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!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sad, Sad News - Final Janice Harper Update

Artist: Janice Harper
Song: That's Why I Was Born (a-side) (b-side is Moonlit Sea)
Label: Prep F 123 (Capitol subsidiary)
Number: 45-21768
Songwriters: Merritt-Roddie
Time: 2:07
Released: 1957

I have sad news to relate about my search for Janice Harper. She's still alive, but has been in a New York nursing home for 3 years with Alzheimer's. I don't know what else to say except to post an e-mail I received this morning, (August 22nd, 2009) from one of her relatives. Here is that message in it's entirety:

Update: The same relative which e-mailed said that I wasn't supposed to tell anybody else. Obviously, this person doesn't know what I'm doing here by posting facts about my favorite artists, and that I'm doing it for the fans of these same artists. But, she asked me take down her actual words and the things she had told me. I informed her that most of what she told me was already known by me and my readers through various fans telling me some of the information and me finding the rest on the internet. So, I will remove her e-mail, but you already knew Janice was in a home. Now, pretend you don't know that she has a relative in Florida and a son in England. I was told by this relative that the information she sent me was privileged information for my eyes only. That relative doesn't have to tell me or her fans that Janice was a beautiful person. We already knew that. And we already knew about all her belongings being auctioned off on the street, so that wasn't news. So, as I told the relative, the only thing I would be removing that wasn't already known by me and my readers here, by taking down her e-mail was that Janice had a relative in Florida and a son in England. Since I have removed the personal e-mail, pretend I didn't tell you that and that you don't know that I did. This relative wouldn't even tell me their name!

The relative's e-mail has now been removed, but we fans can still care about one of our idols. And now, back to the regularly scheduled post.

I don't know what else I can add but to say that her music will live on as long as her fans continue playing it. This probably won't be my last post featuring Janice Harper's music, but I don't know that I will be be able to update her life story any further. Please download this powerful song of hers that displays her amazing range and talent. Janice Harper singing That's Why I Was Born is a great way to get acquainted with this lady who possessed the remarkable voice. This is for you, Janice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fortune Smiles On Mary Magdelene

Artist: Jeanie Johnson
Song: Next Thing To Paradise (b-side) (a-side is My Jimmie)
Label: RCA Victor 47-7163
Number: J2WW-0335
Songwriters: James Joiner-Kelso Herston
Time: 2:14
Released: 1958

Today's artist was born in Canada as Mary Elizabeth Lee, but was known professionally by several other names. First billed as Jeanie Johnson, she caught the attention of country star Chet Atkins who helped her score a contract with RCA Victor and produced her first three singles. The single which featured the song Next Thing To Paradise was the very first record they worked on together. Neither of the three singles they cut did anything chartwise, so she changed her name in 1965 to Jeanie Fortune and cut a few other singles for RCA, in a more current pop style. Among them were Once More With Feeling, Keep Me and Angry Eyes. The latter is quite catchy and was promoted as "Northern Soul."
During this phase of her career, when she was doing a lot of session work as a back-up singer at Chips Moman's American Studios and using the name of Jeanie Greene, she worked with stars such as Elvis Presley. The resulting publicity got her to take another stab at her solo career. She was signed to the Atco label and recorded one single in 1968, Sure As Sin, which didn't take off, either. Two years later, when signed to the Cotillion label, she recorded a one-shot record with fellow singers Mary Holliday, Ginger Holliday and Donna Thatcher, who went on to join The Grateful Dead where she was known as Donna Godchaux. They were billed as Southern Comfort and the song was called Milk And Honey, b/w Don't Take Your Sweet Love Away, released in 1970. It, too, saw no chart action.
With such a strong voice, her talent couldn't go unnoticed and she was signed to Elektra Records in 1971 where she recorded her one and only album, Mary Called Jeanie Greene, a mixture of Southern soul, Gospel and rock. Describing her during this period, Ron Miller provided an interesting description of Greene: "She was white, but she sang black; she heard voices and truly believed she was the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene." Despite critical approval, her album did not sell well and she has not recorded since. She did continue to work as a back-up vocalist and in fact, sang at George Harrison's Concert For The Bangla Desh. She continued to work as a singer into the 1980's. As to whether or not she's still working or even alive, I haven't been able to find any further information about her.
Today's song, Next Thing To Paradise has that slightly recognizable Countrypolitan sound that was popularised by Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves, who was also produced by Chet Atkins. But, it is a good song and she sings it well. She has a deeper, bassier-sounding voice and even on this, her first record, uses it with much conviction and strength. I feel that, like a previous artist here on Music For Every Mood, Janice Harper, Jeanie Johnson had the skills to be a very popular artist. She played piano and wrote songs and had a very pleasing voice, which she used to sing many different styles of music. If only the breaks had gone her way, she might have been more well known. Despite that, we still have her modest output of musical treasures so please listen to another artist who almost made it big, Jeanie Johnson as she sings Next Thing To Paradise. I think you'll find it quite charming!