The irrepressible Guy Mitchell’s Singing the Blues knocked Frankie Vaughan’s The Garden of Eden back off the top and enjoyed one final week at number 1, before clean-cut Hollywood actor Tab Hunter (how ’50s movie star’ is that name?) sent it back down the charts for good with the earnest pop ballad Young Love.
Born Arthur Andrew Kelm on 11 July 1931 in Manhattan, New York City, his father was abusive, and their parents divorced while he was still young. As Arthur Gelien, he became interested in figure skating.
At 15 he was sacked from the Coast Guard for lying about his age. He met actor Dick Clayton, who suggested his teen idol looks would stand him in good stead should he choose to become an actor. His agent Henry Wilson decided Tab Hunter would be a better name. Sorry to keep bringing it up, but where I come from, a tab hunter is someone who keeps cadging cigarettes…
Anyway, he spent the first half of the 50s getting noticed in a series of film roles, before hitting the big time in World War Two drama Battle Cry (1955). For several years, Hunter was Warner Bros’ most popular male star.
Young Love had been written by Ric Cartey and Carole Joyner. Cartey himself released the original version in late 1956 but got nowhere. Country star Sonny James fared better and made it a big hit, but Tab Hunter went even further. One of the top-selling singles of 1957 in both the UK and US, Warner Bros. were so impressed, they formed Warner Bros. Records as a way of preventing Hunter from releasing his freshly recorded album on a rival label. These days, Warner Bros. Records is one of only three remaining huge music conglomerates.
It’s a very safe, innocent tune, and an early attempt at getting young girls to buy records. Having noticed how rock’n’roll had impacted on teenagers, record companies were beginning to wake up to the younger market. Getting a good-looking film star to perform such a song was the perfect move.
It has a certain charm – more than some of the dross similar acts like the Osmonds churned out in the 70s (in fact Donny Osmond’s inferior cover reached number 1 in 1973), and most 90s teen ballads too. Hunter sounds like a young Morrissey at times. Perhaps an early influence on the miserable racist?
Hunter’s film career continued to shine, but tailed off during the 70s. As I was born in 1979, I have to confess I hadn’t heard of him until now. However, while researching, I was delighted to discover that Hunter played geeky substitute teacher Mr Stewart in Grease 2 (1982). Slated by critics, and hated by many fans of the original, I have a certain fondness for the sequel, as do others I know. Listening again to his big cameo moment, the verses from Reproduction sound very similar to the verses from Young Love. Must have been deliberate.
After decades of rumours, Hunter finally revealed he was gay in his 2005 autobiography. On 8 July 2018, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died, aged 86.
Written by: Ric Cartey & Carole Joyner
Producer: Billy Vaughn
Weeks at number 1: 7 (22 February-11 April)
Actor Robert Bathurst – 22 February
Artist Wyndham Lewis – 7 March
Linguist Charles Kay Ogden – 21 March
6 March: Ghana became independent of the UK.
11 April: The government announced that Singapore would also breaking free of British rule.
1 April, BBC’s current affairs programme Panorama pioneered fake news when they transmitted their infamous April Fools Day hoax, with a feature on spaghetti trees in Switzerland, that you can see here. They have inspired many inferior copies ever since.