DEAR JERRY: When April Stevens and Nino Tempo had their first Top 100 hit, "Sweet and Lovely" (1962), none of my music loving friends believed me when I said this was not their first duet recording.
I knew they had at least one a year or two before "Sweet and Lovely," and it got played around here.
I still have no details to back up my claim, and even their own web site is no help.
Was I right or wrong?
Also, was there a person or animal named "Baby Weemus"?
Nathan Branch, Waukegan, Ill.
DEAR NATHAN: You have been right all along, but I can attest to how often discographies posted by the artists themselves are not as comprehensive as we might like. Most are intentionally limited to their bigger hits.
"Sweet and Lovely" came out in the summer of '62, and was April and Nino's first duet to reach the Billboard and Cash Box Top 100; however, it was not their first 45.
In fact, this brother and sister teamed up on four previous singles, one of which I didn't even know about until I called Nino Tempo to discuss their beginnings as a duo.
He revealed that circa-1958 he and April recorded two of his original songs: "One Forty-Five" and "Poison of Your Kiss."
For the label name, Nino chose "One 45 Records," and the selection number for this, their only release on that label, was 145.
Inevitably, there would only be one 45 on One 45.
Are you sensing a theme here? Well there's more:
"One Forty-Five" is the story of an unnamed cowboy who weighed 145 (pounds)
He also robbed a train one afternoon at 1:45
Then the sheriff shot and killed him with one black .45 (caliber)
And when they searched his pockets all they found was $1.45
His lady friend began to put flowers on his grave daily at 1:45
Black Bart will never forget that fateful day, not even if he lives to be 145 (years)
The story concludes with a surprise that does not involve any numerical references.
The style of side two, "Poison of Your Kiss," is far more similar to their big hits of the 1960s.
For the artist credits, "One Forty-Five," a western ballad, is by Black Bart and the Gunslingers, and "Poison of Your Kiss" credits Black Bart and "Sue," who is April.
Even the composer credit on both sides is simply "Bart."
You can see why virtually no one connects this record to Nino and April, until now anyway.
The next pseudonym used by our singin' siblings is Tony Shepperd.
As Shepperd, they recorded "Blue Eyed Baby" for RCA Victor (47-7563), a 1959 teener and a regional hit of sorts.
The lyrics are all sung by Nino, but April provides an occasional "la-la-la-la-la" as the uncredited blue-eyed baby.
"Blue Eyed Baby," and the flip, about a dog named "Zach (Zack)," were both written by Nino using "T. Stevens" not Tony Shepperd as a nom de plume.
In 1960, Don Costa, who previously produced just Nino, did a session with he and April for United Artists Records. The result was two more teener tracks, "High School Sweetheart" and "Ooeah! (That's What You Do To Me)."
Both sides credit April Stevens and Nino Tempo, and is the first record to do so.
The tune you had in mind was most likely "High School Sweetheart," that was a regional hit, especially in Southern California and the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, which includes Waukegan.
Some stations in that area even added "Ooeah! (That's What You Do To Me)" to their rotation.
Their fourth pre-1962 single is also the fourth consecutive variation of artist credits.
This time they both use their real given names, performing as Carol (nee: Carol LoTempio) and Anthony (nee: Antonio LoTiempo).
In late 1960, soon after John F. Kennedy won an extremely close Presidential Election over Richard Nixon, Nino wrote a congratulatory novelty of sorts titled "Big John."
Coupled with "A Letter on a Train," another Tempo original, Capitol released the record in January 1961 (Capitol 4517), but with limited success. The only areas we found where Carol and Anthony charted were Denver (KIMN) and Fort Wayne, Ind. (WGL), and both were playing the "Big John" side.
I did ask Nino if "Baby Weemus" (Atco 6263), their 1963 single just before "Deep Purple," was the name of anyone or anything.
He said no, it was just a funny name he came up with, and that "mmmm-mmmm Baby Weemus" made for a good hook.
He was right, it hooked me.
All of these early Nino and April tunes can now be heard on YouTube.
IZ ZAT SO? Apart from performing together on records, April and Nino each recorded solo before "Sweet and Lovely" (1962).
April made records for Laurel (1950); Society (1950-1951); RCA Victor (1951-1952); King (1954); Audio Lab (1959), and Imperial (1959-1961).
Nino has always been an in-demand session saxophonist for other artists, a resume that led to the release in 1956 of his LP, "Rock 'n' Roll Beach Party" (Liberty LRP-3023), the first R&R album for Liberty Records.
Nino also waxed three singles for RCA Victor (1958-1960).