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Jo Ann Campbell

Jo Ann Campbell occupies a special niche in rock & roll. For starters, she wrote songs, and they were good enough to get released as singles, not buried on her albums. Her most successful records were clearly in a mainstream pop music vein, anticipating the work of teen girl pop singers such as Shelley Fabares, but she could also rock out like Wanda Jackson. A surprising number of her recordings were rough and tough, their obvious "cute" quotient balanced by Campbell's occasional raspy-throated delivery, which betrayed lust, or at least a healthy female libido in need of stroking. And the song that remains the best known today, "Mama, Can I Go Out?" (which never charted but was featured in Alan Freed's jukebox movie Go Johnny Go), is a great tribute to healthy female interest in the opposite sex -- which, as we know, was at least half of what rock & roll was ultimately supposed to be about.

Campbell took music and dance lessons as a child, and was drum majorette at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, FL. At age 16, in 1955, she did a USO tour of Europe as a dancer -- such tours didn't pay anything, but gave the participants a chance to travel and see the world while honing their skills as entertainers and performers, and this was precisely what Campbell did. When the tour was over, she felt ready for the big time and headed for New York, where she initially joined the Johnny Conrad Dancers. It was while in New York that she decided to try singing. She was fortunate enough to get featured on television's Colgate Comedy Hour and The Milton Berle Show, and later proved a huge success at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. In 1956, she was signed to the Eldorado label, which had her record an original song, "Come on Baby," as her debut single. This was followed by a more conventional pop standard, Campbell's cover of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

Neither single was a success, however, and by the end of 1957, Campbell had switched to George Goldner's Gone Records label, most famous as the company for which Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers recorded their hits. Campbell's records took on a more rocking beat at Gone, in keeping with the changes overtaking popular music -- her 1958 singles included "Rock 'n' Roll Love" backed with the far hotter B-side "You're Driving Me Mad," which was good enough to be featured on the 1980s underground compilation Hot Boppin' Girls, Vol. 2. She cut one more original that year, "Wassa Matter with You Babe," but neither it nor its follow-up, "I'm Nobody's Baby," managed to chart. Campbell's singing ability was beyond question, however, and coupled with her extraordinary good looks -- with her creamy complexion, blonde hair, and expressive eyes, she managed to look lustful and innocent at the same time -- she rated a place on the bill at Alan Freed's Brooklyn Paramount show, the biggest rock & roll and R&B stage show in the nation, and on Freed's package tour. In turn, Campbell got a featured spot in Freed's jukebox movie Go Johnny Go, in an appearance for millions of viewers to discover across the generations, introduced by Freed in the film as "our little blonde bombshell," alternately strutting and gliding across screen, pouting sweetly but with a lusty gleam in her eye to the strains of "Mama, Can I Go Out?" It was one of several high points in the movie, even if the single itself, on Gone Records, didn't chart as a result.

Campbell's subsequent single that year, the teen lament "I Ain't No Steady Date," did little better, despite a great beat and a cute spoken word middle section. By 1960, she had moved to ABC Records, where she finally struck a modest hit with "A Kookie Little Paradise," a strange novelty-type song with a ridiculous Tarzan yell over the intro and outro. Her other records of this period continued to show an astonishing degree of maturity in dealing with sexuality, "Amateur Night" being the best example, her voice displaying innocence and lust all at once, this time backed by a tasteful female chorus. Campbell also recorded some slightly harder, bluesier pop, including the Duane Eddy tribute "Duane" (which she wrote) and the late-1958 B-side "Happy New Year Baby"; her voice had a power and a full, throaty rasp when she wanted it that could have made her a rival to Wanda Jackson, but mostly she walked a very fine line between the hard and soft sides of music and her stage persona. Not all of her stuff was that good ("Bobby Bobby Bobby" would have made Shelley Fabares wince), but a lot of it was, and certain lusty numbers like "Beachcomber" deserve to be heard at least by cultural historians of the era.

Campbell charted two more singles: the sweet country-pop of "I'm the Girl from Wolverton Mountain" (which could have been a Dolly Parton song), which became her biggest hit, getting to number 38 in a seven-week run in the summer of 1962; and "Mother Please," which just brushed the pop charts at number 88 in a three-week run in the spring of 1963. By then her life and career were changing rapidly -- she married Troy Seals, a country singer (and brother of Dan Seals), and the two began recording for Atlantic as a duet, Jo Ann & Troy, charting a couple of singles in 1964. Campbell retired in the mid-'60s, and most of her exposure since then has been from the movie Go Johnny Go in its periodic showings. Her reputation was sufficient, however, to get her Gone sides reissued on an LP (The Blonde Bombshell) of dubious legality in Europe (where they revere American pop and rock & roll of the 1950s) in the early '80s, as well as justifying a legitimate reissue of her ABC sides on Murray Hill in the United States. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: '50s & '60s Lost & Found Records Vol. 3

Disc 1

1. Plaything

2. The Big Heavy

3. Swinging Sweethearts

4. Starry Eyed

5. Journey To Love

6. Mister Fire Eyes

7. I See A Star

8. Roberta

9. Kookie Little Paradise

10. Ruby Duby Du From Key Witness

11. Someone Loves You, Joe

12. Bobby

13. Little Sister Beware

14. Forever Ambrose

15. How Will It End?

16. Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)

17. The Teacher

18. Bridge Of Love

19. Little Dipper

20. Gonna Get Some Records

21. Magic Star (Telstar)

22. The Girl On The Billboard

23. Dedicated (To The Songs I Love)

24. I Could Have Loved You So Well

25. (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me

26. Waitin' For The Evenin' Train

27. Soul Dance

28. Roses Are Red My Love

29. Let Me Through

30. Hot Pepper

31. Bonnie Do

32. Sippin' 'n Chippin'

33. Monster Swim

34. Just For Tonight

35. Cheryl's Goin' Home

36. Cowboy Boots

37. Stand By Me

38. Devotion

39. I Want My Baby Back

40. Band Of Gold

Disc 2

1. Kerry Pipers Rock

2. Anyway That You Want Me

3. Enamorado

4. Rockin' Johnny Home

5. Give Me One More Chance

6. Sealed With A Kiss

7. Young Abe Lincoln

8. Pollyanna

9. Contract On Love

10. Little Eeefin Annie

11. Drums

12. For You Alone

13. My Baby's Just Crazy 'bout Elvis

14. Don't Wanna Think About Paula

15. In The Mood

16. Don't Go

17. That's It

18. If You Can't Rock Me

19. Philadelphia U.S.A.

20. (Gary, Please Don't Sell) My Diamond Ring

21. The Fortune Teller

22. Hootenanny Granny

23. Blue Guitar

24. Teenage Meeting

25. The Ballad Of Davy Crockett

26. China Nights (Shina No Yoru)

27. Little Miss U.S.A.

28. Everlovin'

29. Gallant Men

30. Billy

31. I Looked At Heaven

32. In The Midnight Hour

33. Cry On My Shoulder

34. Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter From Camp)

35. Lullabye From Rosemary's Baby

36. Big Bruce

37. Words

38. Happy

39. Kay

40. I Hear You Say (I Love You Baby)

x

Track List: Cameo Parkway (1957-1967)

Disc 1

1. Butterfly

2. Fabulous

3. Race For Time

5. You're The Greatest

6. Over The Weekend

7. Night Time

8. Memory Lane

9. Silhouettes

10. Daddy Cool

11. Back To School Again

12. The Class

13. Bad Motorcycle

14. Shake A Hand

15. Dinner With Drac Part 1

16. Mexican Hat Rock

18. Birds N' Bees

19. Two Weeks With Pay

20. Rocka-Conga

21. Kissin' Time

22. We Got Love

23. The Twist

24. Wild One

25. Swingin' School

26. Pony Time

27. Teach Me To Twist

28. Let's Twist Again

29. Bristol Stomp

30. The Wah-Watusi

Disc 2

1. Slow Twistin' (Feat. Dee Dee Sharp)

2. Mashed Potato Time

3. Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)

4. Don't Hang Up

5. Ride!

6. Do The New Continental

7. The Popeye Waddle

8. Limbo Rock

9. The Cha-Cha-Cha

10. Volare

11. Sweet Georgia Brown

12. One More Time Back To School

13. (I'm The Girl From) Wolverton Mountain

14. Rowdy

15. Forget Him

16. Mother Please!

17. Come On And Dance With Me

18. Groovy Baby

19. The Jam Part 1

20. You Can't Sit Down

21. South Street

22. Everybody South Street

23. Do The Bird

24. Not Me

25. Crossfire!

26. (Everybody Do) The Swim Pt. 1

27. The 81

28. Daydreamin' Of You

29. The Boy With The Beatle Hair

30. Jingle Bell Rock

Disc 3

1. So Much In Love

2. Wonderful! Wonderful!

3. I'll Be True

4. When We Get Married

5. Somewhere

6. Hey Good Lookin'

7. Just One Chance

8. You'll Never Walk Alone

9. Danny Boy

10. Cast Your Fate To The Wind

11. It Only Took A Minute

12. Long Tall Sally

13. Boys

14. You Still Want Me

15. Funny How Love Can Be

16. Tossing & Turning

17. She's Fallen In Love With The Monster Man

18. Wild Thing

19. Little White House

20. Fool, Fool, Fool

22. Society Girl

23. Soldier Baby Of Mine

24. S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)

26. Heartaches Away My Boy

27. Got To Run

28. My Boy

Disc 4

1. Angel Of The Morning

2. The Love Of A Boy

3. This Can't Be True

4. World Of Fantasy

5. Come Back

6. Am I A Loser (From The Start)

7. Danger! She's A Stranger

8. Meet Me In Church

9. You've Been Untrue

10. Get A Hold Of Yourself

11. He Don't Really Love You

13. The Grass (Will Sing For You)

14. I (Who Have Nothing)

15. Beg, Borrow And Steal

16. 96 Tears

19. Can't Get Enough Of You Baby

20. Respect

21. Shake Your Tambourine

22. Let The Good Times Roll & Feel So Good

24. Lovey Dovey-You're So Fine

25. Sock It To Me Santa

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