Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Della Reese - The Troublemaker (1971)

When this 45 was released in 1971, singer Della Reese was in a period of transition, adding 'actress / TV personality' to her list of achievements.

A couple of years prior, she became the first black woman in America to host her own television variety series, and in 1970 she was the first black woman to guest-host
Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Throughout the 1970s and well beyond,
Della Reese became a familiar sight on television, whether appearing as a panelist on game shows, in guest slots on dramas and sitcoms, parts in TV movies and several
co-starring roles in established series, all while still maintaining a touring schedule as a headlining nightclub singer.

Her ties with music began as a child, singing Gospel music in church.
At age thirteen she was 'discovered' by Mahalia Jackson and hired to be one of her backing singers.
After forming her own group, The Meditation Singers, she eventually moved into singing Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, and received a recording contract with Jubilee Records in 1953.
A move to the RCA label in 1959 yielded a great string of albums and some of her biggest hits.

Still active in her seventies, the actress / singer / minister now presides over her own church in Inglewood, California.

Listen to:
Della Reese - The Troublemaker
(Avco Embassy 45, 1971)
(click for audio)

'The Troublemaker' was later a hit for
Willie Nelson, when it became the title track to the gospel-themed LP he released in 1976 on the Columbia label (though it was recorded three years earlier for Atlantic).

Is the Della Reese version more successful in not telegraphing the 'surprise twist' ending of the song's lyrics? There could be an argument for that, but the difference in arrangement and the verve of her delivery make for an interesting change.

Perhaps you can help clear up the mystery of who was the first to record 'The Troublemaker' - -?

There were at least three versions of it released on 45, all in 1969.

- One by Chris Morgan (who he?), as 'Troublemaker' (one word) on a Bell label single produced by
Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.

- One by Country singer Johnny Darrel, on United Artists, as 'Trouble Maker'.

- And one by Lee Hazlewood, on his own LHI label, as 'Trouble Maker'.

Who released their version first? And were there others?

Any information you can share is much appreciated, leave a comment or drop an e-mail. Thanks!

The song was written by Bruce Belland and Dave Somerville, former members of the pop vocal quartet The Four Preps.

Bruce Belland had been a founding member of the group, formed in the mid-1950s by four friends all enrolled at Hollywood High School. They enjoyed their greatest fame in the late '50s and early '60s. Their song '26 Miles (Santa Catalina)' reached #2 in the U.S. pop charts.

In the '50s, “Diamond” Dave Somerville had been the lead singer with Rock & Roll vocal group, The Diamonds (whose hits
included 'Little Darlin'' and 'The Stroll').

Somerville left The Diamonds in 1961 to pursue a solo career as a Folk artist (and sometime actor), changing his name to
David Troy. He joined The Four Preps in 1966, replacing one of the original members.

◀ At left: Belland & Somerville, sometime in the 1990s.

When The Four Preps disbanded in 1969, Belland & Somerville performed for a time as a duo.

According to Wikipedia, they appeared in concerts with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mathis, and were a regular act on the CBS-TV comedy series 'The Tim Conway Show'.

Judging by the song's lyrics, it seems likely that Belland & Somerville wrote 'The Troublemaker' sometime in this period, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence that they recorded it. Maybe it's something that they performed in concert or on TV? Again, feel free to chime in...

Belland & Somerville have each remained busy over the years, performing in various reunited configurations of their old groups, and in assorted solo projects, including successful ventures writing songs for TV and film.

- See also:
Another funky Della Reese 45 on Avco Embassy - - From 1970, a cover version of 'Compared To What' can be heard at Flea Market Funk. (follow link)


Retro Hound said...

Thanks, I love the twist at the end! I wasn't expecting that.

Ravel said...

How many people who saw "Touched by an Angel" were aware of how great a singer she is? Some career moves obliterate earlier accomplishments, sometimes.
Thanks for posting!

normadesmond said...

love her stuff from the 50s. "Don't You Know" was a great pop hit (the melody stolen from opera) but now? way too evangelical. blechh.

vincent the soul chef said...

This record was absolutely AMAZING!!!
Thank you for enlightening me, and I will be sure to search for the other records. Wish me luck :)

Peace and blessings.

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