Most of those who are reading this are aware that Leonard Nimoy recently died at age 83. He was best known as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, but his accomplishments weren’t limited to helping create his iconic character. In addition to a long acting career on stage, screen, and TV, he was a director, a writer, a poet, a photographer, and a singer — which is our focus today.
A Boston native, Leonard Simon Nimoy began his acting career in the early 1950s but didn’t find a lot of success during that period. He made the occasional appearance on TV or in movies (once as an alien in Zombies of the Stratosphere) and was the lead in one forgettable ‘B’ movie, but he finally grew disillusioned and joined the Army. After returning to civilian life he again drifted into acting and began to find a little traction, but still didn’t really click until the mid-1960s when he landed a role with a new science fiction TV show.
Although Star Trek didn’t score big ratings during its 79-episode run on NBC, it did create the beginnings of what would be the public’s endless fascination with Nimoy’s character, the pointy-eared half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. But as the years passed and Star Trek became a sensation, Nimoy wasn’t always happy with being so identified with the role. Like most actors, he hated being typecast. He even wrote a memoir titled I Am Not Spock. But he eventually realized it was inevitable and made his peace with it, even writing a followup memoir titled I Am Spock.
While continuing to appear as Spock in later movies he also found a number of other successful roles, and he expanded his talents in other directions too, including launching a singing career. He’d already sung on camera in at least one of the original TV shows (video below) and eventually began to get serious about it. In all honesty his voice wasn’t exactly crooner-worthy, but he was determined and persistent, and before it was all over he’d generated a number of albums. While some of them were filled with gimmicky sci-fi music and the like, others included his honest attempts at covering familiar songs, usually country-pop or ballads. And if a few of them made you cringe, you still somehow got the idea that he always enjoyed himself.
Leonard Nimoy – “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town”
In some ways, the girl group known as the Bobbettes was a typical one-hit wonder. (Although you might remember that I argued a while back that the term shouldn’t be used so negatively.) The Bobbettes did qualify for the sobriquet, with 1957’s “Mr. Lee” hitting #1 on R&B charts and even climbing into the Top Ten on pop charts, although later records all fell far short. But that’s still pretty good, when you consider that the group’s lead singer was only eleven when it all started.
That was young Reather Dixon, who joined with school friends and fellow glee club members Laura Webb, Helen Gathers, and sisters Jannie and Emma Pought to form a singing group they initially called the Harlem Queens. The girls were soon appearing in amateur shows at the Apollo Theater, making a big splash and attracting the attention of James Dailey, who helped get them a contract with Atlantic Records.
Daily also changed the group’s name to the Bobbettes to soften its image a little, and helped produce its debut record. It was a harmless little song about a teacher who the girls actually disliked, but in the song, “Mr. Lee” was made to sound good. (They later recorded a more accurate – and critical – version they named “I Shot Mr. Lee,” but it became one of the reasons they left Atlantic after the company balked at issuing it.) After “Mr. Lee” became a huge hit they were big-time stars, even touring with the likes of Clyde McPhatter, Frankie Lymon, and Dion & The Belmonts.
Over the next several years the Bobbettes did sell some records with songs like “Have Mercy Baby,” “I Don’t Like It Like That,” and a few others, and the girls certainly kept spinning out new releases. But they never again approached the popularity of “Mr. Lee,” and by the late 1960s had begun to evolve into a smaller group, sometimes singing background for others. By the 1970s the original Bobbettes had dissolved, although various members have reunited from time to time through the years for oldies shows.
The Bobbettes – “I Shot Mr. Lee”
It’s been a long time – months – since our last edition of Diamonds in the Rough, the Special Feature that points folks to some of our favorite posts from the past.
Of course, there’s a reason that we haven’t done one of these for a while, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before. The simple fact is that we’ve gradually worked our way through all the older posts and had almost caught up to the more recent ones. But now some time has passed, so once again I have a larger pool and more fish to go after.
Hopefully you’ll like some of the catches below.
John Barry Orchestra – “Diamonds Are Forever”
Ken Curtis – Crooner Turned Cowboy
One of my all-time favorites, and definitely holds the record for videos.
The Fallacy Of The Famous Dueling Banjos
I’ve always been fascinated by things like this.
Did Gene Pitney Sing For Los Bravos?
Either way, the legend persists.
Elvis Has Achieved A Type Of Immortality
Remember, I said ‘a type’ of immortality.
The Singing Side Of Clint Walker
One of the most popular recent posts. Lots of fans.
The Persistence Of Wesley Tuttle
An amazing story in many ways.
The Shocking Of America
The title could mean a lot of things, but it is all about music.
The Lost Voice Of Ann Richards
Another one of those head-scratchers.
The Crooning Side Of Dick Powell
Not only did he croon, he was famous for it.
In Appreciation Of The Amazing Viola Smith
Couldn’t resist adding this one, even though it’s very recent.