Today in Music History: July 18, 1960
Then, on July 18, 1960, the first of many successful recordings for Brenda Lee hit #1.
Songfacts: Brenda Lee was just fifteen years old when she recorded the song! Decca records actually held back release on it for a few months while they pondered the legalities of having a teenager sing with such passion about affairs of the heart. In fact, Brenda Lee was a child star, beginning her career at the age of six by winning a school talent show whose reward was to perform live on the local Atlanta radio show, Starmakers Revue. She was born and raised in a poor family in the red-clay belt of Georgia, so even as a tot she was the chief breadwinner for the family."I'm Sorry" is notable for being one of the first examples of the "Nashville Sound." This sound focuses on stringed instrument sections, backing vocals, and a crooning lead singer - sort of a fusion between country, pop, and a dash of doo-wop. It was pioneered by RCA and Columbia Records in the mid-1950s. Following her breakthrough #1 hit 'I'm Sorry', Brenda Lee went on to earn 27 more top-40 hits over the course of the 1960s—more than any other solo female performer in that decade. Lifelong fans of a certain Liverpool foursome would open for Lee under the name "The Silver Beetles" during her pre-Beatlemania tour of Great Britain.
A Bit of Brenda Lee Trivia...
Brenda Lee dancing with Elvis Presley
At 13 years old, Brenda Lee recorded what today is the song she’s probably best known for (though she had numerous hits throughout her career), Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. The song was written by Johnny Marks who, despite being Jewish, wrote several hit Christmas songs besides that one (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Run Rudolph Run, A Holly Jolly Christmas, The Most Wonderful Day of the Year, etc.).
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree mostly flopped upon its initial release, selling just 5,000 copies. The next year, they released the song a second time and it again flopped, selling just over what it did on its initial release. It finally started to gain some traction the next year as Brenda Lee’s fame began to skyrocket, managing to rise as high as number 14 on the Hot 100 Pop Singles list. Within 5 years of that, it went as high as number 3 on that same list. By the song’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Brenda Lee’s original version of it had sold over 25 million copies, including about 700,000 digital copies, making it the 4th most digital downloads sold of any Christmas single.
Bonus Tidbits of Trivia...
- When she was just two years old, Brenda Lee’s mother would take her down to a local candy store where she’d earn money and candy singing on a counter in the store.
- At the age of 5, Brenda won a talent contest put on by various elementary schools in her area. What song she sung in that contest is contested, but it is either Slow Poke or Take Me Out to the Ballgame. In that same event, she was runner up in the beauty contest.
- It was from this contest that her career really started. After the competition, she was offered a gig singing on a local radio show in Atlanta, Georgia. She regularly sang on the show, but never got paid anything but ice cream for those performances; she was allowed to eat as much of it as she wanted. This show led to other places booking her, including a TV show, TV Ranch, which she wasn’t paid anything for either, this time not even in junk food. Source: Today I Found Out
Where is Brenda Lee today?
Brenda still lives in Nashville with her husband, Ronnie and continues to tour and perform to sell-out audiences all over the world.
Robert K. Oermann said in the Nashville Gazette: "They ought to erect a monument to her on Music Row." The late John Lennon said of Brenda: "She has the greatest rock and roll voice of them all." Anyone familiar with Brenda's music would agree with the following quote:"Millions of people around the world have experienced
and warm personality of the living legend...Brenda Lee.
Whether on record or in person,
she touches the emotions in people."*
*From Brenda Lee . . . A History of Hits
Source: Brenda Lee The Lady*The Legend
And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times...