Have I got a treat for you!!! I am proud to announce an interview with the one and only Lenny Welch. Lenny took the time to call me on the phone, answer my questions, and talk with me about his music and experiences in the 60s.
Kyler: Lenny, when did you start singing and decide to dedicate your full time to be a performer and recording artist?
LENNY:I went to high school in Asbury Park, NJ, and I started singing there. Then I moved to New York City and was fortunate enough to get a recording contract.
Kyler:Some of your earliest recordings were for the Decca Record label in the late 50s. One of the songs you recorded was “My One Sincere”, a great doo wop styled ballad. Did you choose the song to record or did someone at the label? It sounds tailor made for your voice!
LENNY:“My One Sincere” was written by a friend who lived in my home town. I sang it with my group in high school. I was signed to Decca in 1958 and that was my first release. The B-Side was “Rocket To The Moon”.
Kyler:How did you get signed to Cadence Records?
LENNY:I had two managers. One was a lawyer and the other was a DJ. My manager who was a DJ took me to Cadence records to audition. I auditioned for Archie Bleyer, who was the owner. He signed, recorded, and wrote for many Cadence artists such as Andy Williams, The Everly Brothers, and The Chordettes. I auditioned for him and he signed me the same day.
Kyler:What was it like the first time you recorded for them? Your first single was a great one, “You Don’t Know Me”.
LENNY:The next week after I auditioned and got signed, Archie introduced the song to me. He played piano and I sang. The week after that, we recorded it in the studio.
Kyler:One of my favorite songs of yours is called “It’s Just Not That Easy”, from 1962. There isn’t a lot of information about it, but it is simply a masterpiece. Any info or comments on this track?
LENNY:I wrote it- I had just broken up with my girlfriend, and that inspired me to write “It’s just not that easy to forget about someone that you love”. In fact, I go to a gym where there are a lot of younger guys who don’t know about my music. One of them looked me up on Youtube when he got home and told me that his favorite of my songs is “It’s Just Not That Easy”.
Kyler:Your next single was a big hit called “Ebb Tide”. It is a great, classy ballad, and has been recorded by many artists. Your version tops them all, in my opinion! Any remembrances on that one?
LENNY:That was actually one of the first songs I recorded for Cadence. It was put on stand-by. After that, it was on my album “Since I Fell For You”. A DJ named Bertha Porter played it off the album and it started getting a lot of airplay. Archie Bleyer said it was a proven hit so we released it as a single.
Kyler:The B-Side of “Ebb Tide” is another great doo-wop ballad called “Congratulations Baby”. Most people only know the A-Side, but I think that “Congratulations Baby” is one of the finest records in the doo-wop genre to ever be recorded. Do you feel that “Ebb Tide” overshadowed it?
LENNY:That song was actually recorded by a group before I did it. I think what happened was, the producer of that group came to Archie Bleyer looking to place the record with Cadence. Archie probably said, “I think I’d rather have Lenny Welch record this” So what they did was, wiped off the lead singer’s voice from the tape and dub my voice in.
I’ve gotten lots of calls and letters about “Congratulations Baby”, and someone told me that the group might have been a “studio group” who backed other artists up.
The same thing that happened with “Congratulations Baby” (being overshadowed by the A Side), happened with “You Don’t Know Me”, which had a flipside called “I Need Someone”. They started playing it in Philadelphia, and it became a big hit there. Archie told them to stop playing “I Need Someone” because it would hurt the sales of “You Don’t Know Me”, Now every time I play in Philadelphia I have to sing “I Need Someone”!
Kyler:Your version of “A Taste Of Honey”, recorded in 1962, was the blueprint for The Beatles’ version in 1963. Do you remember what you thought when you first heard their version?
LENNY:Archie Bleyer brought me the song. I had never heard that version before. I was surprised that The Beatles were listening to my music!
I found out about it in the 1970s when I went over to the UK. My piano player at the time was teaching Paul McCartney’s wife Linda how to play. He mentioned to Paul that he was working an American singer named Lenny Welch, and Paul said “I know who Lenny Welch is. We used to perform his record A Taste Of Honey!”.
Kyler:Your biggest hit was “Since I Fell For You” in 1963, which went all the way to #4 in 1963. How did it feel having one of the most successful records on the charts at that time?
LENNY:Fantastic! It started becoming a hit in California. It moved across the country. By the time it hit New York City, it was already Top Ten in the national charts. DJ’s were calling it a “pick hit of the week”, but it was already a hit!!!
I used to perform “Since I Fell For You” with my doo wop group in Asbury Park, NJ. We learned it from the version that Willie Winfield and The Harptones recorded. When I met Willie, I told him, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had my biggest hit record!”.
"Since I Fell For You” was actually written in the 40s by Buddy Johnson, and when I met him, he told me he was sure glad I recorded it!
Kyler:One of your last recordings on Cadence was a song entitled “Father Sebastian”. It’s the story of a guy who has lost his girl, and goes to a church to try to get his pain off his chest. The cool thing about the tune is, most of it is sung in the 3rd person. What is your opinion of this neat track?
LENNY:Once again, Archie Bleyer picked the song. We rehearsed it and recorded it! I’ve gotten a lot of comments about that track.
Kyler:After recording for Cadence, you moved to Kapp Records, where you recorded several singles and albums’ worth of top notch material. Do you have any recollections of this era or any favorite songs from this time period?
LENNY:Yes I do. I moved to Kapp around 1965. I now wonder if that was the right choice. I could have gone with Reprise Records. At that time, I had a meeting with Reprise and they promised me that if I signed with them, I would work with Burt Bacharach. I met him too. But at that time, Kapp wanted me and they offered me more money. So I went with Kapp. But I still wonder if I made the right choice.
My first song for Kapp was “Two Different Worlds”, which I had already rehearsed with Archie Bleyer at Cadence, so I just took it to Kapp and we released it.
“Darling Take Me Back” was another good song that I recorded for Kapp. It was written by Larry Weiss, a writer for Kapp at the time. At the session, they wanted me to record a song that I didn’t want to do. It almost got ugly. But then the producer said, “hey, let me play you this other song. And it was Darling Take Me Back. And I said, Yes!”. That record was big in New York City, I think it made the Top Five or Top Three. But in Philadelphia, they played a version by Ray Pollard, so my version wasn’t a hit there.
“Rags To Riches”, that song I got from my good friend Jackie Wilson. He used to do it, so I just took a similar arrangement to Kapp and recorded it. Another thing I did around this time was the theme song to “Coronet Blue”, a popular TV show at that time.
Kyler:I’ve seen you in concert, and you put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen! Is it still a thrill to perform all around the world???
LENNY:Of course! Most of my work is on cruise ships, where I have a good time. I sing one night, and the rest of the time I get to enjoy the cruise! I also do oldies-but-goodies shows like the one you saw me at. I’m going on a cruise to Tahiti and have some dates for New Jersey and Nova Scotia coming up.
I'd like to thank Lenny for a great interview and for being such a kind and gracious guy. You can visit his website HERE.
Until next time, from the Rare Rockin' Records blog to your door....keep on rockin', rollin', and doo woppin'!