May 26, 2007
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
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Filed in al gallico, aretha franklyn, arnold shaw, ben raleigh, bobby darin, catch a falling star, danny jordan, detergents, diamond records, dion, dungaree doll, ellie greenwich, Freddie and the Dreamers, freddie bienstock, gene pitney, helen shapiro, hues corporation, itsy bitsy bikini, jack scott, jeff barry, joey powers, larry uttal amy/ bell records, laughing on the outside crying on the inside, leroy van dyke, midnight mary, paul vance, scooby doo, scooby doo where are you?, shapiro bernstein, she's a fool, tell laura i love her, Uncategorized, wayne newton, wonderful wonderful, writing for elvis movies