Shelby Flint – “Angel on My Shoulder”

Introduction to Shelby Flint

Shelby Flint is an American singer-songwriter who scored a couple of hits during the 1960s, “Angel On My Shoulder” and “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.” She recorded the folk tune “Angel On My Shoulder” which eventually earned a place on the Top 40 in 1961. “Angel On My Shoulder” would later be re-recorded by the vocal pop group The Cascades. Flint also scored another Hot 100 charter via her cover of a Vincent Guaraldi original piece, “Cast Your Fate To The Wind.” Flint has also worked as a session singer.

Early life and career, and her discovery by Barry DeVorzon

Shelby Flint is a pop singer-songwriter, born in North Hollywood, California on September 17, 1939. Flint had already been trained in music, first by studying piano when she was very young, and eventually learning to play the guitar. She started to write her own songs when she was still in her teens.

A New York-based record producer Barry DeVorzon discovered Flint when she was eighteen years old. DeVorzon’s name had become prominent through his own composition “Just Married,” which turned into a hit by Marty Robbins. DeVorzon led the young singer-songwriter and musician to her first recording session, which produced a record off a song she had written. The song was unabashedly romantic, and it was suggested in the title: “I Will Love You.”

Released on Cadence label in the late 1950s, Flint’s first single “I Will Love You” (released by Cadence record label) performed poorly, although it did appear on the Variety T.I.P.S. (Tune Index Performance and Sales) Top 100 chart.

Also around the same time, DeVorzon established Valiant Records and signed Flint as the label’s very first artist.

“Angel on My Shoulder” – Shelby Flint’s major hit record

Flint saw an opportunity with the booming folk scene, and she was tremendously influenced by the impact that folk had brought to her. Inspired by folk, she went to write another song called “Angel on My Shoulder.” The song speaks of romantic superstition and mentions all the possible good luck charms: the four-leaf clover, tossed nickels in the wishing well, a lucky penny, and even the oft-forgotten mustard seed.

two guitarists playing their instruments image

Origin of Folk Music

Folk music, like folk literature, usually lives in oral tradition. We learn by listening more than by reading. It is functional because it is linked to other activities and is mainly of rural origin. Folk music, traditional and generally rural music, was originally passed down in families and other small social groups. Folk music derives from their lifestyles, festivals, customs, and traditions. Folk music is played or sung by different people coming from different statuses. Traditional music is learned by listening to others playing it and copying it. Let’s learn more about this type of music.

European immigrants influenced American folk music from 1800 to 1850. Immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany brought some of the folk music. The first form of folk music was the ballad. Ballads helped people understand various things: politics, relationships, family, work, etc. Workers on whaling ships, railroads, and canal builders sang ballads. Enslaved people in the southern states sang ballads in the fields all day while other subjects of ballads declared victory or defeat in certain battles and political issues. The lyrics explained the origins of immigrants and their families.

Other parts of the United States have created their styles of folk music. For example, in New Orleans, musicians played folk music in Cajun, influenced by Creole speakers and slaves. Gospel folk music was of paramount importance during the Second Great Awakening. Along with lively preachers, the people sang in unison and quoted from scripture. Many gospel songs, including Amazing Grace and America, were written between 1800 and 1850. 

With the music evolution in the 18th century, folk music began to influence classical music (or “art music”). People of the upper classes became interested in folk music because they recognized it as part of their tradition. Composers such as Mozart and Schubert wrote folk dances for orchestras and small groups of instruments. In the early 20th century, some composers traveled to collect folk music played and sung by local people. They often used some of these ideas in their music. Bartok did this in Hungary, Bulgaria, and America, while others, such as Cecil Sharp and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams collected folk music in England. In the United States, the influence of jazz on classical music is part of folk music history. It is undeniable that folk music shaped the modern music we are enjoying today, engraved with its rich culture of exploration and diverse traditions which was passed from generation to generation. 

It struck a chord especially with the young people, boys and girls alike. “Angel on My Shoulder” eventually found its way into the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at #22 on that chart in early 1961. The success of “Angel on My Shoulder,” as a result, immediately drew notice to the new recording label, Valiant. The fledgling imprint then partnered with the major label Warner Bros., that resulted into a fruitful association for a number of years. It was also Warner that distributed Shelby’s single.

“Angel on My Shoulder” was also covered by another Californian act, the pop vocal group the Cascades.

Shelby Flint tried to surpass or at least just duplicate the success of “Angel on My Shoulder.” She and Valiant tried possible means to score that elusive second hit, even re-releasing Flint’s old song “I Will Love You” and then assigning the famous Addrisi Brothers to write songs for her. But these moves only proved almost futile. That is, for the exception of her rendition of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” (#61 pop, #11 easy listening in 1966) that got the young singer back on the charts for a while. But despite this, she has been called a one-hit wonder since.

Later career

When Valiant was sold to Warner in 1967, Flint automatically became Warner’s artist, though the label released no other Flint recordings other than a “Back to Back Hits” 45. At this point, Flint had left the label.

As the 1970s dawned, Flint continued her singing career. Her voice can be heard on such movies as the Peanuts feature film Snoopy, Come Home andThe Rescuers, whose song Flint performed “Someone’s Waiting for You” was nominated for Oscar for Best Original Score in 1977. However, Flint wasn’t able to perform that song during Oscar’s live telecast in 1978; instead, it was Gloria Loring who took her place and sang “Someone’s Waiting for You” on the awards ceremonies.

Flint still has continued to perform and write songs, frequently in collaboration with other artists such as guitarist Tim Weston and jazz keyboardist Greg Karukas.