1965 Barbara Lewis – Make Me Your Baby
Barbara Lewis grew up close to Ann Arbor, Michigan. She worked with producer Ollie McLaughlin while still a teenager. Ollie was a disk jockey at an Ann Arbor radio station who had discovered and managed Del Shannon and helped Runaway become a successful single.
Barbara wrote all the songs on her first album, which came out in 1962. The first single from the album was only a hit close to home in Detroit. Ollie produced her second single and brought in the Dells to sing background vocals. Hello Stranger reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1963 and topped the R&B chart. It proved to be the most successful single of her career.
Her next two singles floundered near the bottom of the top forty, peaking at #43 and #38. After that, Barbara recorded a song written by Van McCoy and produced by Bert Berns and Ollie. Baby, I’m Yours peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in the Summer of 1965.
Roger Atkins and Helen Miller had written the song Make Me Your Baby, and Atlantic Records wanted to get the song recorded by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. They were under contract to Cameo-Parkway, and negotiations to sign the group to Atlantic took until late 1965, which turned out to be too long.
The Pixies Three were three teenagers who had a regional hit with the single 442 Glenwood Avenue in 1964 and were looking around for a bigger hit. They heard the song that Atlantic was pitching to Patti and convinced Cameo-Parkway Records to let them record the song instead. Perhaps that was enough to light a fire under folks at Atlantic Records, who took the song to Barbara and had Bert and Ollie produce the song for her. Barbara’s single reached #11 on the Hot 100 in the Fall. The Pixies Three finished their version too late to compete with Barbara’s hit, and the group simply disbanded for over twenty years.
Barbara only reached the top forty once more. Chip Taylor and Billy Vera wrote Make Me Belong To You, and Barbara’s single peaked at #28 in 1966. Barbara’s career faded after that, and she abruptly disappeared from the music industry.
Yvonne Elliman covered Hello Stranger in 1977, and her single reached the top twenty that year. Casey Kasem began searching for Barbara to get an update on her and discovered that even her agent did not know how to reach her – and there were royalty checks for her thanks to sales of a song she had written! Casey found her in Michigan, and she returned to making public appearances until health issues forced her to retire from singing in 2017.
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