Monday, April 14, 2014
Born on July 20, 1938, in Jacksonville, Florida, Jo Ann entered music school at the age of four. By the time she reached high school, she was an accomplished dancer and was also the drum majorette for her school's band. At 16, she traveled to Europe with the USO as a dancer, and upon her return moved to New York and became a member of the Johnny Conrad Dancers, who often made appearances on the Colgate Comedy Hour and Milton Berle's show.
But music was still in her in her blood, and in 1956 Jo Ann signed with Point Records (a division of RKO Pictures) and released her first single - "Where Ever You Go"/"I'm Coming Home Late Tonight". The record flopped, but Jo Ann's good looks got her noticed by Alan Freed, who put her on his stage shows and introduced her to several cronies of his, like Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman.
Buchanan and Goodman were, of course, riding high with their series of "flying saucer" novelty break-in 45s, and were looking to expand their music business activities. They formed several record labels, a publishing house, and began scouting new talent. When they saw Jo Ann, they immediately signed her to their newly-formed Eldorado label in late 1956. Dickie Goodman wrote the A-side of the first single, "Forever Young", but Jo Ann, who had been writing her own material, contributed the rockin' "Come On Baby" for the flip. The record got good airplay on Freed's show on WINS in early 1957, and was a strong seller in the New York area, though it never broke nationally. After one more single on Eldorado, Buchanan and Goodman split up their partnership and folded the label.
Lucky for Jo Ann that she had good connections. Eldorado was distributed by George Goldner, the mastermind behind most of the great New York doo-wop labels like Gee, Rama, Roulette, End, Tee Gee, Mark-X, Juanita and a dozen others. Goldner liked Jo Ann's style, and it didn't hurt that his buddy Alan Freed (not to mention Jocko Henderson) was spinning her records, so he signed her to his Gone label in late 1957.
In November, 1957, Jo Ann's first Gone disk, "Wait A Minute", started burning up the airwaves in New York. Over the next two years, Jo Ann released a series of first-rate 45s, such as "You're Driving Me Mad", "Happy New Year Baby" (written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield), "You-oo", and the two-sider "Mama (Can I Go Out Tonight)" (written by Bo Diddley) backed with Jo Ann's own "Nervous".
By late 1959, with the payola scandals knocking Alan Freed out of the picture, and George Goldner's gambling problem forcing him to sell Gone (and End, and Roulette, and a dozen other labels) to Morris Levy, it was time to make a move. She signed with ABC-Paramount in 1960, and immediately had her first national chart hit with "A Kookie Little Paradise". The flip side, "Bobby Bobby Bobby", was obviously a tribute to her then-beau (though soon-to-be-ex-beau) Bobby Darin. Unfortunately, ABC usually saddled Jo Ann with sugary "pop" material, and the few times she recorded really good stuff (like her own tune "Duane", a love song to Duane Eddy, complete with "twangy" guitar), the label didn't promote it properly. She did get a featured spot in the Joey Dee film Hey! Let's Twist singing "Let Me Do My Twist" (see the clip here - WOW!), but by mid-1962 her records were no longer selling, and after two years Jo Ann left ABC-Paramount behind her.
Signing with Cameo Records out of Philadelphia, she scored her biggest all-time hit right out of the box, with "I'm The Girl From Wolverton Mountain" (an answer record to Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain", obviously). But once again, Jo Ann's career took another shot in the foot when the follow-up, "Let Me Do It My Way", failed to chart.
The record featured here was Jo Ann's last 45 under her own name, and it was her best. "Mother, Please!" was based on a popular commercial (at the time) for Anacin pain relief, written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell. Appell's killer band (and the Cameo-Parkway studio group) The Applejacks back up Jo Ann on her super-tough vocal, with super-tough lyrics describing a girl who longs to get out there and, uh, "live a little", despite the warnings from her irritable mother about how rotten all men are - "You know I've got to take love and live a little/and what will be, will be/sure, you feel tense and irritable/but don't take it out on me!" Sounds like Mother was a wild child who got knocked up and daddy ran off, leaving her to raise little Jo Ann with the knowledge that all men are creeps (and I'm sure Mom is "tense and irritable" for more reasons than having a daughter that won't listen to her).
After this 45, Jo Ann got married to record producer (and former member of her backing band) Troy Seals. They teamed up to make a few 45s as "Jo Ann and Troy" for Atlantic in 1964-1965 (and even had a minor hit with "I Found A Love Oh What A Love"). They also made several appearances on Dick Clark's "Where The Action Is" in 1965, but early in 1966, Jo Ann decided to retire from the music business and raise a family, and she's never looked back. She's still around, but has decided to have her legacy speak for itself. We miss you, Blonde Bombshell.
Jo Ann Campbell - Mother, Please! (Cameo 249) - 1963