The Music of Jesse Belvin


Introduction to Jesse Belvin

Jesse Belvin was an R&B singer-songwriter/pianist who was credited by having co-written the song “Earth Angel” first performed and recorded by the doo-wop vocal group The Penguins during the 50s music era and thus, made immortal in the annals of 20th-century music.  “Earth Angel” would be re-recorded by other artists such as The Crew Cuts, who made the song into a Top 10 hit in 1955.   Belvin also co-wrote “Dream Girl” (#2 in R&B charts) which was performed by his own act Jesse & Marvin; and “So Fine” (by The Fiestas, #11 on the pop charts).  On his own achievements on the singles chart department, Belvin also scored a hit “Guess Who.”  He was also associated with The Shields (who had a Top 20 hit “You Cheated”).  After quite a spell releasing unsuccessful records, he experienced a kind of revival in his career after “Guess Who” did well on the charts.  He went into recording new tracks for his upcoming album Mr. Easy, and also played in live performances.  The album was about to be released nationally when Belvin and his wife were killed in a car crash, ending all promises for further success.  He was only 27 years old.

Early life and career

Singer-songwriter Jesse Lorenzo Belvin was born on December 15, 1932 in Texarkana, Texas. When he was five, he and his family moved to Los Angeles. Belvin had his first recording when he became a member of the vocal quartet, Three Dots and a Dash. Belvin had already issued three records when he scored big with his fourth single “Dream Girl,” which was credited to Jesse and Belvin. Released on Specialty Records, “Dream Girl” soared to #2 on the R&B charts in 1953.

Belvin with his singing and songwriting

Belvin was later enlisted to the U.S. Army; yet it never stopped him from writing songs. One of the songs of he came up with was “Earth Angel.” They had a minor dispute regarding the songwriting credits with Hollywood Flames singers Curtis Williams ad Gaynel Hodge. Eventually the two were also given credits. In 1954, “Earth Angel” was recorded by the doo-wop group the Penguins who released it as a single. It topped the R&B singles that same year.

While Belvin was involved in several labels using different aliases, he signed a contract with Modern Records in 1956 where he had his biggest hit “Good Night My Love.” The song went to the R&B singles chart on #7. Reportedly, the piano duties were done by an 11-year old Barry White. In 1958, he moved to Dot Records and released “You Cheated” which did moderately well on the pop and R&B, peaking at #15 and #11 respectively. On that song, he was backed up by the The Shields.

Being “Mr. Easy” and his sudden death

In 1959, he was signed to RCA Records and issued “Guess Who.” Written by his wife and manager Jo Anne, the song became a Top 40 hit. Later that year, he released the LP Just Jesse Belvin where he showcased his sophisticated and refined side, being inspired by Jo Anne. He was also given the alias “Mr. Easy” by the recording company who was even shaping him up as a potential rival to Capitol Records’ Nat “King” Cole.

Belvin had just finished recording and was about to release his second album Mr. Easy when he and his wife were killed in a car accident in Hope, Arkansas, in February 1960. Belvin was just 27 years old at the time of fatal crash.  Mr. Easy was released a year after his death.

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