From time to time, a truly classic tune will pop on the radio and have us pining for drive-ins, 3d glasses, and milkshakes. One song that does it for us every time we hear it is the 1962 hit song “Johnny Angel,” performed by singer and actress, Shelley Fabares. Check out this classic video of her singing this timeless hit.
“Johnney Angel” was written by Lee Pockriss and Lyn Duddy and was first released by Georgia Lee, and then by Laurie Loman. Both versions failed to ignite the charts, but in 1962, when Shelley Fabares performed it on the hit television program “The donna Reed Show,” it really caught fire. In fact, Fabares’ rendition went all the way to number one on the pop charts.
Long before “I’ll Be there For You” crossed from the theme song for “Friends” to chart success, “Johnny Angel”was one of the first cross-media marketed songs. The single was credited to “Shelley Fabares, of The Donna Reed Show,” and the sleeve’s artwork even featured a picture of the cast.
Fabares’ version was the lead single from her debut album, “Shelley!” and was produced and arranged by Stu Phillips. She was backed up by the singing group Darlene Love and the Blossoms. Fabares later recounted that she was intimidated by the group’s beautiful voices, and was terrified of becoming a pop star since she considered herself an actress as opposed to a singer.
For someone who did not think she had it in her, Fabares did pretty well with this song. In addition to spending fifteen weeks on the charts and peaking at number one in the US, it also hit the top spot in New Zealand and Canada, and got all the way to number forty one on the UK charts. That was a big deal considering that the UK would explode just a year later with bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The moody Blues, and so many other members of the British Invasion.
Her version eventually sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold record. Two weeks after she hit number one, Elvis Presley knocked out with his song “Good Luck Charm.”
Fabares and the King would star in three movies together, “Girl Happy,” “Spinout,” and “Clambake.” She would later appear in other movies starring popular young singers, including Herman’s Hermits frontman Peter Noone in “Hold On,” and Alongside Hank Williams Jr. in “A Time to Sing.”
She went on to marry Mike Farrell, of television’s M.A.S.H., and later star alongside craig T. Nelson on the much loved sitcom “Coach.”
Johnny Angel was recorded again in 1973 by The Carpenters and included on their album “Now and Then.” Brother and sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter co-produced the track as part of a medley on the second side of the disk.
It is still most remembered as Shelley Fabares’ song, and her version performed better than any other release. In fact, it can almost be said to be her signature song.
What fond memories does this song recall in you? What is your favorite Shelley Fabares role? Please share your thoughts and stories with us here.