Tab Hunter's Number One Single -- The Backstory

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 03:33 AM Written by 

 

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The late actor Tab Hunter, who died Sunday at age 86, for all his work on the silver screen, had one hit record noted in the wire service obits: the ballad "Young Love," a teen-themed tune destined to be a hit in the Elvis era, when Hunter was successfully promoted as the latest dream date for teen girls. Released in late 1956, it topped the pop charts six weeks in early 1957.  But he wasn't the first singer to take the song to Number One, and the original version, by an unknown singer was basically copied by the two hitmakerss.  

Fall, 1956: Hunter's hit single, released in early 1957. Note that Hunter, for all his acting skills, is not a terribly nuanced vocalist, though in fairness, singing was not his specialty. The bandleader was Dot recording artist Billy Vaughn known then as a rather wholesome white-bread label that was home base for Pat Boone. Vaughn did not have to go far to find an arrangement.

Hunter sings it on NBC's Perry Como Show His vocal hasn't improved much, really. The screaming teen girls don't seem too concerned about that.

But Hunter didn't have the first # 1 pop version. Country singer Sonny James would beat him to it by a few weeks. James recorded the song in Nashville in the fall of '56 with a very small acoustic band and the Jordanaires (who sang backup for Elvis Presley) doing backup vocals. Vaughn copied the idea, using backup singers on Hunter's single.  The stripped down sound helped make it a country and pop hit.

October 30, 1956: It spent one week at # 1 on the pop charts before Hunter's and nine weeks as a # 1 country single.

But even James's version wasn't the original. And the arrangement used by Hunter and James (minus the backup singers) came from this, the original "Young Love" by Ric Cartey, who co-wrote the song with Carole Joyner. He recorded it at a radio station at an Atlanta college sometime in the summer of '56. Cartey's version never charted, but the composer royalties from  James and Hunter were probably a fine consolation prize.

Mid-1956: Ric Cartey's original.

 

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