Jimmy Clanton: More Than Just a Teen Idol


Introduction to Jimmy Clanton

Jimmy Clanton (born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) is an American singer. Clanton hit the peak of popularity and success in the late 1950s and early 1960. His appeal had also been a hit with the teenage market. Clanton scored seven Top 40 hits, (including three Top 10 singles) all released on Ace label: “Just A Dream,” “A Letter To An Angel,” “A Part Of Me,” “My Own True Love,” “Go Jimmy Go” (which he sang on the movie he also starred in, Go Johnny Go in 1959), “Another Sleepless Night” and “Venus In Blue Jeans.” When his prime ended, in the late 1960s Clanton became a disc jockey in Pennsylvania during the 1970s. He still has been performing although only occasionally, mostly in the oldies circuit.

Who is Jimmy Clanton?

Jimmy Clanton is an American singer and former teen idol. He was only one of the very few white artists to have come out of the black-dominated New Orleans rhythm and blues scene. Clanton also wrote his own material, which was considered a relative rarity amongst the other white artists during his era. Another thing: what also set Clanton apart from the other teen idols of his generation is that he had a earnest and complex streak, as well as he was an R&B devotee who had a really good voice with a genuine New Orleans touch.

Early life and career

No wonder, because Clanton was a Louisiana native, born in Baton Rouge on September 2, 1938. Because he probably grew up with the mostly black community and that R&B and soul gradually finding white followers, he developed a passion towards R&B and swamp music. He was influenced by black artists such as Fats Domino, Johnny Ace and Little Richard as well as followed Elvis Presley. While he was still in his teens, Clanton formed his first group the Dixie Cats, employing such influences into their own repertoire. But some sources cite that the first band that Clanton formed was named The Rockets around the same time.

Swamp pop and R&B teenage idol

Clanton rose to become the “swamp pop R&B teenage idol” whose individuality rose above the other teen idols at that time. His first charting single also became his most successful, called “Just a Dream” (released on Ace label) which he wrote with his manager at that time, Cosimo Matassa (who was also a New Orleans-based record producer and engineer). It went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B singles chart in 1958. The single, which was credited to Jimmy Clanton and His Rockets, sold a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc.

As a result of the single’s success Clanton made an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and toured with the popular artists at that time: The Platters, Jerry Lee Lewis and his idol Fats Domino. He followed “Just a Dream” with other decently-performed singles: “A Letter to an Angel” (#25 pop), “A Part of Me” (#38 pop, #28 R&B), and “My Own True Love” (#33 pop).

Clanton achieved another Top 10 pop hit with “Go Johnny Go” (written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman), which went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #19 on the R&B singles chart in early 1960, after first appearing on the charts in December 1959. Around the same time, Clanton also appeared on the Alan Freed-produced rock and roll jukebox filck also called Go Johnny Go. He also starred in another movie Teenage Millionaire.

At the height of his success and popularity, Clanton was drafted into the US Army in 1961. Even so, he continued to have charting singles including his final Top 10 pop hit “Venus in Blue Jeans” (#7 pop, 1962). But as the musical climate was changing (which was particularly spearheaded by the British Invasion), his popularity ebbed. Clanton’s last charting single occurred in 1969, “Curly” which almost hit the bottom of the Hot 100.

After the peak years…

With the peak years as a teenage idol were now behind him, Clanton found another career as disc jockey for a local station in Philadelphia in the early 1970s, hosting an hosting an oldies-oriented program “The Masters Of Rock and Roll.” In the 1980s he experienced a religious conversion. From then on up to the new millennium, Clanton has been still sporadically making appearances at the oldies/nostalgic circuit.

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