The Soundtrack For The Baby Boomer Generation

Step back to a time when singers were as bright as the stars in the heavens
and the music they sang was really swingin'. Stacks of wax to fit every occasion!

Monday, December 17, 2007

They Call Me MISS Toni Fisher

Artist: Miss Toni Fisher
Song: The Red Sea Of Mars (b-side) (a-side is Everlasting Love)
Label: Signet 3-279 (White/Red Label)
Number: E-5878
Songwriter: Wayne Shanklin
Time: 2:58
Released: 1960

She was always known as "Miss Toni Fisher" and her big hit was The Big Hurt, in 1959. What was most noteworthy about this first hit of hers was that it was the first record ever released which used a phasing effect. It was written by her husband, Wayne Shanklin, as was this record The Red Sea Of Mars. She had one other Top 40 hit in 1962, entitled West Of The Wall, about lovers caught on either side of the newly-erected Berlin Wall. But, today's post was released in between these two records, 1960, and was not a hit.
She was born in Los Angeles, California in 1931, and died of a heart attack on February 12th, 1999 in Hyrum, Utah. At the age of 18, she played a small, uncredited part in the musical Make Believe Ballroom, in 1949. In 1959, she signed a recording contract with a small independent company called Signet Records, located in Hollywood. On November 16th, her first record debuted on the charts entitled The Big Hurt. Because it went up to #3 on the pop charts, she had the opportunity to appear on the shows of Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan. In 1960, her second record How Deep Is The Ocean peaked at #93. Later that year, Signet released the single Everlasting Love b/w The Red Sea Of Mars, although it failed to chart. They also gathered her recordings together and released an album named after her big hit The Big Hurt. This, too failed to chart and she was dropped from her contract with Signet. Her one record deal with Columbia Records featuring If I Loved You b/w Love Bug also failed to chart and then she moved to Big Top Records in 1962. Her final hit, West Of The Wall, for that label, came on May 26th, 1962. She had several other singles released on the Smash label and then a short return to her original label, Signet, but had no further chart action.
This is a shame, really, as she had such a nice, strong voice and delivered her performances in a confident matter. Now, people always try to analyze why things happen, so permit me to do the same here. I think perhaps the reason she didn't have a bigger chart presence than she did was due to two primary factors. One, it seems like her husband wrote all of her material. Usually artists like her are given songs to choose from written by a wide variety of songwriters. The most strongest tracks are chosen to record and this may have been a factor in her case. However good of a songwriter her husband Wayne was, he was no Lerner and Lowe. The Red Sea Of Mars is a good song, but perhaps there could have been better ones found for her to record. Even though this track has grown on me, that's just my opinion. The second factor I find that may have inhibited her career is the fact that of the two pictures I could locate of her on the internet, one being below, Miss Fisher didn't come across as a particulary stunning-looking woman. In the music business, looks can sometimes make or break an artist.
But don't let any of that deter you from hearing her voice. It is quite pleasant to listen to. Here is Miss Toni Fisher singing The Red Sea Of Mars. Enjoy!

One other small item of interest. I find many times that the length of the song as reported on the record label does not match up with it's actual length when played. This record was a case in point. Listed at two seconds under 3 minutes long on the label, it actually only lasts for 2:44. And it's not because my turntable has a speed problem, either. I suppose sometimes that the music business is not a very precise science.


boobuddy12345 said...

I love Miss Toni Fisher. What a voice!! She was a "belter", like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Ethel Merman.
I don't, however, think her looks had anything to do with her minor popularity. I think if Miss Fisher had someone behind her who could really expose her wonderful talent she would have done much better.
Anyway, Miss Toni Fisher is one of those "lost" jewels - a marvelous talent who should have been more appreciated.

Megan Maughan said...

Miss Toni Fisher is my grandmother. She is truly missed by many. She kept us laughing and had a beautiful voice. I am sitting in my kitchen listening to her album now. I randomly came across this blog and I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your effort to tell the world a little about her. However, a few of your facts are incorrect. You may not think she's "particularly stunning" but as her grand daughter I do. She was a beautiful person inside and out!

Chris Miller said...

Miss Toni Fisher is my Mother, I don't know where you got your facts from, but you are very wrong on a couple of important facts. Number one...Wayne Shanklin was not her Husband EVER!!! She actually died on January 11, 1999 which was the saddest day of my life thus far. My Mother was a very beautiful woman right up until the day she died. She was incredibly talented and was loved by many family members and fans alike. Thank you for the kind words about my Mom, but for the incorrect facts and the not so kind words.....shame on you.

Kenny said...

I apologise sincerely to both of you for my comments, but as far as what I said about her husband Wayne Shanklin, if you go to the Wikipedia article on Toni Fisher, it clearly states that Wayne Shankling, who was her husband and manager, wrote her hit The Big Hurt. If that is in error, one of you, being her relative who would know the truth, should correct this error so that the rest of the world, including me, will know the truth.

And, if either of you, being her true relation, has a better picture of her you could send me, I will gladly replace the one I round with your new one and amend the incorrect things I said about her. Thanks for notifying me of this error!

Chris Miller said...

Thank you for your response, but take note that just because it is in Wikipedia doesn't make it true. Do people still use Wikipedia??

Anonymous said...

miss toni fisher was my aunt, and ive always loved and enjoyed her music. and she was a beautiful woman and person both inside and out. ill never forget her. hi chis, and megan, its me gary.

Harold Cartwright said...

Miss Toni Fisher had a beautiful, beautiful voice which
was so strong with plenty heart and emotion. With that
voice she just downright commanded your attention.
" The Big Hurt " was and still is one of the most unusual
songs I've ever heard. Here I am a little six year old kid (1959) in the first grade and when this song would play I stopped whatever I was doing and listened to her. She sang with such heart
and emotion that after I figured she wasn't singing this song to me but whoever it was I just wanted to tell them to just stop what they were doing and please just
listen and talk to her. WOW !! God rest her soul.

Anonymous said...

All of you who take exception to the blogger's observations: if you can materially contribute to the body of knowledge or correct any age-old misconceptions, then please do so. Over a year has passed and you have not done this. I am a fan of Toni Fisher's/Wayne Shanklin's music and nothing will ever change that even though I was only 3 years old when "The Big Hurt" came out. So please state for the record the true facts as you know them. Otherwise your criticisms have no weight and you should just keep them to yourselves.

Kenny said...

If you bothered to read my previous comments, you would know I have asked for people, who supposedly know the "true facts," to supply me with proof and further information. Since this has not happened, I will wait and correct things when I get the "final truth." I'm not changing things willy-nilly without knowing what's true and what's not true.

Anonymous said...

Sir, the anonymous commenter clearly read your comments. You are ALREADY in contact with the people who know the "true facts". They manifestly do not want to cooperate with you and prefer to be left alone. I am also an ardent fan of Wayne Shanklin's music. We are all the poorer for their reticence.

Katherine Leigh

Unknown said...

I've had an original copy of The Big Hurt on the Signet label in my record collection for many years, but I knew little about Miss Toni Fisher's life or other recorded works. After finding an original copy of West of the Wall at a used record store in Seattle, I was motivated to do a little more reading and research. Although the conflicting information about her life is a bit disheartening, I can respect the family's desire for privacy and will continue to enjoy her music in spite of the somewhat unclear facts about her life. I was thrilled to learn recently that there are still original copies of her album available for purchase (check both Amazon and eBay) and two CDs, one of which contains a compilation of 31 of Toni's recordings from her work on various labels. What an experience to listen to her interpretation of some great standards and recordings of original songs that I don't believe have ever been recorded by another artist. One thing I have not been able to locate is live footage of Miss Toni Fisher from her appearances on The Dick Clark Show in 1959 and The Ed Sullivan Show in early 1960 (Season 13, Episode 16). If anyone knows where I may locate either or both of these video recordings, I would love to be able to view or even acquire a copy of Miss Fisher performing live.