Barbie Gaye: My Boy Lollypop (1956)

 |   |  1 min read

Barbie Gaye: My Boy Lollypop (1956)

Because we are so used to hearing the most famous versions of songs -- like Blue Hawaii by Bing Crosby which pre-dated Elvis by more than two decades or Al Jolson's earlier version of Are You Lonesome Tonight  -- it can come as a surprise to hear the original song before a famous name or a freak hit took it into the wider domain.

So it is with My Boy Lollypop which was a massive ska hit for Jamaican teenager Millie Small (sometimes Little Millie Small, the title becoming My Boy Lollipop) in '64 . . . the first of that style to chart internationally, and it was arranged by the great Ernest Ranglin.

But eight years before that kicked-up version was the original, sung by 14-year old Barbie Gaye (great name!).

The song was written by Robert Spencer of the Cadillacs (a revolving door membership doo-wop group) but as was so common at the time the hoodlum/record company exec and copyright owner Morris Levy also claimed credit along with one of his henchmen.

Another Mob-connected guy Corky Vastola who had music business interests heard it and gave it to Barbie Gaye, a white girl he'd heard singing on a street corner.

She changed it a little, skipped school to record it and the band gave it a kind of New Orleans rhythm -- and a persuasive sax solo -- which shifted it away from its doo-wop origins (although you can still discern that in places). It comes off as proto-ska, if you will.

It was decent enough hit for Gaye to get on shows with Little Richard and others.

After that however, Barbie Gaye seems to be lost in the fog of time. 

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Tole Puddle: Frodo (1973)

Tole Puddle: Frodo (1973)

From the late Sixties and far too far into the Seventies, the world was awash with bands -- mostly British -- who were immersed in Tolkien lore. Some like Led Zeppelin and T. Rex managed to... > Read more

Pink Martini: Splendor in the Grass (2010)

Pink Martini: Splendor in the Grass (2010)

Popular culture being what it is, a group that can enchant one week is but a faded memory within months: anyone remember Polyphonic Spree? Pink Martini out of Portland were a bit like that.... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE MUSICIAN: A Fairly True Tale

THE MUSICIAN: A Fairly True Tale

The young man settled himself into the chair and placed his new guitar case on the floor beside him. His face raised into a natural if boyish smile, the outline of his cheeks rimmed by a flat, soft... > Read more

Vancouver Island, Canada: Cocktails by the highway

Vancouver Island, Canada: Cocktails by the highway

My Canadian friend Bob would often tell me that there was a highway right outside his house, and then he’d laugh loudly. I didn’t think that was a laughing matter -- until I went to his... > Read more