TV dance show, extending into the 1980s.
The 1963 season, in any case, was the last year that American Bandstand would be broadcast from Philadelphia. In early 1963, the live broadcasts were replaced by previously-taped shows, though still running five days a week. In August, Bandstand ended its weekday broadcasts and instead, went to a Saturdays-only show for one hour, ending its years in Philadelphia with its final broadcasts in December 1963. By February 1964, the show resumed broadcasting from Los Angeles, California, near Hollywood. Clark by then had also been serving as a game show host, a part of his career that would grow in the years ahead. At the time of Bandstand’s move west, Dick Clark was still a young man at age 34.
The Jaynetts appeared on Bandstand in 1963 with their song, "Sally, Go Round the Roses."
The move to California and the show’s location near the growing music industry in the Los Angeles area, was beneficial in terms of Bandstand landing more musical guests. And in terms of the youth culture at that time, California was becoming an important center of attention. It was “where the action was,” as Clark would later explain. “Everything was going on there. The surfing craze was high on everybody’s list of things to do, whether you lived near water or not. Everybody wanted to have bleached-blonde straight hair… So I figured I’d better get out [there].”
Still, the 1963-1964 period became something of dividing line for Bandstand and the nation. With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, America fell into a period of mourning and national soul-searching. And with the turn of the new year in 1964, the music began to change as well. In February 1964, after the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, “Beatlemania” swept the country. Plain Vanilla rock ‘n roll was heading into some new territory, not the least of which would be drug and psychedelic influences.
1962: Top left to right - Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, Mary Wells & Dick Clark. Click for Martha & The Vandellas story.
Although Clark and American Bandstand were then in California and would adapt with the changing times and fashion, after Bandstand left Philadelphia it would never again have quite the same dominance it enjoyed during the late 1950s and early 1960s. As author John Jackson has put it in his American Bandstand book, 1964 became the year in which “Clark’s epic production began its steady diminution…to becoming…just another television show.” Dick Clark, in any case, while continuing to host the Bandstand show for many years in California, was building his career in other areas, including game shows, television productions, and related entertainment businesses through his Dick Clark Productions, which he formed in 1957.
What follows below is a listing of artists who appeared on American Bandstand in 1963 – the final Philadelphia year — along with a few Bandstand “top ten” lists from that year. Artists appearing on Bandstand are listed by date, and in some cases, with the song each performed. Other Bandstand-related stories at this website include, “At the Hop, 1957-1958,” “Bandstand Performers, 1957,” and “American Bandstand, 1956-2007,” the latter providing a general history of the show, Dick Clark, and his related businesses. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle.
Dion DiMucci appeared on Bandstand in January 1963 showcasing “Ruby Baby.” Click for his story.
Skeeter Davis appeared twice on Bandstand in 1963, performing her song “The End of the World” in February. Click for her story.
Surfing music was popular in the early 1960s, and Jan & Dean had a hit with “Surf City,” but appeared on ‘Bandstand’ in March 1963 with their song, “Linda.”
James Brown appeared on Bandstand in June 1963 showcasing “Prisoner of Love.” Click for his website.
Folk group Peter Paul & Mary, appeared on Bandstand May 2, 1963 for their song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Bobby Vinton performed his song, “Blue on Blue,” when he appeared on Bandstand June 14, 1963.
The Chiffons appeared on Bandstand October 12, 1963. Click for "Girl Groups" story.
Link Wray and group appeared on Bandstand June 10, 1963 performing hit instrumental, “Jack the Ripper.”
The Ronettes appeared on ‘Bandstand’ 2x in 1963 w/ big hit “Be My Baby.” Click on photo for their story.
Jan 2: D. Warwick- “Don’t Make Me Over”
Jan 4: Johnny Thunder- “Loop de Loop”
Jan 10: B. Lynn- “You’re Gonna Need Me”
Jan 11: Freddy Cannon- “Four Letter Man”
Jan 15: The Dreamlovers
Jan 17: Dion – “Ruby Baby”
Jan 18: Paul & Paula- “Hey Paula”
Jan 22: Barbara Lynn
Jan 23: J. Mathis- “What Will Mary Say?”
Jan 28: Steve Alaimo
Jan 29: Conway Twitty- “The Pickup”
Jan 31: Bobby Comstock & The Counts
Feb 1: The Dreamlovers
Feb 4: Bobby Rydell- “Love is Blind”
Feb 6: J. Darren- “Pin A Medal on Joey”
Feb 8: Lou Christie- “The Gypsy Cried”
Feb 12: Sandy Stewart
Feb 14: S. Davis- “End Of The World”
Feb 19: J. Ray- “Look Out, Chattanooga”
Feb 20: Lou Christie- “The Gypsy Cried”
Feb 21: Nancy Sinatra
Feb 22: Four Seasons- “Walk Like A Man”
Feb 24: N. Sedaka- “Alice in Wonderland”
Feb 25: J. Tillotson-“Out of My Mind”
Feb 27: Marcie Blaine
Feb 28: Marcie Blane- “Bobby’s Girl”
Mar 1: Four Seasons- “Walk Like a Man”
Mar 5: Bobby Comstock- “Let’s Stomp”
Mar 6: Connie Francis- “Follow the Boys”
Mar 8: Nancy Sinatra- “Like I Do”
Mar 12: Johnny Thunder
Mar 14: Jo Ann Campbell- “Mother…”
Mar 18: Anita Bryant- “Our Winter Love”
Mar 19: Timi Yuro- “Insult to Injury”
Mar 22: Wayne Newton
Mar 26: The Dreamlovers
Mar 28: Wayne Newton- “Heart…”
Mar 29: Jan & Dean- “Linda”
Apr 2: B. Vinton- “Over the Mountain”
Apr 12: J. Soul- “If You Wanna Be…”
Apr 17: S. Alaimo- “Lifetime of…”
Apr 18: Al Martino- “I Love You Because”
Apr 19: Johnny Cymbal- “Mr Bass Man”
Apr 23: Bobby Lewis- “Intermission”
Apr 25: Freddy Cannon- “Patty Baby”
Apr 26: Frankie Avalon
May 1: Mickey Callan
May 2: Peter, Paul & Mary- “Puff…”
May 3: Jimmy Clanton
May 7: N. Sedaka- “Let’s Go Steady…”
May 8: D. Love- “Today I Met Boy…”
May 14: Rockin’ Rebels
May 24: S. Davis- “…Saving My Love”
May 30: Lesley Gore- “It’s My Party”
May 31: B. Hyland- “…Afraid to Go Home”
Jun 5: The Righteous Brothers
Jun 6: Dee Dee Sharp
Jun 7: Essex – “Easier Said Than Done”
Jun 10: Ray Stevens- “Harry The Ape”
Jun 11: Frankie Avalon
Jun 12: Chubby Checker- “Black Cloud”
Jun 13: T. Yuro- “Make the World…”
Jun 14: Bobby Vinton- “Blue on Blue”
Jun 17: Miami Beach Show
Jun 18: Nancy Sinatra- “One Way”
Jun 19: Steve Alaimo
Jun 20: Bill Anderson- “Still”
Jun 21: Guest info unavailable
Jun 26: James Brown- “Prisoner of Love”
Jun 27: Barbara Lewis- “Hello Stranger”
Jun 28: Paul & Paula- “First Quarrel”
Jul 3: Dean Randolph- “False Love”
Jul 4: Joey Dee- “Dance, Dance, Dance”
Jul 5: Dee Dee Sharp- “…Cradle of Love”
Jul 8: Stevie Wonder – “Fingertips, Pt 2″
Jul 10: Link Wray- “Jack the Ripper”
Jul 11: Doris Troy
Jul 17: Freddy Cannon
Jul 22: Bobby Vinton
Jul 23: F. Cannon- “Everybody Monkey”
Jul 24: Roy Orbison- “Falling”
Jul 25: B. Hyland- “Afraid to Go Home”
Jul 26: Jimmy Clanton
Jul 29: Patty Duke (Patty Duke Show)
Jul 30: Mel Carter- “When a Boy…”
Jul 31: Frankie Avalon
Aug 1: The Dovells- “Betty in Bermudas”
Aug 2: Freddie Scott- “Hey Girl”
Aug 5: Eddie Hodges- “Halfway”
Aug 6: D. D. Sharp- “Rock Me in The…”
Aug 7: Jo Ann Campbell
Aug 8: Wayne Newton- “Danke Schoen”
Aug 9: Steve Alaimo- “Don’t Let Sun…”
Aug 12: Al Martino- “Painted, Tainted…”
Aug 13: Roy Clark- “Tips of My Fingers”
Aug 14: Dick & Dee Dee- “Love is…”
Aug 15: Bandstand Fans Special
Aug 19: Duane Eddy- “… Lonely Guitar”
Aug 22: Dick & Dee Dee
Aug 23: B. Lynn- “…Laura’s Wedding”
Aug 29: Fats Domino- “Red Sails in Sunset”
Aug 30: Final Daily Show- Dick Clark
Bandstand “Top Ten” List
(30 August 1963)
1. “My Boyfriend’s Back!”- The Angels
2. “Hello Mudduh…”- Allan Sherman
3. “Fingertips”- Little Stevie Wonder
4. “Candy Girl”- The 4 Seasons
5. “Blowin’ in Wind”- Peter, Paul & Mary
6. “If I Had A Hammer”- Trini Lopez
7. “Judy’s Turn to Cry”- Lesley Gore
8. “Mockingbird”- Inez & Charlie Foxx
9. “More”- Kai Winding
10.”Denise”- Randy & The Rainbows
(Saturday shows begin)
Sep 7: Neil Sedaka- “The Dreamer”
Sep 7: The Jaynetts- “Sally Go…Roses”
Sep 14: Dion- “Donna the Prima Donna”
Sep 14: Major Lance- “Monkey Time”
Sep 21: Skt. Davis- “Can’t Stay Mad…”
Sep 21: Garnett Mimms- “Cry Baby”
Sep 28: B. Rydell- “Let’s Make Love…”
Sep 28: The Ronettes- “Be My Baby”
Oct 5: Dee Dee Sharp- “Wild”
Oct 5: Linda Scott- “Let’s Fall in Love”
Oct 12: The Chiffons– “A Love So Fine”
Oct 19: Peggy March- “…Follow Him”
Oct 19: Bill Anderson- “8 x 10″
Oct 26: The Busters- “Bust Out”
Oct 26: Freddy Cannon- “That’s What…”
Bandstand “Top Ten” List (12 October 1963)
1. “Sugar Shack”- J. Gilmer & Fireballs
2. “Be My Baby”- The Ronettes
3. “Blue Velvet”- Bobby Vinton
4. “Cry Baby”- G. Mimms & Enchanters
5. “Sally, Go ‘Round…”- The Jaynetts
6. “Busted”- Ray Charles
7. “My Boyfriend’s Back”- The Angels
8. “Mean Woman Blues”- Roy Orbison
9. “Heat Wave”- Martha & Vandellas
10. “Donna the Prima Donna”- Dion
Nov 2: Dale & Grace- “…Up to You”
Nov 2: Wayne Newton- “Shirl Girl”
Nov 9: Gene Pitney- “24 Hrs From Tulsa”
Nov 9: Sunny & Sunglows- “Talk to Me”
Nov 16: Bobby Bare- “500 Miles…”
Nov 16: Brian Hyland- “Let Us Make…”
Nov 30: Dick Clark’s Celebrity Party
Dec 7: Neil Sedaka – “Bad Girl”
Dec 7: Vito & Salutations- “Unchained…”
Dec 7: Chubby Checker- “Hooka Tooka”
Dec 21: Chubby Checker- “Lody Lo”
Dec 21: Donald Jenkins- “Adios”
Dec 28: Bobby Vinton- “Blue Velvet”
Dec 28: Patty Duke- Dick Clark interview
Bandstand “Top Ten” List
(21 December 1963)
1. “Dominique”- The Singing Nun
2. “Louie Louie”- The Kingsmen
3. “Don’t Have to Be a…” – Caravelles
4. “There! I Said it Again”- Bobby Vinton
5. “Since I Fell for You”- Lenny Welch
6. “Be True to Your School”- Beach Boys
7. “Drip Drop”- Dion
8. “…Leaving it Up to You” – Dale & Grace
9. “Everybody” – Tommy Roe
10. “Popsicles & Icicles” – The Murmaids
Note: This is not a complete list of all
1963 American Bandstand guests, as some
dates, artists and/or songs are missing.
Available sources have incomplete,
conflicting, or uncertain information.
“American Bandstand – Season 6 Episode Guide,” TV.com.
“American Bandstand – Season 7 Episode Guide,” OVGuide.com.
Among dance shows that Dick Clark did in 1963 was the one photographed above – a “Dick Clark Parade of Stars” show undertaken with CHUM radio in Toronto, Canada on July 19, 1963 at the Maple Leaf Gardens.
The clear, calling harmonica was the sound that first got your attention; it was coming from a new piece of music being played on the radio in late summer 1963. That was the summer of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech; the summer preceding John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The harmonica in the air those days was from a song that had an unusual name: “Fingertips,” or more precisely, “Fingertips, Part 2.” It was like nothing else at the time; part of a distinctive mix of music and vocals, a song recorded live with an unusual arrangement. And it was performed by a 12 year-old blind boy. “Little Stevie Wonder” they called him; a Detroit kid who had a sixth sense about him; a kid who could, it was said, discern a coin’s identity by the sound it made when dropped on a kitchen table.
Stevie Wonder was born Steveland Judkins in May 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan, later known as Steveland Morris after his mother’s married name. Placed in an incubator immediately after birth, baby Steveland was given too much oxygen, leading to permanent blindness in childhood.
Early 1962 album with Motown.
Growing up as a blind child, young Stevie developed an affinity for musical instruments, playing the harmonica at five, taking piano lessons at six, and playing drums at eight. After his family moved to Detroit, he began singing and playing instruments in church, including the piano, harmonica, and bongo drums. With a transistor radio to his ear, he also listened to Ray Charles and Sam Cook. In 1961, at the age of 11, the young boy and his mother were introduced to Brian Holland and Berry Gordy of Motown records through Ronnie White of the singing group The Miracles. After an audition, Motown signed the boy to a contract, giving him the stage name Little Stevie Wonder.
Stevie & harmonica.
His first recordings in 1962 attempted to link him to jazz and Ray Charles. They included two albums, one, A Tribute to Uncle Ray, featuring Stevie’s versions of tunes by his hero, Ray Charles. A second album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, spotlighted his various instrumental skills. Neither of the albums amounted to much. But then came “Fingertips.” Originally written by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby, the song was recorded for the studio album The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder. “Fingertips” was basically a long instrumental piece, showcasing Wonder’s talents on the harmonica. However, a live version of the song — recorded during a “Motown revue” at the Regal Theater in Chicago — was the version that would become the hit. Motown initially grouped it with others songs as part of another Little Stevie album — Recorded Live! The 12 Year Old Genius.
First #1 album with Motown-Tamala, 1963.
DJ’s Liked Pt. 2
Radio DJs for some reason began playing the 7-minute version of “Fingertips” on the album, which was quite unusual since songs of more than 3 minutes were rarely played on the radio. The DJs especially liked the second part of “Fingertips,” labeled “Fingertips Pt. 2,” which seemed to capture the frantic energy of a live concert. Seeing how the DJs were reacting to the song, Berry Gordy decided to issue it as a 45 rpm single, with “Fingertips Pt 1″ on one side, and “Fingertips Pt 2″ on the other side. By early August 1963, “Fingertips” became Motown’s second #1 hit. The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” had been Motown’s first #1 record, topping the charts in late 1961. “Fingertips Pt 2″, in fact, became the first live, non-studio recording to reach #1 on the Billboard pop singles chart. The live song, with full instrumentation behind it, also had some “call-and-response” sections, complete with audience participation, as in the excerpt below:
45 rpm with two sides of 'Fingertips' - Pt.1 & Pt.2.
Stevie: Evvybody say yeah,… Audience: Yeah… Stevie: Everbody say yeah, yeah, yeah … Audience: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah… Stevie: Clap yo’ hands just a little bit louder… Audience: [Clapping rhythmically]….
But the harmonica solos in the live version were full of energy and the novel arrangement caught the attention and enthusiasm of DJs and listeners. “Fingertips” held the #1 spot on the pop charts for three weeks. The song also reached #1 on the R&B singles chart and the album made history as well. Little Stevie Wonder became the first artist to have a #1 album and #1 single simultaneously. He also holds the record for the youngest artist (age 13) to have an album go to #1 on the charts, eventually selling over a million copies.
Cover of 'Early Classics' CD, year 2000.
Path to Stardom
“Fingertips Pt. 2.” put Stevie Wonder on a musical career path that would take him to stardom and a prolific 40-plus years of making and writing music. But not right away. After the novelty of “Fingertips” wore off, a follow-up hit did not come for Stevie. Although he managed to chart a few more singles over the next year, none had the success of “Fingertips.” His voice also changed, and his recording career was temporarily put on hold. He then studied classical piano at the Michigan School for the Blind. On his return in 1964, he dropped “Little” from his stage name and in 1965 had a successful Motown dance tune, “Uptight, Everything’s Alright,” which he co-wrote. That song hit #1 on R&B chart and # 5 on the pop chart. Stevie Wonder was on his way. Through the1960s and 1970s other hits came, among them: “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby,” Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and Ron Miller’s “A Place in the Sun”– all in 1966. He also wrote music for others, including The Miracles’ #1 hit of 1967, “Tears of a Clown,” co-authored with his producer, Hank Crosby. But there were other Stevie Wonder hits too, including: “I Was Made to Love Her”(1967), “For Once in My Life”(1968), “My Cherie Amour”(1969), and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”(1970), a song from the first album he produced.
Up to this point, Wonder was still a minor under the law and Motown managed his career, controlling his publishing and recording sessions and keeping his money in a trust fund. By 1971, however, that changed when Stevie turned 21, taking control of $1 million then in his trust fund (some say he had earned $30 million for Motown by that time). He also began negotiating a new contract with Motown. The 21-page contract he negotiated set precedent there, and gave Wonder complete creative control over his music as well as a higher royalty rate, with Motown still distributing his product.
Ten Grammys in 2 Years
In 1972, he gained a broader national audience by opening for the Rolling Stones on their major U.S. tour that year, where he unveiled the soon-to-be #1 hit “Superstition.” Albums in 1972 and 1973 followed. Then he won five Grammy awards in 1974, and five more the following year. He was now an established rock star and had become a multi-millionaire. His 1976 contract with Motown for $13 million over seven years was then the largest in recording history.His 1976 contract with Motown for $13 million over seven years was the largest in recording history at that time. By then, he had 20 hit singles to his credit and eleven best-selling albums. Yet three more decades of music-making still lay ahead, with more hits and more renown, including some unique collaborations, such as 1982’s “Ebony And Ivory” with Paul McCartney, which remained #1 for seven weeks. In 1986, The New York Times – noting his wide ranging skills in several genres, from funk to ballads, bossa nova to quasi-showtunes – called him “a one-man Tin Pan Alley.” In the 1980s and 1990s he also found time to become engaged in children’s and civil-rights causes, and led the campaign to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. His music has also paid tribute to figures like King and jazz great Duke Ellington.
Stevie Wonder Hits Selected Top 20 Singles
1963 “Fingertips – Pt. 2″
1965 “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”
1966 “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby”
1966 “Blowin’ in the Wind”
1966 “A Place in the Sun”
1967 “I Was Made to Love Her”
1968 “For Once in My Life”
1969 “My Cherie Amour”
1969 “Yester-Me, Yester-You…”
1970 “Signed, Sealed, Delivered…”
1970 “Heaven Help Us All”
1971 “We Can Work It Out”
1971 “If You Really Love Me”
1973 “You Are the Sunshine…”
1973 “Higher Ground”
1973 “Living for the City”
1974 “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing”
1974 “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”
1974 “Boogie On Reggae Woman”
1976 “I Wish”
1977 “Sir Duke”
1980 “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”
1980 “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It”
1982 “That Girl”
1982 “Ebony and Ivory”*
1982 “Do I Do”
1984 “I Just Called to Say I Love You”
1984 “Love Light in Flight”
1985 “Part-Time Lover”
1985 “That’s What Friends Are For”*
1985 “Go Home”
1987 “Skeletons” _________________________________
Collaborator & Innovator
Known as a musician who has influenced the work of many other artists, Stevie Wonder has also collaborated with a number of his musical colleagues, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Julio Iglesias, the Eurythmics, Babyface, Angie Wood and others. He provides the harmonica on Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.” He has also written over 100 songs for fellow artists. Wonder’s writing and performing over the years has been distinguished for its novel and complicated musical style and its jazz influences. American Idol contestants who attempt to cover his songs, for example, find them difficult to perform, as they use unusual chords, make abrupt, unpredictable changes, and often require that a syllable be sung over several notes. His selection of musical key – sometimes using the black notes on the piano or keyboard, for example — is more often found in jazz than in pop, but he has used it to great success. He has also been a musical innovator, playing an important role in bringing synthesizers and electronic keyboards to pop music.
CD cover, 2002 edition, Stevie Wonder 'The Definitive Collection,' by Motown.
Today, Stevie Wonder is among the giants in the music industry; an accomplished singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. In the U.S., he has had at least nine #1 hits and more than 30 top ten hits. In August 2007, he under-took his first U.S. concert tour in over a decade, performing in a dozen U.S. cities and Toronto, Canada. During his career, his album and single sales have exceeded the 100 million mark and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is the recipient of 25 Grammy Awards — a record for a solo artist — and has also received a Grammy lifetime achievement award. In 1984, he won an Oscar for Best Song — “I Just Called to Say I Love You” — from the film, The Woman in Red. In 1989 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 1999, received Kennedy Center Honors. He is also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. No less a musical authority than the former opera star Luciano Pavarotti once called him a “great, great musical genius.”
Stevie Wonder has come a long way since the early 1960s and the days of “Fingertips, Pt. 2.” Yet the innocence of that early sound, and his “Fingertips” harmonica, still send a good and clear calling, just as it did way back then.
For other stories at this website on the history of popular music and profiles of songs and artists, please see the “Annals of Music” category page. Thanks for visiting. — Jack Doyle