Here Comes Summer is often considered one of the first tailor-made summer anthems. The problem is, in the UK at least, that it arrived late. It entered the charts in August 1959 and didn’t reach number 1 until 9 October, toppling Only Sixteen by Craig Douglas. It was written and performed by wholesome singer-songwriter Jerry Keller.
Born June 1938 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was six. Keller formed the Lads of Note Quartet sometime in the 1950s and was also a member of the Tulsa Boy Singers, in addition to becoming a disc jockey. In 1956 he moved to New York determined to make it big, and recorded a series of demos for record labels. Getting nowhere, his church friend Pat Boone (who had the biggest-selling single of that year in the UK with I’ll Be Home) introduced him to Marty Mills, who became his manager. With its vivid lyrics of finishing school and enjoying a summer romance, Keller had finally found the hit he had been looking for.
Much like Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover, Here Comes Summer is the quintessential sound of 50s teen-pop to me. It’s not as good, but it’s not far off. It’s musically warm and wistful, and makes you look back to a summer that you never actually had, but feel like you did anyway. The backing vocals spoil it somewhat though, overpowering the song at times, drowning out Keller’s voice and spoiling the production.
Unfortunately for Keller, he was the first of many artists who become so identifiable with a summer hit that they’re rarely, if ever, heard of again as a performer. He did, however, enjoy further success as a songwriter. He wrote Almost There, a hit for Andy Williams, and The Legend of Shenandoah, recited by James Stewart in the film Shenandoah (1965). In 1966 he wrote the English lyrics for Un homme et une femme, translated as A Man and a Woman, which was covered by many artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Engelbert Humperdinck and Johnny Mathis. In the 70s and 80s he appeared in films and was used as a vocalist in television jingles, before disappearing into obscurity. Here Comes Summer still gets used in adverts from time to time, a charming memory of relative teenage innocence.
Written by: Jerry Keller
Producer: Richard Wolf
Weeks at number 1: 1 (9-15 October)
Singer Kirsty MacColl – 10 October
Sarah, Duchess of York – 15 October