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

Bessie Banks: Go Now (1964)

Bessie Banks: Go Now (1964)

Before they found fame in 1967 with their orchestrated pop on the album Days of Future Passed (and the hit single Nights in White Satin), the Moody Blues out of Birmingham, England were just... > Read more

The Savage Rose: A Girl I Knew (1968)

The Savage Rose: A Girl I Knew (1968)

Since Richie Unterberger wrote Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Genuises, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks and More in 1998, many of the artists he unearthed (Wanda Jackson,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . EVERYDAY CHEMISTRY: The Beatles beamed in from beyond

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . EVERYDAY CHEMISTRY: The Beatles beamed in from beyond

The story began on a desert highway in California on September 9, 2009 – coincidentally the same day the Beatles reissued their remastered catalogue – and it involved a runaway dog,... > Read more

The Scavengers; The Scavengers (2003 vinyl issue of '78 sessions)

The Scavengers; The Scavengers (2003 vinyl issue of '78 sessions)

We all have musical moments written into our autobiographies. The emblems afterwards -- the album, concert ticket or scar beneath the eye -- are inadequate to convey the emotion you experienced,... > Read more