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BEN RALEIGH  – 1997

One of my first songwriting heroes was Ben Raleigh, who was the lyric writer of hits like “Dungaree Doll”, “Wonderful, Wonderful”, “She’s a Fool”, “Love is a Hurting Thing” and one of my all-time favorites, “Tell Laura I Love Her” in 1962. I was introduced to him by one of my early mentors Paul Vance, who co-wrote “Catch a Falling Star”, “Itsy, Bitsy, Teenie Weenie Yellow polka dot bikini”. Paul wanted me and his nephew, Danny Jordan (who later became one of the Detergents) to write with Ben for a session we were recording as a duo for Diamond records.

Soon Ben and I just started writing together and started getting some good covers…Wayne Newton, Jack Scott, Leroy Van Dyke, Aretha Franklyn, Jose Feliciano, and Bobby Darin. Ben introduced me to Freddie Bienstock at Hill and Range, who asked us to write for several Elvis movies, to Arnold Shaw at E.B. Marks music who got us a hit with Helen Shapiro in the U.K. and to Al Gallico at Shapiro Bernstein, who offered me a chance to become the first Black country artist signed to major label.

At that time Ben was also writing with Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Sherman Edwards and Mark Barkan. I was lucky to have him on Wednesday and Saturday.

Then in 1963 we wrote and I produced “Midnight Mary” for Joey Powers. I still can remember taking publicity pictures and being handed a gold record by Larry Uttal (head of Amy/ Bell records), who whispered, “Now this doesn’t necessarily mean it sold a million records!”

We continued to write for several years and have covers by Dion, the Hues Corporation, Gene Pitney, Freddie and the Dreamers, etc. and when I was at WB Music I got the company to buy the renewal rights to his classic song, “Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside”.

Two weeks before he passed away in 1997, we got together and updated “Midnight Mary”. Originally, our Hero worked on the railroad…( and with apologies to Joe Nelson, who wrote recently that it was his favorite part of the song] we changed the line to ‘Just got a job at the Airport. Also in the new version, Mary gets pregnant, which you couldn’t say in 1962.

In one of my last conversations with Ben, I asked him, which of all of his hit songs has earned the most money? He laughed and said, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”, which he co-wrote in 20 minutes. He was offered a few thousand by Hanna-Barbera as a buyout…but opted for a royalty instead.

This was before the release of the Multi-million dollar making “Scooby-Doo Movie”…and it’s equally successful sequel!

From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne
https://artiewayne.wordpress.com


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Sept. 27, 2006, 3:37PM
Songwriter complains of impostor

By FRANK ELTMAN Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

— The man who co-wrote the song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” had the unsettling experience this week of reading his own obituary _ the result of an impostor who went through life claiming to be the author of the 1960s smash hit.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported on the death of a 68-year-old man named Paul Van Valkenburgh of Ormond Beach, Fla., who claimed to have written the song under the name Paul Vance. The story cited the man’s wife as the source for that claim.

But the music industry’s real Paul Vance, a 76-year-old man from Coral Springs, Fla., is alive and well, and says the other Paul Vance appears to have made the whole thing up!

September 28, 2006

Like most people who know “The Real” Paul Vance, I freaked out when I heard he died a few days ago. Today I was overjoyed when I found out he was still alive!
When I was released from Aldon music as a writer in 1962, the first office I walked into was owned by writer/producer Paul Vance. I had seen his name on records as the co-writer of “Catch a Falling Star”, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, etc. and I hoped he would like my style of pop/country/r+b. He not only co-wrote with me but encouraged me to write with other writers that were coming around at the time, which included Cirino Colacrai (“Runaround”), Joey Powers (“Midnight Mary”), Al Byron (“Roses Are Red, My Love”), Ellie Greenwich (“Be My Baby”, “Da Doo Run Run”), Ben Raleigh (“Tell Laura I Love Her”, “Wonderful, Wonderful”) and Paul’s nephew Danny Jordan (who later became one of the Detergents who sang,”Leader Of The Laundermat”)

One day, singer Frankie Sardo, a friend of Danny’s came by looking for material. He had a minor hit with “Fakeout” but was best known for having been on the last Buddy Holly Tour. After a strong B.S. session, which included Frankie telling us that he gave up the last seat on the small plane to Buddy the night of the fatal crash, the three of us started writing a song, “Find a Little Happiness”. The next day, we finished the song and played it for Paul. He was so excited that he ran us down the hall to play it for Joe Kolsky who owned Diamond records. Joe flipped out as well and suggested that Danny and I record it as a duo with Paul as a producer.

Initially, this didn’t really sit well with Danny or myself since we both were aspiring to be single artists. I knew Joe was a dynamite record promoter since I had an earlier release on Diamond that I wrote with Paul, “Mommy and Daddy were Twistin'” by Susan Summers, but I was still aprehensive. Paul was pissed off that we didn’t jump at the chance to record for the man who was behind some of the biggest acts at Roulette records( Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, Jimmy Rogers, Joey Dee and the Starliters) so we reconsidered.
In the year and a half that I wrote with Paul we had our songs recorded by the Fleetwoods, The Playmates, etc . He also got songs of mine that he published recorded by the Brian Poole and Tremoloes, Frankie Sardo, and the Angels. Although I wasn’t getting a salary, he did let me have a key to the office where I held many late night “auditions”. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in thirty years, but I want him to know how much I appreciate what he taught me about songwriting, the music buisness and life itself!