Gene and Debbe – “Playboy”

Introduction to Gene and Debbe

Gene and Debbe were an American pop and country duo who scored one significant hit with “Playboy” in 1968. Gene Thomas (1938-2012) was an aspiring singer who scored minor hits with “Baby’s Gone” and “Sometime” in the early 1960s. But he had given up singing, and turned to writing songs for Acuff-Rose music publishing firm. In 1965 Thomas chanced upon Debbe Neville (or some sources say as Nevills) who was a aspiring singer, and he began writing songs that suited for their Everly Brothers-style harmonies. Gene and Debbe signed to TRX records (a Hickory Records’ subsidiary label) and later scored their biggest hit “Playboy” which reached the Top 20 pop chart in the summer of 1968. After “Playboy,” they never charted again, although Gene and Debbe separately went on to their own musical pursuits, with Thomas continuing his career as a songwriter. Gene Thomas died in 2012, aged 73.

Gene meets Debbe

Gene and Debbe were an American pop and country music duo hailing from Nashville, Tennessee. They enjoyed a short string of successes during the 1960s.

The male half of the duo was Gene Thomas, born Gene Thomasson in Palestine, Texas on December 28, 1938. He initially aspired to be a solo singer; in fact, Thomas tasted modest success on his own with a singled titled “Sometime” in 1961. After some inactivity on the charts two years later, Thomas scored a hit again with the Bobby Goldsboro/Roy Orbison tune “Baby’s Gone.”

However, Thomas gave up his dreams to become a singer and instead focused more on songwriting. He first went to work for Acuff-Rose publishers for two years.

The female half of Gene and Debbe is Debbe Neville (or Nevills in some sources). Possessing a big voice, Neville was also an aspiring singer like Thomas before. In 1965 Thomas met her on a chance while Neville was trying to launch a singing career in Nashville, Tennessee. Having thought up of a duo musical act, Thomas began to write songs that would fit for their combined voices. Then they began to sing in harmony that reminds one of the Everly Brothers. The duo launched their career at Acuff-Rose, singing mostly romantic country ballads.

Gene and Debbe’s only major hit with “Playboy”

The bosses at Acuff-Rose were impress by the duo’s singing that they decided to offer the singers a recording contract from Hickory Records’ subsidiary label TRX Records. The duo recorded songs such as “Go With Me” and “Playboy.” While “Go With Me” becamea minor hit at #78, “Playboy” was otherwise fast climbing the charts, peaking at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. The single sold over a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc.

Later career and disbandment

Gene and Debbe hit the charts again with “Lovin’ Season” (#81 pop) in 1968, which also marked the end of the duo’s chart success. The duo went on recording together and managed to release an LP Hear and Now before disbanding. The album, which is now a rarity, contains the only major hit “Playboy.”

After Gene and Debbe, Thomas returned to being a staff songwriter. His songs have been recorded by many country and pop artists including Don Gibson, Dean Martin, the Everlys, George Jones, Roy Orbison, Connie Smith and a lot others. Debbe, meanwhile, proceeded to establish herself as a solo singer. Thomas died of lung cancer in Fredericksburg, Texas on August 26, 2012, aged 74.