Brenda Lee

TrackSingle
Love You Till I DieBrunswick UK single 05685
DynamiteBrunswick UK single 05685
Sweet Nothin'’sBrunswick UK single 05819
Let's Jump The BroomstickBrunswick UK single 05823
I'm SorryBrunswick UK single 05833
EmotionsBrunswick UK single 05847
Speak To Me PrettyBrunswick UK single 05867
Everybody Loves Me But YouBrunswick UK single 05871
Here Comes That FeelingBrunswick UK single 05871
It Started All Over AgainBrunswick UK single 05876
Rockin' Around The Christmas TreeBrunswick UK single 05880

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Contributor: John Chamberlain

Born Brenda Mae Tarpley on 11 December 1944, she made her first TV appearance in 1952 on TV Ranch singing Hey Good Lookin’. Her first recordings were for Decca (Brunswick in UK) in 1956 starting with Jambalaya. Three years later she was in France appearing at Olympia and a first visit to the UK for ITV’s Oh Boy.

In 1960 I’m Sorry went to No.1 (Floyd Cramer played piano); this was in the US, as Little Miss Dynamite never had a No.1 in the UK despite having a string of hit singles.

In 1963 I was doing a holiday job as a porter in a hotel in Bournemouth and bought my first Brenda Lee LP costing 32/6d (see LP sleeve above left) imaginatively titled Brenda Lee. I was so pleased – kept going into the residents’ lounge and playing it when no one was about. I was sacked shortly afterwards.

Never got to see Brenda when she was touring the UK; this would have been at the beginning of the 60s and I didn’t have any cash. I did, though, have a “signed” photo which I swapped for something and years later realized it was a tracing!

My list reflects just her early stuff which is where my preference lies. She has gone on to be an all-round entertainer, but I am stuck in the formative years. The chosen tracks are listed in chronological order of release in the UK.

Four of the tracks above are available on the Brenda Lee LP: Dynamite, I’m Sorry, Let’s Jump The Broomstick, Sweet Nothin’s. Emotions also appears on the 1961 LP of the same name. Speak To Me Pretty (which was her biggest UK hit reaching No.3) is on the 1962 LP All The Way.

Love You Till I Die b/w Dynamite, and Sweet Nothin’s were released both on 45 and 78 rpm.

Oh and by the way, does anyone have a copy of the 1959 French single The Stroll? Or 1962’s La Première Fool b/w Pourquoi Jamais Moi (see record sleeve above right)?

Official Brenda Lee website

Brenda Lee Discography

Brenda Lee UK Singles Discography

Brenda Lee biography (iTunes)

“Brenda Lee’s coming on strong”. She continued to make music over the decades following her pop hits career, releasing many albums, most with a country flavour. We’ll leave you with the last verse of Chuck Berry’s tribute to Brenda (find “Brenda Lee” on St Louis To Liverpoool): “… she shook up everybody at a prom dance at Central High … Brenda Lee she’s a beauty, she came in with a handsome guy, she sang songs, she entertained, and waved her alma mater goodbye, and had reporters taking pictures of her walkin’ out of Central High.”

TopperPost #39

3 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Aug 5, 2013

    A few weeks ago a friend arrived with a pile of Brenda Lee singles that he wanted to dispose of, but he wanted the B-sides put on CD as they aren’t easily obtainable. I had quite a few other 45s and made up a “Brenda Lee As and Bs” compilation stretching from 1960 to 1964. What leaps out is the consistent high quality of material and production on B-sides, then you realize that she was hedging her bets, and the slow big ballads had a rocking B-side, and the rocking songs had a big ballad B-side. Many of her B-sides charted separately in the USA. She also had no expense spared production.

    In common with all the other “little girls with big voices” (Helen Shapiro, Lulu) her early career was influenced by old showbiz managers whose first thought was to get her doing old jazzy standards, a style that also turns up on some B-sides. But one happy result was “All The Way” (1961), the LP after “Brenda Lee” mentioned in the article. It contains my favourite Brenda Lee performance of all, her cover of Tragedy, and my two favourite singles, Dum Dum and Speak To Me Pretty. Dum Dum is Brenda Lee rocking flat out as only she could, and (I think) her best single. Her versions of standards like On The Sunny Side of The Street, All The Way and Kansas City would be my first choice for these songs. I borrowed “All The Way” from a friend whose affections had switched to Helen Shapiro, and kept it for several months. It took a long time to appear on CD (on a 2-on-1 with “Brenda Lee”), and I spent ages seeking the vinyl album. I lean to her rockier stuff, but would have chosen All Alone Am I in a Toppermost Ten as it demonstrates her in that style so well. And I bought the single the day it came out. Lover Come Back To Me on the video is another choice.

    In 1964, Brenda Lee did an album of covers of British hits “Brenda Lee Sings Top Teen Hits”. It was the thing to do. Bobby Vee did another one. An EP came from it, “Four from ‘64” with covers of Wishin’ and Hopin’ and The Cryin’ Game is worthwhile. Her retitled cover “He Loves You” isn’t.

    Her pop career stalled. I think the managers had her dressed up too “American Teen 1960” to compete by late 65 or 66 … she was the advertising face of “Celanese” fabrics, which is something like Crimplene. Her later country career is one I’d like to learn about. Can’t help on the French one.

  2. John Chamberlain
    Nov 6, 2013

    Following on from Peter’s comment on Brenda’s country career I have put together a little more information. Early on, Dub Albritten, her manager, booked her on all sorts of package tours which included country stars. It was on one of these that she met, and became close to, Patsy Cline.

    After all the successes the 70s was not a good time. Everything was changing, especially the music. Brenda tried a “soul” album, “Memphis Portrait”. The single from it, “I think I love you again”, only made #97 in the Billboard Top 100. Returning to Nashville, further recordings went nowhere. Brenda commented: “The charts were becoming more specialized – you were either Rock, Country or Soul – I didn’t know where I belonged”.

    In 1973 Decca came to an end and she then belonged to MCA. About this time her manager died and she was seriously ill. Recovering, she recorded “Nobody wins”, written by Kris Kristofferson, and this was a hit in the country charts. That song featured in the next album “Brenda” which went to #7 in the country charts. Following this, in 1973, the album “New Sunrise” went to #3 in the country charts and, to top off the year, Brenda hosted the Grammy awards in Nashville.

    A fourth top ten country hit, “Big Four Poster Bed” and others followed. In 1976, MCA suggested a West Coast outing and the resulting album “LA sessions” was not a great success. Two singles from it stiffed. In 1977, Brenda had a new producer (Ron Chancey) and a complete personal makeover – no more bouffant lacquered hair.

    A top ten and Grammy nomination “Tell me what it’s like” came next. Brenda appeared briefly in the film “Smokey and the Bandit 2” and recorded “Again and Again” for the soundtrack. Her songs featured in various films: “Only when I laugh”, “UFOria”, “Missing”, “The Loveless” and “Long gone”.

    A big hit was “Broken Trust” backed by the Oak Ridge Boys. And she sang in various adverts: Coca Cola, McDonalds, Chevy trucks.
    In 1982 she had a weekly radio programme interviewing country stars. At this point her singles were not making it so she hitched up with producer Jerry Crutchfield and her first offering “Didn’t we do it good” was her first music video on MTV which had started a couple of years earlier.

    Brenda was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in 1997.

    But I still love her early years and, as I write this, I have just ordered a boxed set of that period.

  3. Ian Ashleigh
    Feb 14, 2014

    Listening to my MP3 player on my commute this afternoon I was reminded that Golden Earring name-check Brenda Lee’s Coming On Strong on Radar Love. I believe it was a big hit in the Netherlands.

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