Sunday, April 28, 2019

Jerry Fuller - A Double Life - The Challenge Recordings 1959-1966

Jerry Fuller enjoyed modest hits between 1959 and 1961 with ‘Betty My Angel’, ‘Tennessee Waltz’, ‘Guilty Of Loving You’ and the very Gene Pitneyesque ‘Shy Away’, all prime examples of the kind of records you’d expect to find on one of Ace’s “Teenage Crush” compilations. “A Double Life”, the first ever collection of the Texas-born singer’s recordings cut during his sevenyear tenure at Challenge Records of Los Angeles, includes all four of those, plus a whole lot more.

I say singer, but Jerry Fuller was a man of many talents – he wrote or co-wrote about half of the songs included here and was also pretty hot as a producer. The typical Ace customer might be aware of his name via great songs like ‘Travelin’ Man’ and ‘A Wonder Like You’, which he wrote for his friend Ricky Nelson. Others will be familiar with Gary Puckett’s ‘Young Girl’ and ‘Lady Willpower’, which Jerry also penned, or the Knickerbockers’ quasi-Merseybeat nugget ‘Lies’ and OC Smith’s ‘The Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp’, Fuller productions both. 

Then, of course, there are the fans of blue-eyed Northern soul and Popcorn who have been lapping up Jerry’s own recordings of ‘I Get Carried Away’, ‘What Happened To The Music’ and the 100 mph Motown-esque stomper ‘Double Life’ for many years. ‘I Dreamed About My Lover’ and ‘Anna From Louisiana’ strike me as prime contenders for the Popcorn scene too. Maybe if Fuller hadn’t been so busy writing for and producing other artists, or if Uncle Sam hadn’t stalled his recording career by calling him up in 1961, he might have stood a chance of becoming LA’s answer to Gene Pitney, for if epics of pop melodrama like ‘Hollywood Star’ are anything to go by, he sure had what it took.

A key record in the story of Challenge Records is the Champs’ ‘Tequila’, which Jerry cut in a vocal version in 1964. In fact, the various members of the Champs play on numerous of the more rocking selections here, so followers of that group need to investigate the collection further. Elsewhere you get ‘The Master Plan’ and ‘Man In Black’, jangling message songs redolent of PF Sloan or Sonny & Cher, plus a healthy shot of clean-cut teen fare, including ‘Above And Beyond’ and ‘One Heart’, duets with Diane Maxwell, a Connie Francis wannabe par excellence. 

Other highlights include the Little Anthony-styled ‘I Get Carried Away’, the PJ Proby-penned ‘I Only Came To Dance With You’ and, maybe the classiest track Jerry ever recorded, ‘Turn To Me’, a big beat ballad with a sumptuous production worthy of the Righteous Brothers. The booklet makes for an excellent read too, based upon recent interviews with Jerry Fuller. ~ By Mick Patrick

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