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Published on May 27, 2014
In the latter part of 1961 and throughout 1962, very exciting things were happening at Columbia Records. A number of very talented, established artists were coming over to the label. One of the first in the small group I am referring to was Andy Williams - making the jump from his long association with Cadence Records. In addition, the lovely songstress Anita Bryant left Joe Carlton (Carlton Records) to sign with CBS - initially making some fine records with Columbia's country producers Don Law and Frank Jones. Then, the label made a real talent coup when both Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme made the transition to Columbia from United Artists. Ironically, Williams, Lawrence and Gorme all were once members of Steve Allen's "Tonight Show" as the "resident singers" - and were all now label-mates at CBS. (This is not to mention the other brand-newcomer named Barbra Streisand - an extraordinary talent who would ultimately outlast them all at the label!)
However, perhaps the most amazing new signee to Columbia in 1962 - because of his rock background - was the talented star Dion Di Mucci (also known simply as "Dion"). My fellow Bronx-native (from 183rd Street) was the first outright rock and roll act to be signed to Columbia, after his successful four years with Laurie Records. Mitch Miller - who from 1950 to 1961 was A&R chief - and who did not like rock and roll - no longer had the control over the label as he once had. The president of Columbia, Goddard Lieberson, wanted Dion, and the young star was very happy to sign with the prestigious label. "I was excited about going to Columbia" Dion recalled. "They really wanted me, and I wanted to be there. But I did have concerns about whether they'd understand my music." This was a well-founded concern, since the label tried to initially steer him towards ballads and "standards". His first producer - Robert Mersey - (who also wound up working at one time or another with ALL the aforementioned artists) - was trying to make Dion more acceptable to the "adult" market, the usual procedure in those days (case in point: Bobby Darin's extraordinary jump and acceptance from rock to "supper club"). Ultimately, however, CBS wisely agreed to let Dion pretty much produce himself. His own special style of "Bronx Blues" and his love and affinity for R&B could not be denied. This was underscored by his first hit for Columbia, a remake of The Drifters' "Ruby Baby". Recorded December 15, 1962 in New York. Arranged, conducted and produced by Robert Mersey.