Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1960 Paul Evans – Midnite Special

Paul Evans grew up in Queens, New York, and learned to play the piano thanks to lessons from his mother. His oldest sister taught him to play guitar and led him into folk music. While attending Columbia, he sang folk songs on his own radio show.

In 1957, he began recording demos of songs, often at the Brill Building. Usually, somebody else had written the songs, but some demos were songs he had written himself. Somebody dropped one of his personal demos in a pile of rejected demos. The Kalin Twins found and recorded the demo for the song When. Before long, Paul had written a song that peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 in 1958! Elvis recorded another song Paul had written in 1959 (and Elvis later recorded three more of Paul’s songs).

Artists or labels usually paid Paul a small amount of money to record demos for other artists.  Lee Pockriss and Bob Hilliard had written (Seven Little Girls) Sitting In The Back Seat and they had Paul record a demo for the song. The writer sold the demo to Guaranteed Records and that label simply released the demo as a single. The record peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 in 1959. Paul toured on the strength of that single and even appeared on the Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show. A cute video has survived of Paul singing the song on the show with a car full of puppets.

Paul had his second hit record when he recorded Midnight Special In early 1960. A magazine mentioned the song as early as 1923 and recordings began showing up in 1926.  Leadbelly released a successful version of the song in 1941. Paul’s single reached #16. Johnny Rivers covered the song in 1965 and his version peaked at #20.

Later that year, Paul finally had a hit with a single he co-wrote with Al Byron. Happy-Go-Lucky-Me peaked at #10 later that year. The Brigade Of Broken Hearts was his only other charting record on the Hot 100, but it didn’t get any higher than #81.

Paul continued writing songs for other artists. His most successful songwriting accomplishment was Roses Are Red, which topped the Hot 100 in 1962 and gave Bobby Vinton his very first charting success. Many other artists recorded songs Paul wrote.

In 1978-1979, Paul’s recording of Hello, This Is Joannie (The Telephone Answering Machine Song) was a major hit in the UK and Australia. The tragic song got some airplay in the US and reached #57 on the US Country chart even though it missed the Hot 100. There was even a video for the song.

Paul is still active and maintains a YouTube presence where he has a video about his career and his personal website has some detailed stories about his adventures when he was starting out.

The 2007 video for his song Santa’s Stuck Up In The Chimney has over three million views.


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