60s Music

LaVern Baker and Her hit “Tweedlee Dee”

LaVern Baker
Photo of LaVern Baker. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Introduction to Lavern Baker

LaVern Baker, born Delores Lavern Baker (November 11, 1929 – March 10, 1997) was an American rock, rhythm and blues singer who had several hit songs in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  During the early part of her career LaVern recorded under the names of Little Miss Sharecropper for National Records, and Bea Baker, for Okeh Records.  In 1952 she began singing with Todd Rhodes band using the name LaVern Baker which throughout the rest of her singing career.  In 1953 LaVern signed with Atlantic Records and her career took off with a string of Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charting songs including “Bop-Ting-A-Ling,” “Play It Fair,” “That’s All I Need,” “Tweedle Dee” (#12 Billboard Hot 100), “Get Up, Get Up,” “My Happiness Forever,” “I Can’t Love You Enough” (#22 Hot 100), “Tra La La,” “Jim Dandy” (#17 Hot 100), “Still,” “Jim Dandy Got Married,” “Humpty Dumpty Heart,” “It’s So Fine,” “I Cried a Tear” (her biggest hit #6 Hot 100), “I Waited Too Long” (#33 Hot 100), “So High, So Low,” “If You Loved Me,” “Tiny Tim”, “Shake A Hand,” “Wheel Of Fortune,” “Shadows of Love,” “Bumble Bee,” “Saved” (#37 Hot 100), “See See Rider” (#34 Hot 100), You’d Better Find Yourself Another Man,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Batman to the Rescue.” In 1966 LaVern began working as the entertainment director for the U.S. Marine Corp NCO club.  She did not return to public performing until 1988 when she performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  The 22 year musical drought was a much too long hiatus for such a great musical performer.  In 1991 LaVern was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked her song “Jim Dandy” at #343 on the list of all time greatest songs.  LaVern suffered from diabetes and lost both her legs in 1994 and passed away in 1997.  Her last recording was “Jump into the Fire” from the “Tribute to Harry Nilsson” album.  Other Laver Baker songs include:  “I Want to Rock”, “Lost Child”, “Soul on Fire”, “I Can’t Hold Out Any Longer”, “I’m Living My Life for You”, “Tomorrow Night”, “That’s All I Need”, “Lucky Old Sun”, “My Happiness Forever”, “Fee Fee Fi Fo Fum”, “I’ll Do the Same for You”, “I Can’t Love You Enough”, “The Game of Love”, “Love Me Right”, “St. Louis Blues”, “Miracles”, “Substitute”, “Learning to Love”, “Harbor Lights”, “Whipper Snapper”, “Why Baby Why”, “Dix-a-Billy”, “You’re Teasing Me”, “For Love of You”, “Manana”, “My Time Will Come”, “How Often” (with Ben E. King), My Time Will Come”, “Saved”, “Don Juan”, “You’re the Boss”, “I’ll Never Be Free” (last two with Jimmy Ricks), “Think Twice” (with Jackie Wilson), “Pledging My Love”, “One Monkey Don’t Stop the Show”, “Wrapped, Tied and Tangled”, “Born to Lose”, “Trouble in Mind”, “The Story of My Love”, “Hey, Memphis”, “Voodoo Voodoo”, “Hurtin’ Inside”, “Call Me Darling” and “I’m the One to Do It.”

 

Early years of Lavern Baker

Best remembered by her 50s music era breakthrough hit “Tweedlee Dee,” American rhythm and blues singer LaVern Baker was born on November 11, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois. Given with the name Delores Lavern Baker, she was also known as Little Miss Sharecropper when she began performing in Chicago’s watering holes in 1946. Three years after, she had her first record using the alias. In 1951, she was signed to Okeh Records under the name Bea Baker.

 

 

Musical career as LaVern Baker with the hit single “Tweedlee Dee”

In 1952, she settled with the name LaVern Baker when she was performing with Todd Rhodes and later signed with Atlantic Records. Her debut release “Soul on Fire” went unnoticed. But the tables turned in 1955 when she released the sophomore single “Tweedlee Dee.” It registered on the Billboard R&B and pop charts at #4 and #14 respectively. Georgia Gibbs subsequently released her version of “Tweedlee Dee,” performing the song just like the exact original version and outperformed the original version. Baker attempted to press charges against Gibbs for copyright violations but it was unsuccessful.

 

 

 

Baker’s other successful releases

After “Tweedlee Dee” success, Baker continued to release singles, encountering considerable slots on the R&B charts: “Bop-Ting-A-Ling” (#3), “Play it Fair” (#2), “I Can’t Love You Enough” (#7) and “Still” (#4). In 1956, she topped the R&B chart with the single “Jim Dandy.” The song made on the pop charts, peaking at #17. It also sold over one million copies and was given a gold disc award.

Around 1958, Baker had another smash hit with “I Cried a Tear” which reached the #6 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and it crossed over to R&B chart at #2. It was followed by “I Waited Too Long” in 1959, entering both pop and R&B charts at #3 and #5 respectively. Further R&B hits followed from 1960 to 1965 such as “Shake a Hand” (#13, 1960), “Saved” (#17, 1961), and “See See Rider (#9, 1962).

 

Baker’s later years

After a tour in Vietnam, Baker was ailing with bronchial pneumonia and was brought to the US Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines to recover. There, she stayed for 22 years and worked as an entertainment director at the Marine Corps Staff NCO club and returned in the US in 1988.

Later that year at the Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary, Baker did a performance for the event held in Madison Square Garden. In 1990, she was given the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award. The next year, she was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Baker is the second female soloist given with the prestigious recognition.

On March 10, 1997, Baker succumbed to a cardiovascular disease. She was 67 years old.

 

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